No heroes, only victims and villains

No heroes, only victims and villains

Published May. 31, 2011 1:00 a.m. ET

If Sepp Blatter's virtuoso performance in Monday's press conference wasn't enough to make you feel like the game of soccer was doomed to be run by bumbling crooks, the United States' own region of CONCACAF stepped up to show that FIFA's president doesn't have the market cornered on shameless politicking and blatant self interest.

Lisle Austin, the man serving as interim CONCACAF president after Jack Warner was suspended for his role in a bribery scheme involving one-time FIFA presidential candidate Mohamed bin Hammam, tried to knock off the very man who blew the whistle on Warner and bin Hammam's shenanigans, Chuck Blazer.

Austin tried to fire Blazer from his post as general secretary for CONCACAF, issuing a proclamation that Blazer was out of line in his handling of the reporting of the bribery claims and was wrong for using a law firm with ties to CONCACAF to undertake the investigation into the alleged $40,000 payments made to CONCACAF members to buy their votes for FIFA president.

But a funny thing happened on the way to Austin's firing of Blazer. CONCACAF issued a press release declaring that its own interim president had no authority to fire Blazer. While the point of clarification may have been true, and it was, it still looked thoroughly absurd to have a federation issuing a statement to point out that it's own leader didn't know what he was doing.


So what exactly was Austin trying to do? Was it as simple as trying to score some revenge for Warner, who he's a known ally of? Or could it have something to do with the fact that CONCACAF's biggest money-making project, the Gold Cup, was set to kick off on Sunday?

If Warner's CONCACAF is as corrupt and money-hungry as allegations suggest, would it be a stretch to believe that he and his cronies want to score one last big payout before the sun finally sets on the Warner era, an era that has long worn the stink of corruption and misappropriation?

If Blazer wants to live up to his newly found label as whistle-blower and CONCACAF's resident conscience, he could be compelled to keep a close eye on the finances of the Gold Cup, a multi-million dollar operation that Warner has overseen for years, and to his credit, has helped turn into a real moneymaker.

The timing and hastiness of Austin's attempted firing of Blazer, coming just four days before the start of the Gold Cup, certainly makes you feel as though the impending tournament was a motivating factor. Why else rush such an important decision, and why push out arguably the most experienced CONCACAF executive left standing before the region's most important event?

Austin's sloppy attempt to push Blazer out sets up what was already shaping up to be an awkward Gold Cup. Now CONCACAF appears to be splintering into two factions: those who support the deposed Warner (like Austin), and those who are siding with Blazer in his attempts to bring about change in CONCACAF.

It should be noted though that nobody should assume that Blazer is a saint in all this and that he hasn't stood by and watched CONCACAF evolve into the mess it has become. Whether he is genuinely trying to clean up the confederation, or he was simply smart enough to realize it was better to try to grab the role of reformer before being brought down with the rest, the fact remains he has held office within FIFA for years and somehow never saw anything worth blowing the whistle on before.

The reality is Blazer has lived the good life as a CONCACAF and FIFA executive, with stories now surfacing about just how lavish a life he has enjoyed. While there hasn't been as much evidence of Blazer stockpiling personal wealth the way Warner has through the game of soccer, Blazer taken advantage of his authority in his own ways.

In other words, Blazer is no saint, but given how ugly things are getting in the world of international soccer, a reformed sinner may have to do in the hero category. There are no heroes in this FIFA and CONCACAF mess, though, only villains and victims. It could be some time before we know just how many of each there are, and just how bad these villains have actually been.

Ives Galarcep is a senior writer for covering Major League Soccer and the U.S. national team.