Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : February 22nd 2016 Contents A39
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MILAN---Former Italian Premier Sil-
vio Berlusconi has made another
gaffe, saying AC Milan striker Mario
Balotelli has "taken too much sun."
Berlusconi, who described US Pres-
ident Barack Obama as "tanned" in
2008 and 2009, was discussing his
wish for an all-Italian Milan team.
He then joked that Italy forward
Balotelli, who is black, "is also Italian
even if he has taken too much sun."
Berlusconi spoke at the Serie A s
club training ground during celebra-
tions to mark his 30 years as owner.
Balotelli was born in Sicily to
Ghanaian immigrants and raised by
Italian foster parents.
He has suffered racist abuse
throughout his career.
Balotelli, on loan from Liverpool,
went to Anfield in 2014 after a season
Berlusconi says Milan could buy
Balotelli back "if he wises up."
Balotelli target of gaffe by AC Milan owner Berlusconi
GENEVA---The Sepp Blatter era at
FIFA is set to finally end Friday
when soccer s scandal-scarred
world body picks a new president
after nine months of crisis.
An election meeting designed to
give FIFA a fresh start with a new
leader could yet be overshadowed
by its criminally corrupt past.
Voters return to Zurich this week
unsure who is the next target of fed-
eral law enforcement agencies in the
United States and Switzerland, who
have sent FIFA into meltdown with
waves of arrests, extraditions and
Swiss prosecutors could decide
this week is best to meet key wit-
nesses in their widening case. Many
soccer officials are making possibly
their last working trip to Switzerland
until May 2019, when the next
scheduled FIFA election should be
held in Zurich.
At the last election in May, Blatter
won a fifth presidential term two
days after FIFA s favored five-star
hotel in Zurich and its own head-
quarters were raided. The pressure
of criminal investigations soon forced
Blatter from his beloved FIFA in his
41st year on the payroll.
Now, leaders of FIFA s 209 mem-
ber federations visit the Swiss city
again to elect a successor for the
now-banned 79-year-old who has
been president since 1998. The win-
ner will be just the fourth elected
FIFA chief in more than 50 years.
Two front-runners have emerged
in a five-candidate contest: Asia s
soccer leader, Sheikh Salman of
Bahrain, and Gianni Infantino, the
Swiss general secretary of European
governing body UEFA.
The other candidates are: Former
FIFA vice president Prince Ali of
Jordan, who lost to Blatter in May;
former FIFA official Jerome Cham-
pagne of France; and South African
businessman Tokyo Sexwale, once
an inmate of Robben Island prison
with Nelson Mandela.
Infantino acknowledged that
police could hit FIFA for the fourth
time in nine months.
"They know what is best for their
work to be done in the most efficient
way," Infantino told The Associated
Press in a recent interview. "If I m
elected president of FIFA, what they
can count on (is) not 100 but 200
per cent with me to clean and to
put anyone in jail who has done any-
thing bad for football."
The three previous raids---arresting
seven men, including two FIFA vice
presidents, on May 27; interrogating
Blatter and former protege Michel
Platini on September 25; arresting
two more FIFA vice presidents on
December 3---were on days that
FIFA s discredited executive com-
mittee met. It meets again Wednes-
Sheikh Salman suggests govern-
ment agencies have tried to influence
FIFA politics. That view is shared
by Blatter and Russian President
Vladimir Putin, who claimed the US
wants the 2018 World Cup taken
from his country.
"Choosing the time and place
during an election or an (executive
committee) meeting," Sheikh Salman
told the AP this month of previous
police raids, "I think this raises a lot
of doubts on why, and leave people
a bit suspicious on the intentions."
The Bahraini royal was "absolute-
ly" sure FIFA did enough since May
to deserve being left in peace this
FIFA also hopes so, and aims to
persuade the US Department of Jus-
tice that it is a victim of systemic
corruption and should not be indict-
ed.So, on Friday, the 209 members
can also vote through wide-ranging
reforms to restructure FIFA. These
would dilute the president s author-
ity, empower FIFA s staff and increase
oversight by independent experts.
If FIFA was indicted, it would join
41 soccer and marketing officials,
plus marketing agencies, who have
been charged or pleaded guilty so
far in the sprawling US case. Blatter,
who cannot be extradited from
Switzerland, is a confirmed target.
American investigators have
focused on bribery in North and
South America valued at $200 mil-
lion for awarding commercial rights
for continental competitions. They
also alleged cash-for-votes paid
through a FIFA account linked to
2010 World Cup host South Africa.
Swiss prosecutors began by
searching for money laundering in
the 2018-2022 World Cup bid con-
tests won by Russia and Qatar. Liais-
ing with American counterparts,
they went far beyond that brief to
target all FIFA business.
Last September, a Swiss criminal
case was opened against Blatter for
mismanagement of FIFA money. It
led FIFA s ethics committee to ban
both Blatter and Platini for eight
years. Verdicts in their appeals are
Even if barred from the election
hall, Blatter has been an election
factor taking calls from voters seeking
advice, he told a French radio station
"Vote with your conscience. Vote
for who you find good," said Blatter,
who has criticized Infantino in inter-
views. They were born in neighbor-
ing villages in the Valais region.
Infantino s campaign has tempted
voters with more: Expanding the
World Cup from 32 to 40 teams to
increase FIFA s $5 billion tournament
income; bigger annual grants to
national and continental bodies; new
money for small regional groups.
Salman s manifesto is closer to
Blatter s thinking though he promises
a hands-off leadership style.
Still, there is genuine warmth
between the favorites.
"I get along very well with him,"
Sheikh Salman said of Infantino.
"He s a great guy."
Infantino has not directly criticized
the sheikh, who led Bahrain s soccer
federation during Arab Spring
protests in 2011.
Prince Ali did attack, saying
Sheikh Salman cannot gain respect
because he failed to protect Bahrain
national team players who were
detained for attending pro-democ-
racy events. They later alleged torture
by security forces. In a potentially
tight race, one theory has Prince
Ali s voters holding the balance of
power. A plausible scenario sees
Sheikh Salman and Infantino with
significant support in the first-round
ballot, yet short of up to 140 votes
needed for outright victory, and
maybe fewer than the 105-plus tally
which could persuade rivals to con-
cede ahead of a second vote.
A late campaigning opportunity
was in Manhattan yesterday, at the
draw for Copa America Centenario.
That 16-nation tournament is central
to bribery allegations in the DoJ
By Wednesday, the election show
is in downtown Zurich where FIFA
will also open its $200 million muse-
um this week.
Perhaps police and Blatter will
In this May 29, 2015 file photo, FIFA president Sepp Blatter after his election as President at the Hallenstadion in
Zurich, Switzerland. The Sepp Blatter era at FIFA is set to finally end Friday, when soccer's scandal-scarred world
body picks a new president after nine months of crisis. AP FILE
Blatter era ends
...as scandal-hit FIFA set to elect new leader
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