FIFA Women's World Cup officials irritated by corruption focus
Despite pleas to focus on women's tournament, media focus on scandal
Questions about the FIFA scandal dominated the opening press conference of the FIFA Women's World Cup in Vancouver Thursday, despite pleas from organizers who wanted to talk only about the upcoming tournament.
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FIFA Media Relations Manager Segolene Valentin opened the event saying "...the situation at FIFA HQ in Zurich has been well reported these last days and we are here to answer questions on the tournament."
It was a statement made in vain however, as the first question from a Japanese reporter asked why neither outgoing FIFA President Sepp Blatter, nor embattled Secretary General Jerome Valcke were present.
The majority of questions that followed focused on FIFA corruption, leaving panel members looking increasingly unhappy.
Lost moral compass
FIFA, the governing body of world soccer, is embroiled in an ever-widening scandal that started last week, when 14 executives and officials were arrested on charges of fraud, racketeering and money laundering.
Blatter, the 79-year-old who has led FIFA for 17 years, has announced he will be stepping down as early as December.
Soccer Canada President Victor Montagliani insists the FIFA scandal has had no effect on the staging of the 2015 Women's World Cup in Canada, and denied it's taking the spotlight away from the tournament and players.
"I think we should all thank that it's the women's game and the Women's World Cup that is immediately following here ," said Montagliani, "because I think it's an opportunity for women's football to shine some light on the game that has perhaps lost a little of its moral compass."
Later in the press conference, Montagliani appeared irritated when asked about his close relationship with FIFA Vice President and fellow CONCACAF executive Jeffrey Webb. Webb was indicted last week for receiving bribes and kickbacks totaling more than $6 million.
In a somewhat baffling turn, Montagliani told one reporter, "You and your colleagues... need to look in the mirror... and not put people on a pedestal so you can whack the hell out of them after."
FIFA panel members were also asked how the FIFA hospitality budget compares to the $15 million US prize money for the tournament (a FIFA official could not provide numbers), and why there are so few women in the FIFA organization.
The 24-team Women's World Cup opens Saturday in Edmonton, Alta. when host Canada plays China. All 52,000 tickets have been sold making the match the best attended Canadian national team sporting event in history.
- A previous version of this story contained an incorrect age for Sepp Blatter. In fact he is 79.Jun 05, 2015 2:32 PM PT