Banned former FIFA vice-president Jack Warner blamed an American-led “witch hunt” for the crisis engulfing world football‘s governing body on Friday, while gleefully claiming that suspended chief Sepp Blatter’s woes were self-inflicted.
Warner, once a staunch Blatter ally and one of the most powerful men in world football with influence over the CONCACAF region, said he believed however that FIFA could survive the worst scandal in its history.
“I don’t know why people cannot see this is an American witch hunt. I don’t know why every time America sneeze everybody feel you have to catch a cold,” Warner told reporters at a hotel in Port-of-Spain where he was a guest speaker at a convention of teachers.
“The very same people who tried to dig a hole for me are now in a bigger hole themselves… they are victims of their own demise (sic),” the 72-year-old said in reference to Blatter, who was suspended as FIFA President on Thursday.
Warner is battling against extradition to the United States, where he is one of several football officials indicted on racketeering and bribery charges in connection with the US and Swiss investigation that rocked FIFA in May.
Warner, who was banned for life by FIFA last month, said a six-year suspension handed out to South Korean tycoon Chung Mong-Joon was evidence of political skullduggery.
“That is a fact. Look at Chung. He left football seven years ago — the minute he says he will go up for the presidency of FIFA they ban him for six years. I mean something has to be wrong,” Warner fumed.
Warner, however, paid tribute to the work of Blatter in helping to develop football in Trinidad and Tobago and the rest of the Caribbean.
“I won’t say that Blatter has not made any errors. Of course he has made errors but nobody can deny that Blatter has contributed to football globally,” Warner told reporters.
– FIFA ‘still strong’ –
“Had it not been for Blatter’s help, this country (Trinidad and Tobago) would not have been in a World Cup.”
Warner, who famously threatened to unleash a “football tsunami” on FIFA in 2011, when he resigned from the organization, believes Blatter’s problems began when he left FIFA that year.
“The day I left FIFA was the beginning of the end of Blatter …,” Warner said, describing himself as someone who always gives a “different point of view.”
“I do not compromise my independence and I do not have to go along with what everybody says. I consider myself as a visionary also, I look down the road,” Warner said.
Warner meanwhile disagreed with the suggestion that FIFA needed a thorough overhaul as it struggles under the weight of widespread corruption allegations throughout its membership.
“FIFA is still strong enough to stand and has enough cash reserves to continue for a long time,” he said.
“So I don’t know that you can say it is on its last legs. Some people seem to want that but I do know the Americans want to take it over, after all they take over the UN and so on. The only organisation they have not taken over is FIFA and because FIFA runs the World Cup they want to take it over.
“So I understand that, but don’t destroy it. FIFA has been the best international organization in sport in over 100 years, so why they want to try to destroy it for?” – Agence France-Presse