FIFA vice president inaugurates soccer training center in Haiti. 27 April 2002
Michael Norton, Associated Press
FIFA Vice President Jack Warner inaugurated a soccer center Saturday on a piece of property that the Haitian government confiscated after dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier’s ouster in 1986. The center includes an administration building, auditorium, 16-room dormitory, workout and locker-room and training field. It cost dlrs 542,000 and is part of FIFA’s Goal Project, a program designed to help small countries develop their soccer potential.
“Our aim is to take the focus of international soccer off Europe, and put it on other promising regions,” said Warner, the CONCACAF president, in Croix-des-Bouquets, a small town about 15 kilometers (9 miles) east of the capital of Port-au-Prince. “Just look at the progress Haiti has made!”
Haiti has not competed in a World Cup competition since 1974, when it stunned fans by scoring against Italy. It lost 3-1, and since then political turmoil and deepening poverty have hampered the development of the game. Still, it was that match that has kept Haitian hopes alive for a comeback.
The hiring of Argentine coach Jorge Castelli in August 2001 has borne fruit. In January, Haiti upset Ecuador 2-0 in the first round of the Gold Cup. Although it lost the quarterfinal to Costa Rica, its first-round victory fanned the belief that Haiti could again be a contender.
Warner, a Trinidadian, was elected this month to a fourth four-year term as president of the North and Central America and Caribbean soccer region at the CONCACAF’s Ordinary Congress. He praised “the vision” of Sepp Blatter, a Swiss national, who is running for a second four-year term as president of FIFA, the world soccer’s governing body on May 29 in Seoul, South Korea (news – web sites).
Blatter’s bid against African soccer federation president Issa Hayatou has been surrounded by controversy. In recent media interviews, FIFA general-secretary Michel Zen-Ruffinen made a series of potentially damaging allegations about mismanagement and impropriety, including voter fraud and theft of documents.
Another accusation concerns the 1998 battle for the FIFA presidency, that Blatter won against Lennart Johansson, president of the European soccer governing body UEFA. In an interview with the Zurich, Switzerland-based SonntagsZeitung newspaper, Zen-Ruffinen said that at the 1998 elections, Haiti’s representative did not vote. Another man claiming to be a Haitian delegate took his place, and he was Warner’s brother-in-law, he alleged.
The Haitian representative, Kyss Jean-Mary, was president of the Haitian Soccer Federation in 1998. He admitted having been prevented from traveling to Paris and that he had not mandated his vote. “I have no idea whether or not somebody voted in my place. But I respect Blatter and I don’t want my statement misconstrued to insinuate I believe Blatter was elected irregularly,” Jean-Mary said. CONCACAF representatives met in Antigua before the 1998 election and decided to vote en bloc for Blatter, Jean-Mary said.
The executive-secretary of the Haitian Soccer Federation Guerrier Fenelus told The Associated Press the federation legally mandated Trinidadian Neville Ferguson to vote for Haiti. “The timing of the accusations, four years later, shows they are a deliberate attempt to smear Blatter,” said Warner, who denied Ferguson was a relative.