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Thursday 14th
posted by Morning Star in Sport

Maduro forced out for standing in way of Russian politician

FIFA was accused yesterday of interfering with the work of the man they brought in to clear up the corruption-mired body to stay in power.

Miguel Maduro, a Portuguese former minister, said Fifa bosses had meddled with his work, ignored the organisation’s rules and finally removing him to bolster their own positions.

Maduro told MPs on the Commons sport committee that only “external pressure” would force Fifa to clean up its act and gave a damning assessment of president Gianni Infantino’s commitment to reform.

Appointed as chairman of Fifa’s governance committee in May 2016, Maduro was replaced without warning 11 months later after falling out with Infantino over several “sensitive” decisions.

Foremost among those was Maduro’s refusal to allow Russian deputy prime minister Vitaly Mutko to stand for a seat on Fifa’s council because it was a clear breach of the rules against governmental interference in football.

Responsible for approving candidates, Maduro had expected Infantino’s support, particularly as the newly elected president had approached him to help restore Fifa’s reputation following the scandals of the Sepp Blatter era.

Maduro told the MPs, however, that when he raised objections to Mutko’s candidacy, Infantino made his opposition “very clear.”

According to Maduro, Infantino said blocking Mutko would have a negative effect on the 2018 World Cup in Russia and he believed there was “no evidence” the former Russian sports minister had been involved in the state-sponsored doping programme revealed by a World Anti-Doping Agency investigation last year.

For Maduro, the latter was an issue for others to decide — he was blocking Mutko for the simple reason that having a deputy prime minister on the council made a mockery of Fifa’s actions against some associations for political interference.

Infantino’s position on Mutko became even clearer when secretary-general Fatma Samoura was sent to meet Maduro.

“The secretary general made it clear to me that it was extremely problematic, more than that … She said we needed to find a solution to declare Mr Mutko eligible because otherwise the World Cup would be a disaster and the continued presidency of Mr Infantino would also be in question,” Maduro said.

Maduro stood firm despite Infantino “expressing his great concern” and accusing him of trying to impose rules “retrospectively.”

In response, Maduro said he was simply implementing rules that had previously been ignored.

Maduro described Infantino as a man who he believes started with the intention of tackling an “embedded culture” that is “extremely resistant to independent scrutiny” but who has chosen “to survive politically.”