And you thought the only thing soccer-oriented about Westchester were a few adolescent A-teams and the possibility that New York City FC might eventually build their stadium here.
Turns out, Westchester—New Rochelle, specifically—actually has a worldwide impact on the soccer world, but not in the way you’d hope.
Yesterday morning, in Zurich, the US Department of Justice arrested 14 officials from FIFA, the official governing body of all major professional soccer across the globe, in connection to over $100 million worth of corruption, bribery, and illegal kickbacks surrounding television rights, host stadiums, and which countries would be elected as World Cup hosts. The arrests went as high as FIFA vice presidents all the way to broadcasting executives. They’re considered the most aggressive and complex in connection to soccer corruption worldwide, and, as Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch put it, it’s only “the beginning of our effort, not the end.”
But how did the DOJ background a lot of these charges? Well, with former New Rochelle children’s soccer coach Chuck Blazer, of course. Blazer’s been a secret informant for the DOJ ever since 2013—since facing serious charges for racketeering, fraud, money laundering, and tax evasion.
It turns out Blazer climbed the FIFA ranks pretty steadily, to about as high as you can possibly get. Blazer became the general secretary of CONCACAF, the governing body of soccer in North and South America and the Caribbean, in 1990. In 1997, he was named a member of FIFA’s executive committee.
All of this cruised along until, in November 2013, Blazer was charged with and admitted to corruption charges surrounding the 2010 World Cup host vote, according to NBC News and other reports. Blazer, working with fellow FIFA executive committee member Jack Warner, accepted $1 million to ensure his vote in support of South Africa, which eventually won the hosting rights by a 14-10 vote (Warner maintains his own innocence).
And, until he was caught, Blazer was really bringing in the cash. According to The New York Times, Blazer owned two apartments in Manhattan’s Trump Towers—one for his cats—and gained respect as a huge soccer negotiator, eventually garnering the nickname “Mr. 10 percent” for his seemingly lopsided negotiations with CONCACAF.
In regard to how he helped the Justice Department develop their charges—naturally the man who is said to have walked around with parrots on his shoulders and owning apartments just for his cats—Blazer went all James Bond and wore a microphone to secretly record conversations with major soccer officials during the 2012 Summer Olympics.
The entire fiasco’s led to speculation about the 2018 and 2022 World Cup host nations. In 2010, Russia won the rights for 2018 and Qatar for 2022—Qatar’s also been under tons of heat for its working conditions—but there are murmurs that these possibly illegitimate elections should be redone. Naturally, Russia isn’t taking kindly to the news.