Magazine: FIFA president threatens to suspend Brazil

publiziert: Sonntag, 29. Okt 2000 / 08:50 Uhr

Rio de Janeiro - FIFA's president threatened to bar Brazil from the 2002 World Cup if Brazil's Congress meddles with international soccer rules during investigations into soccer corruption.

Joseph Blatter's threat _ published Sunday by the weekly news magazine Epoca _ comes after Congress said it may call FIFA referees and members of FIFA's international soccer courts to testify at congressional hearings. "Referees and members of the courts ... cannot be called," Blatter was quoted as saying. "We won't accept that. We won't tolerate investigations that put at risk the rules of soccer." A Senate commission looking into charges of corruption and tax evasion in Brazilian soccer has subpoenaed the national soccer confederation's banking records.

The commission has also subpoenaed the banking records of the recently fired national soccer team coach Wanderley Luxemburgo and a company called Traffic, which apparently brokered Nike's multimillion dollar sponsorship of the national soccer team. Blatter said that if there is any interference by Brazil's Congress, FIFA would suspend Brazilian soccer from all international play. "It's not only the World Cup that's at stake," Blatter said. "It's Brazilian soccer itself, a four-time world champion, that will be threatened." Blatter said besides preventing Brazil's national soccer team from playing in qualifiers for a spot in the 2002 Japan-Korea World Cup, a FIFA suspension also means club teams would not be allowed to play in international tournaments. Players would not be able to transfer to teams outside Brazil, he said. Brazil's national under-17 and women's soccer teams would also be banned from international play, Blatter said. FIFA officials could not be immediately reached to confirm or comment on the magazine's report. In the interview, Blatter also attacked the congressional commission investigating Nike's dlrs 160 million sponsorship of the national soccer team. The commission has called superstar striker Ronaldo to testify about why he was given permission to play even though he suffered convulsions just before the final game of the 1998 World Cup, which Brazil lost 3-0 to France. The two-time FIFA player of the year barely touched the ball during the final. Critics say it appeared Nike executives pressured Brazilian soccer officials and coaches to keep Ronaldo in the lineup because he was the star of the sportswear giant's World Cup ad campaign, a claim Nike has denied. "It is intolerable to contest the legality of a World Cup final," Blatter said of the inquiry. Members of Congress involved in the soccer hearings _ which began this week with investigations into the finances of coaches and soccer officials _ were not available for comment. But Epoca said Senate President Antonio Carlos Magalhaes responded to Blatter's threats by saying the investigations would continue at all costs. "The Congress won't let itself be intimidated," Magalhaes was quoted as saying. "We need to bring morals to this country and that has to involve soccer. If the price to pay for this is not participating in a World Cup, then let the price be paid."

(AP)

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