The Oceania Football Confederation (OFC) on Monday pledged to fully cooperate with a Fifa probe into allegations its president offered to sell his vote in the bidding race for the 2018 World Cup.
World football’s governing body launched the investigation after a British newspaper alleged it covertly filmed OFC president Reynald Temarii and Nigerian Fifa official Amos Adamu soliciting money in return for their votes.
“Reynald Temarii welcomes a full and thorough investigation so that all the facts can be heard,” the OFC said in statement.
Britain’s Sunday Times alleged Temarii, who is also a Fifa vice-president, wanted $2,3-million to set up a sports academy in Auckland from undercover journalists posing as lobbyists.
It said Adamu, Nigeria’s representative on Fifa’s executive committee, demanded $800 000.
Temarii, a former player for French club FC Nantes, represents Tahiti and has headed the OFC—which mainly consists of small Pacific island nations—since 2004.
New Zealand Prime Minister John Key, whose country is the largest OCF member, said he was concerned at the accusations levelled at head of the Auckland-based body.
“Whenever you get these kinds of allegations, whether they’re match-fixing or selling of votes, it reflects badly on the sport and in that regard it’s quite concerning,” Key told reporters.
Any deals during the bidding process for a World Cup are strictly forbidden under Fifa’s rules, but the Sunday Times said six senior officials, past and present, had told reporters that paying bribes offered the best chance of landing football’s showcase tournament.
OFC vice-president Fred de Jong conceded the allegations could damage football’s reputation.
“It’s disappointing, there seems to be a lot of people just wanting to drag football’s name through the dirt,” he told New Zealand’s Radio Sport.
‘You have to understand his side of the story’
De Jong moved to distance his native New Zealand from the scandal, while also warning against jumping to conclusions about Temarii’s alleged actions.
“You have to understand his side of the story because at the moment I’ve only got one side of the story ... New Zealand has no involvement in anything, it’s an Oceania and Fifa matter.”
The head of Tonga’s Football Federation, Ahongalu Fusimalohi, said undercover reporters posing as lobbyists targeted him at a meeting at an Auckland hotel four weeks ago but he soon realised they were fake.
Fusimalohi said he played along with the reporters, discussing receiving a $100 000 board membership to support one country’s bidders, in an attempt to discover what they were up to.
“My intention was never to tell them the truth, my intentions were to lie to him, until I found out who they really were,” he told Radio NZ. “So I found it like a joke, enjoying lying to them, because they were lying to me as well.”
Fusimalohi said he was certain the allegations against Temarii were wrong.
The nations in the running to host the 2018 World Cup are England, Russia, Spain-Portugal and Netherlands-Belgium. For 2022, the contenders are Qatar, Australia, the United States, Japan and South Korea.
The OFC under Temarii’s stewardship has already committed itself to supporting Australia’s 2022 bid, meaning the country will be hoping he is cleared of any wrongdoing and can vote for it in Zurich in December.—Sapa-AFP