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FOOTBALL

Fifa faces long struggle to pass reforms

The high-profile person who will head up the task force established to finetune crucial reforms of football's scandal-hit world governing body Fifa will be named very soon a source close to the organization's leadership said.

Fifa faces long struggle to pass reforms
Photo: AFP/FABRICE COFFRINI

However, any changes put to September's meeting of the Fifa executive committee could, according to senior sources, face stiff opposition despite the calls from major sponsors for there to be serious reforms following the US authorities charging 14 people, including three former Fifa vice-presidents, of taking or giving millions of dollars of bribes in return for football marketing and television contracts.

Fifa's outgoing president Sepp Blatter announced on Monday that an 11-strong task force, with an independent chairperson, would prepare reforms including limits on terms for leaders, tougher background checks on executive committee members and the publication of salaries of top officials.

Pressure from major sponsors has come in recent weeks for Fifa to name an independent commission led by a heavyweight figure to prepare reforms to be put to the congress when a new president is elected on February 26th.

Some officials even mentioned the name of Kofi Annan. But the former UN secretary general made it known through a spokesman that he already has a “busy schedule” and is not interested.

However a source close to the Fifa leadership said that a name would be announced “very soon”.

The source said the task force would have to get to work quickly to prepare a “succinct report” on the reforms to put to a Fifa executive committee meeting in September.

The head of the group is to be named by Blatter and the heads of the six regional confederations within Fifa.

Long battle

The four main confederations — UEFA for Europe, the Confederation of African Football, the Asian Football Confederation and Concacaf, which represents North and Central America and the Caribbean — will each name two members of the commission.

Conmebol for South America and the Oceania confederation will name one apiece.

“Despite everything that has happened many of these regional heads remain opposed to the new reforms,” said a former member of the FIFA executive committee.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the topic as negotiations are held on who will be Fifa's next president.

Blatter has repeatedly accused UEFA, led by French football legend Michel Platini, of blocking past reform efforts, including stricter background checks on executive members.

“But Europe is not alone in worrying about these reforms,” the former executive member told AFP.

“Nearly all the regional heads have reasons to want to water down the measures.

“Some have legitimate concerns about how the reforms will work and be applied. Some do not want interference in their territory. Some are worried about their own positions.

“This campaign will take a long time, almost certainly beyond the election congress and it will be a tough battle. There will be efforts to water down these measures.”

Platini, who has called for root and branch reform at Fifa, issued a statement welcoming the creation of the task force.

He said it was: “an important step towards improving overall processes and transparency within the organisation.

“We must now make sure that the reforms outlined … will be undertaken in a swift and effective manner.”

Sponsors have not yet reacted publicly. But the Transparency International activist group said the task force would not restore trust in Fifa.

“Fifa is a rotten democracy where votes can be bought, bribes can be made and money can be laundered. It has promised reform many times before and failed dismally,” said Neil Martinson, Transparency International's director of communications.

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FOOTBALL

‘Overwhelmed’: Unaware Swiss super fan stunned about viral fame

A Swiss super fan who has shot to fame after images of him watching Switzerland’s win over France went viral told the media he was unaware of his viral fame - but that he was overwhelmed with the world’s attention.

‘Overwhelmed’: Unaware Swiss super fan stunned about viral fame
Image: Twitter.

Like most Swiss football fans, Luca Loutenbach’s Monday evening – highlighted by a surprise upset win over the current World Champions and tournament favourite France – went about as well as you could have expected. 

But while his side were putting on the pressure through late goals to push the game into extra time, Loutenbach’s image was being shared across the world. 

Two pictures of Loutenbach, juxtaposed from before and after Switzerland scored an equaliser in the 90th minute to send the game to extra time, were widely shared. 

The images were even shared by Sadiq Kahn, the mayor of London, who congratulated Switzerland and said the images summed up the beauty of football. 

On Tuesday, Loutenbach spoke with Swiss tabloid Blick to tell the story. He said he had no idea about the images as his phone had no reception in Romania – and only found out after the game. 

“I didn’t have a network during the game. But some fans around me were connected to the internet and quickly realized what was happening. What an incredible buzz!” said the man from the canton of Jura. 

While Switzerland have made it further than they have in their history in the tournament, Loutenbach is far from a bandwagon fan. He told Blick he’s seen around 50 national team games before. 

“It’s the most beautiful day in the history of Swiss football, let’s not be afraid of saying it. It is the accomplishment of the immense work of the ASF (Federation), of (coach) Petkovic and of the whole team” he said. 

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