Good News, Bad Tidings and Ugly Facts

So there was good news, bad news and what can only be described as strange news from the Caribbean Football Union Congress yesterday. Probably the strangest part was the fact that 30 guys from sunny tropical islands assembled in Budapest, Hungary to hold a convention. Normally, people from places like Budapest figure out ways to hold meetings in the Caribbean, not the other way around.

But of course in this case, since the FIFA Congress starts at the Boscolo Hotel in that spectacular city on the Danube on Wednesday, Sepp Blatter was footing the bill for the whole deal, a handy thing for an organization which currently has zero money.

This will be followed today by Jeff Webb's coronation election at an equally improbable CONCACAF confab in the exact same place, the main difference being that while the CFU was anxious to hold a rump Congress - you'll recall they tried like hell to hold one last Fall - it's not at all clear that either the Central American contingent or their Northern continental neighbors are anything like equally enthused.

They were pretty happy with things the way they were.

Another strange thing that happened - or, more correctly, didn't - was the vanishing CFU candidacy of Jeff Webb, which went unannounced, unremarked and unexplained. When it came time to vote, Webb was there in the room but not on the ballot.

Which left the field open for the winner, Gordon Derrick of Antigua and Barbuda, who garnered 12 votes on the first ballot to Jack Warner's Harold Taylor's 5, and won it on the second go-round with 16 while Taylor's number dropped to 1.

The math? Coincidence, surely.

Those of you with the kind of memory that retains arcane facts will recall that Derrick was one of the CFU officials who attended the infamous Bin Hammam Bribe-O-Rama a year ago and was subsequently handed a "warning" by FIFA, along with a "fine" which wouldn't buy a decent meal at Applebees.

But then, as the Americans discovered in post-War Germany, if they disqualified all the people who had been involved in the previous regime in one way or another they were going to come up powerfully short of candidates.

So the fact is that a guy who a) took a cash bribe and b) lied about it to FIFA's investigators less than 12 months ago is now the President of one of that organizations regional governing bodies.

Why don't you look surprised?

Other good news, obviously, is that Warner's former followers showed a resounding lack of enthusiasm for a reprise of the good/bad old days.

Taylor can now go back to being an 80 year old FIFA Development officer and Warner can go back to wandering the locked-up, empty, echoing halls of his former Headquarters building, reflecting on the fact that if he had listened to Chuck Blazer when he warned Jack not to have BinnyMo around for coffee and greenbacks, Warner would, this very day, be ensconced in one of the most lavish suites in one of the finest hotels in all the world as a stream of sycophants stopped by to kiss his ring and beg favor.

Meanwhile, the most interesting - and disheartening - piece of news from the election is summarized nicely by the invaluable Lasana Liburd, who offers up a take on the CFU voting which is well worth your time.

When the dust settled, the new leadership regime in Caribbean Football looks like this:

Gordon Derrick, President: Antigua and Barbuda Cheney Joseph, First Vice-President: Grenada Larry Mussenden, Second Vice-President: Burmuda Lyndon Cooper, Third Vice-President: St. Lucia Canover Watson, Fourth Vice-President: Cayman Islands Sonia Bien-Aime, Executive Member: Turks and Caicos Hillaren Frederick, Executive Member: US Virgin Islands Anthony Johnson, Executive Member:St. Kitts and Nevis Maurice Victoire, Executive Member: Martinique

Note the places from which each of these worthies hail.

- Collectively, not one of them has ever qualified, even once, for a FIFA tournament.

- Several of them don't even have national team programs and seldom enter even small regional competitions.

- None of them has a national professional league.

- The largest of them, St. Lucia, has a population of 162,000.

- One of them (Martinique) isn't even a member of FIFA, since for every purpose other than adding pointless votes to Jack Warner's pocket, it's France.

But then, while there are some gray areas, most if not all of the rest are not really countries either; like the US Virgins, they're "overseas territories" or "protectorates" or whatever else, with populations which range from a high of 110,000 to a low of just over 50,000 (St Kitts & Nevis, Turks & Caicos), which is roughly the population of Pocatello Idaho or Minnetonka Minnesota.

Places like Jamaica, Haiti, Cuba, and Trinidad & Tobago, actual countries with actual football programs and which count their populations in the millions?

Shut out. Leave a message, maybe we'll return the call.

And today - possibly by the time you read this - CONCACAF will assemble at the utterly palatial 5-Star Boscolo Budapest, described by the cognoscenti as "a work of art", to crown Jeff Webb of the Cayman Islands as our new leader.

That would be the same Cayman Islands whose population is estimated at 55,000 souls, including - according to FIFA - a grand total of 1500 registered soccer players.

From the beginning, Webb's campaign pitch (as if "Sepp Blatter will send you money if you support me and cut you off if you don't" isn't incentive enough) has been a simple one that, with your kind permission, I will paraphrase:

"CONCACAF has some big footballing federations which generate millions and millions of dollars, most of which they unfairly keep and spend on their own national programs.

We small poor federations need lots of money so that we can engage in the kind of "development" which will lead to us having programs that can compete on the world level.

So all we need to do is grab up a much bigger share of the dough that Mexico, the US, Canada, Costa Rica, Guatemala and, yes, Jamaica, generate and voila: Spain and Brazil better watch their butts."

The fact that this is all complete rubbish - I don't care how much money you send to Pocatello Idaho, they just aren't going to be able to beat Germany - is beside the point.

They all know it better than we do.

But nice new office buildings, nifty "Centers of Excellence" (they're all the rage; The Cayman Islands - just to pick an example entirely at random - has one now) with swanky locker rooms and fields and budgets to use to hire family members and construction contracts to hand out and of course cars and expense accounts and all the rest of the trappings of international sport, well, they're certainly the first step to international glory.

If you don't believe me, just ask them. They'd be happy to explain it to you.

They call it "getting the respect they deserve". Others might have a different term.

My only question today is whether, as the representatives of actual, you know, "countries" and stuff, sit there squinting from the light bouncing off 1000 miles of baroque gold leaf sipping exquisite coffee from delicate porcelain cups while Jeff Webb gives his acceptance speech, there won't be ten or twelve or fifteen guys sitting there asking themselves:

Just what in the hell do we have in common with these clowns?

And not being able to come up with a single reasonable answer.

Bottom line, CONCACAF has an unbridgeable internal conflict of interest and the longer the "majority" is allowed to dictate (since the vote of a Dutch protectorate with no national team and a population which doesn't reach six figures counts every bit as much as the guy sitting next to him representing Mexico) the less workable it is becoming.