UPDATE: Simon Evans from Reuters is reporting that Sunil Gulati defeated Justino Compean by ONE vote and won the North American seat on FIFA's Executive Committee The Mexican media is reportedly calling it the "Clásico personal" and I suppose we should be grateful that for once there's no quibbling about the venue: Panama City is about as neutral as it gets.
Still, while today's vote for North American representative on FIFA's Executive Committee between MFF President Justino Compean and USSF President Sunil Gulati is wildly contentious and increasingly bitter it's not particularly consequential. As a FIFA staffer once drily noted, the first question every new ExCo member asks, almost without exception, is "So, just how many World Cup tickets do I get?".
It's the greatest gig on Earth, with unimaginable perks, secret Swiss-based compensation and unlimited expenses, PLUS when you finally get replaced in cloud of recrimination, acrimony and indictment, a very generous lifetime pension which includes VIP treatment at every World Cup they can wheel you into.
In short, it will change one of the two men's lives in incredibly wonderful ways - while business class is nice there's a Gulfstream G550 waiting for the winner here - but it's not likely to have much effect on the ridiculous mess at FIFA regardless of the result. That's because, frankly, neither of these guys is going to rock the boat.
The word down in the former Canal Zone yesterday was that the race was "very tight" between the two, and no one can say for sure just how much influence Sepp Blatter and
his hand-picked stooge CONCACAF President Jeffrey Webb will try to exert over the result.
Gulati is probably Blatter's first choice; he's a FIFA insider who has quietly emerged as a key player in crucial policy areas like governance and reform and World Cup ticketing, while the 72 year old Compean is seen as a self-aggrandizing lightweight, which is not in any way considered a negative on the FIFA ExCo. Indeed, he'd blend right in.
The delegates are faced with a lesser-of-two-evils choice between someone closely identified with Chuck Blazer, the man who ratted out their man Jack Warner, and a guy who feels that since his nation is the biggest and best CONCACAF football power that they have a right to call the shots and everyone else should shut up.
And since it just wouldn't be CONCACAF without comedy I give you this:
Sometime today the assembled delegates will vote to ask FIFA to accept five new full members who, as Webb puts it, "will be eligible to compete for the World Cup".
They are: French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Saint Martin and Sint Maarten.
None of which are actual, you know, countries or anything. Three of them are "overseas territories" of France, and the last two represent an island divided by France and Holland which, taken together, is roughly the population of Lawrence Kansas.
One of them (French Guiana) is actually located in South America.
This will give the CFU five more votes for stuff like FIFA President - they'll now have 30 - and each of them will immediately be eligible for $250,000 a year from FIFA which, in addition to the inevitable GOAL! grants, will go to pay another whole set of guys to shut up and do as they're told.
Still, the worst part, the part that I just do not get, is this:
When the vote is held to determine who the North American representative to FIFA's ExCo is held, all the "nations" of the CFU get to vote.
Ditto the next vote, which will determine the North American representative to the CONCACAF ExCo (between Gulati and a blithering incompetent imbecile from Canada). Montserrat, Anguilla and Jamaica have as much say in the matter as Mexico.
This system was put in place by Jack Warner as a way of keeping control over elections. As long as he had all those CFU votes in his pocket, there was no question of, say, the seven Central American countries sending him an ExCo member he didn't approve of.
It's ridiculous. Why do T&T and Guadeloupe have a say in who represents North America in Zurich? Can anyone explain this to me? Hell, the islands of the former Netherlands Antilles, taken as a block, can vote down a guy that Canada, the US and Mexico all want to have represent them.
Jeff Webb can talk all he wants about change and reform and banishing the bad old days but he's shown s surprising lack of interest in, you know, actually changing how things work.
Because, just like his predecessor, he likes being able to decide who gets what.
The question today is just how much he and Sepp - "They laugh alike, they walk alike, At times they even talk alike -- You can lose your mind" - are willing to get involved in today's votes. Clearly, if they want, they can organize the CFU to vote for Kermit Gosnell or Kim Jong Un or anyone else.
We'll find out in a few hours whether they've decided that it doesn't make enough of a difference to risk pissing off one side or the other.
Of course the other item on tap today is the presentation to the assemblage of the long awaited "forensic audit" of CONCACAF affairs.
The Executive Committee reviewed it yesterday in a five hour meeting which left a lot of people stunned and shaken.
According to Reuters, delegates speaking anonymously told them "there were serious cases of financial malpractice detailed" with one of them saying simply:
"It's bad, it's very bad".
One of the biggest issues is of course the broad-daylight heist of the $22 million CONCACAF Center of Excellence, and a recent article in the Trinidad Express makes it clear that there may be nothing they can do about it.
In an article entitled "The Great Deception" which is well worth your time, Camini Marajh gives a highly detailed explanation of just how Warner pulled it off. Prepare to need a shower.
All in all, a big day down in Panama City. Stay tuned for results as they are made available.