A Proud Day for US Soccer: Sunil Gulati Stands Up

A truly amazing, wonderful, shocking, incredible thing has happened at USSF, all Americans should be bursting with pride and yet, incredibly, the media has missed it entirely.

Possibly because they're too focused on the latest self-absorbed mewlings of Juergen "The Players All Stink" Klinsmann, they've missed a seismic shift at the federation.

Without saying one single word, as is Silent Sunil's wont, he has spoken volumes, and we can all walk a bit taller today as a result.

As our dear friend Grant Wahl discovered four years ago with his nonsensical "campaign for President of FIFA - "Quixotic" would be giving that utterly embarrassing episode far too much dignity - declaring yourself to be a candidate to replace Sepp Blatter in the comfiest thronelike chair on his private jet (you can get a new personal chef if you want) is the easy part.

The problem Grant ran into was that a FIFA federation had to nominate you. He actually went to a FIFA Congress and scoured the halls, certain that he could find someone willing to endorse his candidacy and his program which, you'll recall, consisted entirely of a) using goal line technology and b )making Julie Foudy FIFA's new General Secretary.

Yet his ridiculous agenda (FIFA was testing systems for the first, which was inevitable anyway and say what you will about Ms. Foudy but her qualifications for becoming CEO of a four billion dollar international corporation are, to put it kindly, a bit sketchy) wasn't the main reason he came up empty in his quest for an endorsement.

Rather, it was because nobody wanted to commit international football suicide by insulting the guy in charge of handing out huge stacks of cash and plumb committee assignments.

Make no mistake, Blatter takes people endorsing people to replace him, even if the challenge amounts to low brow comedy, very personally. Good luck getting that GOAL grant once you've stuck your finger in Seppy's eye.

Fast forward to the current nomination season where, apparently having concluded that absolutely no candidate having being able to come up with a single federation willing to nominate them was just too close for comfort, for this year's election they changed the requirement to five.


So even with UEFA more or less unanimously calling for Blatter's replacement - it's become open warfare between him and Michel Platini - it was always going to be tough to get another candidate on the ballot, particularly since, to be honest, there's virtually no chance in hell of Sepp losing.

And in fact it proved to be too much of a hurdle for this year's Pat Paulson Memorial Candidate, former French international David Ginola, who entered the race because an Irish bookmaker called PaddyPower gave him $400,000 to do so.

Unfortunately Ginola failed to notice, or just didn't much care, that FIFA rules prohibit anyone affiliated with a gambling organization from holding office. At the last minute, he claimed he was dropping the bookies from his bid team but, alas, not a single country - let alone five -was willing to step forward and make themselves look ridiculous by nominating him.

His snazzy website informs us that your contributions will be returned. No word on the disposition of the huge floppy shoes and big red nose.

The second guy who was unable to get the required five endorsements was former longtime FIFA Executive Jerome Champagne who, having announced almost a year ago was still able to garner only one federation's backing, although nobody knows who that was and said country undoubtedly hopes it stays that way.

Somewhat surprisingly, three men submitted the requisite number of nominations and, pending a review by the Ethics Committee - they call it part of their new dedication to transparency, while some cynics call it "looking for reasons to disqualify them" - which should be done in about ten days,  will be on the ballot this May.

Portuguese legend Luis Figo (endorsed by Denmark, Luxemburg, Macedonia, Montenegro and Poland) is the biggest surprise. The 42 year old former Barcelona and Real Madrid playmaker may seem like just another bored ex-player looking for a spotlight but people who have worked with him at FIFA and UEFA are unanimous in their praise for his depth, intelligence and thoughtful seriousness of purpose. 

The second candidate is Dutch federation president Michael van Praag, whose candidacy, like Figo's, is endorsed only by UEFA federations (Belgium, the Faeroe Islands, Romania, Scotland and Sweden).

Seriously, Europe really detests Blatter and they now no longer care who knows it. Plus they know that FIFA can't pull the plug on their yearly $400,000 payout, which everybody in the world gets, and if they have trouble getting money for other stuff, well, UEFA is loaded.

The third candidate, whom we have discussed previously, is current FIFA Vice President Ali bin al-Hussein, an Executive Committee member who, despite a sterling record of standing up for financial reform, transparency and women's rights - well, OK, precisely because of those positions - will soon be replaced by the Asian Federation by a much more cooperatively corrupt representative.

The initial hope was that he could pull enough support from Asia - who after all elected him to the ExCo - that, combined with a united UEFA and some stray votes here and there from around the globe (it is, after all, a secret ballot), Blatter might finally be brought down.

This hope quickly dissolved a couple weeks ago when, at the AFC Congress in Australia, western reporters noted that when Prince Ali entered the lobby everyone in sight scattered, lest they be seen talking to him and having this reported to the new AFC President.

One media member called him a "pariah".

As a result, the only AFC federation wiling to endorse Ali was his home nation of Jordan.

Also joining in were four European nations, Belarus, England, Georgia and Malta, giving him the required five.

And that's when the shocking thing happened.

Even though a sixth endorsement was not necessary and could have been skipped with no harm to anyone, the final name on the list is a show stopper:

The United States of America.

Go ahead, read that three or four times while it sinks in. I can barely believe it myself and I'm the one who wrote it.

The only one outside of Europe or a candidate's own federation to stand up and announce to the world that they think Sepp Blatter's time is up was the USSF.

The USSF is the only one in CONCACAF (Mexico and Canada have lost the right to complain about FIFA any more, ever) and the only one in the Western Hemisphere. Not a single federation in South America, Oceania or Africa joined in.

The US no longer stands behind the corruption. No longer will we ignore the lies, the bribery, the criminality and, above all, the man responsible.

Sunil Gulati stood up.

And all we can do here is stand and applaud.

Well done sir. Well done.