Part I: Alfredo Hawit, In His Own Words
Posted on February 23, 2012 8:05 pm
When various Spanish-language news outlets published articles based on comments by interim President Alfredo Hawit, they latched onto his remarks concerning an expanded 2016 Copa América in the United States, a topic of clear interest to every football fan in the New World. However, Hawit differed with Ecuadoran Football Federation (FEF) President Luis Chiriboga and CONMEBOL President Nicolas Leoz on the size of the expansion, suggesting (according to the reports) that eight CONCACAF participants, rather than six, would join CONMEBOL’s membership for their Centennial celebration. Curious about the discrepancy, I searched for the original soundbite, and ended up with two interviews in which Hawit goes into depth about his vision for the future of CONCACAF.
The videos are included below; but since he covers several topics of mutual interest among all football fans in our region, I decided to provide a full English translation. Instead of “cleaning it up” for readability, I endeavored to remain as close as possible to the original Spanish, but Hawit’s thoughts and preferences come out quite clearly. At the end of this entry I will provide a brief pair of comments, since the competition-related portion of Hawit’s remarks has been mostly tapped out. The parts related to the politics and structure of the confederation, however, went entirely overlooked by the media; and as soon as I saw those, I knew to whom I had to pass them. The second half of this special collaboration will feature the commentary of, inarguably, the most qualified person to speak on matters related to CONCACAF politics; but first, without further ado, we let Hawit speak for himself.
Interview 1 – with Radio House (HON), December 28, 2011
(On the state of CONCACAF)
Hawit: It wasn’t my turn [to assume the CONCACAF Presidency], but Lisle Austin’s, because there is a President, three Vice Presidents and three Members [in the Executive Committee], one for each zone: the North Zone, the Central Zone and the Caribbean.
They [Jack Warner and co.] governed 21 years, they committed the errors that they committed, [but] we don’t want to get hung up over it, nor get stuck on that topic. And then [the Presidency] was supposed to go to someone else from the Caribbean, based on seniority. [Austin] has three years of seniority on me; I have eight years [on the Committee], while he has 11.
Our idea is that next year, CONCACAF has to start up completely differently. It has to be a monster in the area. And the first thing that we did was accepting [advances from] CONMEBOL.
We don’t have elections like they normally do everywhere. The countries propose to the Confederation which positions are going to be occupied. I’ve been reelected as Vice President twice, and they voted for me again. I was the first among everyone, for two months, after I had been nominated. And everyone found out because I will be Vice President until 2014 or 2015.
It’s also necessary to change the structure of CONCACAF. It has articles that don’t fit at this point. There are situations involving negotiations that should go beyond what is CONCACAF. And I believe that it’s our mission, for the time that we’re here, as long as God wants to have us here, we’re going to try and leave positive footprints. And for the first time, we’re going to give the Federations what is due them.
There are people from the Caribbean, 25 islands, that don’t even have enough to fly from one side to the other, and qualify and go to a World Cup [finals], or participate in qualifying.
Interviewer: Are you talking about the games?
Hawit: Talking about the games; even worse, [if we] talk about internal footballing competitiveness. So they can’t grow; so they have the wrong image of us, because we have been successful. They think that it’s because we didn’t let them [develop], and that’s not true. It’s not true. It’s because there, those that governed didn’t govern for them. We are going to govern for them, for Central America and for the North.
Justino [Compeán] from Mexico is right when he says, “We go to the Gold Cup, and from there is where we get most of [the money] to maintain all the teams in the region.” This money, we should be able to double it, with other marketing companies, and exceed it, not stay with the same thing. That’s what I say; up to now, it’s my personal opinion. So Justino says, “We bring the people to the stadium.”
Interviewer: The Mexicans.
Hawit: “We bring the money. We bring the football. And them?”
Interviewer 2: “Them” who?
Hawit: Those from the Caribbean. So they feel-
Interviewer: Like St. Vincent…
Hawit: So they say, they feel like we marginalize them. It’s not true. All the money that came out, I think that it has not been equally given in the manner that each one deserves. So we want to change this mentality.
(On relations with CONMEBOL)
CONMEBOL is another world.
Interviewer: South America?
Hawit: South America. They live in another world. They want to be part of ours, and before they didn’t permit this to happen. I don’t know why, [but] the football will grow. Our football will grow, economically and [in sporting terms], because that’s the mentality, the new mentality that we all have in CONCACAF.
Everyone has the right to dream.
Interviewer: Of course.
Hawit: We had a strong reunion in Panama, the 10 presidents of the area [North and Central America]. First the seven of us met [from Central America], and afterwards we brought the three, from Canada, the United States and Mexico. And the first ones that supported me were the big ones.
We’re now talking directly about the need to change, possibly, the name of the Copa América, so that it can be an Americana, and with that we’ll [solve] everything. So there will be six teams from our side, and eight from theirs, but we’re going to be [adjusting] it. We’re studying it, in order to see what can be done. But the intention, the most important thing is that we thought of changing-
Hawit: Uniting this current mentality in order to grow. And it benefits us more than them; but we have to have something, so that they want to be with us. We have to take advantage of this situation and try to do it.
(On football politics)
It has been managed successfully, FIFA, because they’ve given to our Federations, incredibly, to 208 countries – every GOAL Project is $400,000, that we have to take advantage of, and do it, just as with the normal FIFA aid, which is $250,000 per year. We’re talking about a million dollars, so that you can [have the full picture]. And the more that Blatter gains, the more he gives out. So in CONCACAF it should be the same thing. The Confederations should do the same thing.
We, as UNCAF, we made a determination. We’re going to support whoever supports us. We had made the determination, and you saw the speech in Siguatepeque [in Honduras], giving public support to Joseph Blatter. We had seven votes, so we were going to vote, all of UNCAF, and we [were] going to vote for Joseph Blatter. We went to the [CONCACAF] Congress afterwards, [Warner] knew, and before the Congress we supported Blatter. That was it, he was [going to receive the votes]. And the Caribbean supported [Blatter]. [The bribery scandal in Trinidad and Tobago] took place afterwards, you understand. In other words, there’s no logic for doing what they did, if there was a distinct support.
(On Central American competitiveness)
Look how Panama has grown. How’s Nicaragua now? No one’s scoring six or eight on them anymore. Before, by how much did we beat them…?
Interviewer 2: [By] five, five; [in qualifying for] the Gold Cup, five, [sounds about right].
Hawit: You have to see everything, that football is [about] competing at different levels, and so you’ll grow. You can’t keep fooling yourself. That’s why Honduras has, even if we lose, Luis Suárez, with the team that he had set up, lost against big teams. And there it is: at the end, with a big team, he demonstrated that he can have a big team in the end.
(On Honduran football)
Hondurans should be building themselves up, like the Mexicans. Mexicans [stick up] for [their own]. And this isn’t a criticism, nor is it envy. It’s an example to follow –
Interviewer: A reality.
Hawit: And let’s defend [our own] and support [our own] because they, with Chicharito, how do they [treat] him?
Interviewer: Ah, boy.
Hawit: That’s what Honduras should do with our players. But it’s not lifting them up now and tossing them out tomorrow after another game, because they do that here. So a young boy can’t, all of a sudden, [handle] the fame, and he can fall. So you have to take him slowly through it, slowly, slowly, but always giving him the positive spirit of overcoming, of succeeding. This is what us Hondurans should be doing, and I believe that we have the capacity to do this, and [work] so that not only Honduras, [but] Central America, the Caribbean, the whole region grow, so that our football be more respected in the area.
(On World Cup qualifying)
The [World Cup qualifying] calendars, we’ve been shown that they’re for the winners.
Hawit: The calendar can trick you, [just like] it can help you. But [the format] favored Honduras in this sense: no risking [with] the first round, getting seeded, and ending up with Cuba, Panama and Canada. Two move on to the next round. I think Honduras is going to do it. It’s going to cost them, because the two teams are not easy, but they’ll move on to the next round. And Honduras has the team to go in first, second or third place [in the Hex] to Brazil.
I need help. I need people from the private sector, [so that] our stadiums change.
Hawit: Because our problem is because we need to have a book of charges, in order not to leave any [doubts], to acquire a stadium; it can’t be shared. We can do it. Of course we can bring a u-17 World Cup, Women’s or Men’s, or a u-20 [World Cup], perfectly.
Interviewer: Costa Rica will have a World Cup [Women’s u-17, in 2014].
Hawit: For that reason, because they have a great stadium. So we have to have that type of stadium. And I, for example, I want that in Central America we have four stadiums in each [country], in order to bring in the future –
Interviewer: [When] you’re no longer going to be alive –
Hawit: In 2050, there can be a World Cup in Central America.
Hawit: Why not?
Interview 2 – with Cancha (MEX), February 8, 2012 (upload date)
Hawit: We are in a transformation that’s difficult enough, but with solid principles we can change CONCACAF in that sense. And hopefully they’ll give us sufficient time to do it, and be able to harmonize what is CONCACAF, and change the negative images.
I’m a practical man, and I don’t like to go to the past, because I learned how politics in the United States is: the State Department, whichever President arrives and takes up the most important positions in the nation, and never criticizes another President. We’re the same way; that’s our mentality. But we can collect errors, in order to improve and not repeat them.
Interviewer: About the elections that are coming up now, what profile does the candidate need, or are you going to run for the position?
Hawit: No, the Congress for us will be in 2013. What’s coming up now is a Congress on May 12 for Caribbean elections. But we [CONCACAF] aren’t going to have a Congress with elections now. Our elections will be, [according to] the statutes in 2013, I think May 2013. And we’re ready for what awaits us. More importantly, we have to make everyone aware and demonstrate to them, the three zones, that we’re working for everyone’s benefit.
But it’s not easy, changing the structure [that’s] entrenched after 21 years. There’s a reason that transformations are gradual. Only coups d’état or revolutions change from evening to morning. But we haven’t gotten to that point yet. Definitely we’re making all and every one of our Federations conscious, we want them to be aware that we want to change the mentality and the objectives of CONCACAF.
Interviewer: Above all, here in Mexico we [have] the image, at best, that [CONCACAF] doesn’t support Mexican football in terms of, Mexico’s a frequent invitee at the Copa América, and they don’t have, maybe, CONCACAF’s approval, [according to] the information that we have, in order to compete with its [best] team. In this sense –
Hawit: In order to avoid this type of problem, we’re trying to make a strategic alliance with CONMEBOL, so that it already is defined, independently, which teams can go participate. And if they invite Mexico, welcome. There isn’t, we don’t have any opposition, or closing the doors, if [when] we went to CONMEBOL and we had the chance to chat with Mr. Leoz and with most of the presidents in CONMEBOL, they exhibited a lot the mentality of opening this window.
Because in the end, I can tell you that there’s a big enthusiasm for 2016, which is the 100th anniversary of CONMEBOL, so that eight of our teams can play with 10 of theirs.
I believe, truly, in the present. The past no longer exists; the future is uncertain. So, in the present, you have to build up and make a positive footprint; and leave a transparent example, an example of wanting to seek an integral development of all the three zones.
So, to speak of continuity in CONCACAF, no one can predict it. The only thing I proposed to FIFA is that CONCACAF should govern itself in a more egalitarian form, proposing that the North govern four years, Central [America] four years and the Caribbean four years. So the three zones have the opportunity, each one, so that there be competition between the three, [to see] who is the best. And if we could achieve this, it would be ideal, because [otherwise] no Central American, no one from the North is going to occupy the Presidency of CONCACAF. This is clear. For this reason we have to prepare, in the future, a different balance in the sense of voting.
I will simply wrap up by answering the original inquiry that led me on this search: Hawit gives different answers in each interview for how many teams would participate in the 2016 Copa América, so it’s safe to dismiss his “8 CONCACAF + 10 CONMEBOL” figure as a mix-up. Most likely it will be 6 CONCACAF + 10 CONMEBOL, as Leoz and Chiriboga have been saying. Also, when discussing the need for more quality stadiums in Central America, he mentions the possibility of hosting u-17 World Cups, u-20 World Cups and even the big one itself in the distant future. At no point, however, does he suggest holding a Gold Cup in Central America.