Embattled Football Chief Dempsey Steps Down
The man at the center of the 2006 World Cup furor, New Zealander Charlie Dempsey, Sunday announced he was stepping down from his position but declined once more to unravel the mystery of the threats he said forced him to allow Germany to host the tournament.
Dempsey's decision to retire in September came after he met the executive of the Oceania Football Confederation, whose presidency he is giving up, to explain why he abstained in the final FIFA vote over who should run the competition in six years' time.
Dempsey's abstention -- disobeying orders to back South Africa from the confederation and the New Zealand government -- gave Germany a one-point victory, with the final vote 12-11.
Had the vote tied at 12-12, FIFA president Sepp Blatter would have been left with the casting vote, which he would have given to South Africa, his favored candidate.
The 79-year-old's only explanation for his action so far has been that he received "strong advice" to abstain and that he had been threatened.
At the center of a world storm of protest since the vote in Zurich on Thursday, Dempsey emerged from a marathon emergency meeting of the OFC in his hometown Auckland to say the group had backed him.
But he added, once more without detailing the particulars of the motives for his abstention, that he would nonetheless retire at its annual congress in September.
"Behind closed doors the executive met and discussed -- I wasn't present -- and gave approval to the explanations that I gave for what took place in Zurich," Dempsey said, without elaborating.
"But after all this consideration and the (media) harassment I will retire at the end of September because I cannot accept what has taken place over the last three days."
Dempsey has said he will explain his reasons publicly on Monday.
Earlier in the day, Dempsey was quoted by the Sunday Star Times as saying he would not resign.
Minister of Sport Trevor Mallard has called him a "public embarrassment," and outraged South Africans who had been optimistic about winning the hosting rights have accused him of betrayal.
In Johannesburg, the mass-circulation Sunday Times claimed Dempsey abstained from the final round of voting as an act of revenge against Blatter.
The paper said Blatter humiliated Dempsey during the Oceania congress in Samoa two months ago.
Blatter told Dempsey, who has ruled the Oceania Football Confederation for 18 years with an iron fist, the time was fast approaching for him to surrender his crown, the Times claimed.
He was also told voting for England "because his roots lay there" was not acceptable.
The Times said Dempsey sat drinking with European football boss Lennart Johansson from Sweden at a cozy, wood-paneled bar in an exclusive Zurich hotel on the eve of the vote.
Johansson knew Germany had secured the eight votes from Europe and the four from Asia -- one short of the 13 the 1974 hosts needed to stage the World Cup a second time.
"I know who the winner is ... it is a country like England," Johannsson boasted as he left the bar after meeting Dempsey, according to the Sunday Times report.
Delegates at the OFC meeting in Auckland included the chairman of Soccer Australia, Basil Scarsella, OFC vice-president Johnny Tinsly Lulu of Vanuatu and OFC general secretary Josephine King -- Dempsey's daughter.
Scarsella said before the meeting that Dempsey deserved a chance to explain, but added he would be keen to succeed him as president if he stepped down before his term expired in 2002.
"If the position was to become available, I would be very interested in pursuing the position. I think Australia in Oceania should take a leadership role," Scarsella said Saturday – (AFP)
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)