By Jesse Fink
By Jesse Fink
During the week Philippe Auclair, a journalist for France Football and colleague of mine who has written books on Eric Cantona and Thierry Henry, published a fascinating interview (in French) with Michael Garcia, chairman of the investigatory chamber of FIFA's ethics committee.
Garcia's remit is wide ranging.
Not only is he wrapping up a report on the long-running ISL affair, he is leading an investigation into possible violations of the ethics code during the World Cup bidding process for 2018 and 2022, a dragnet that encompasses all the bidding countries, but especially respective winners Russia and Qatar.
"My role is clearly defined," he told Auclair. "I've got to investigate the conduct of football people and see if it contravenes or has contravened the [FIFA] governance codes - now or at the time when the breaches would have taken place. My mission is therefore very specific; investigate possible violations of the Ethics [Code].
"It's all open. That's the message I'm trying to get across, and I believe that it's very important. The time has come for people who have information to come to me, I haven't got any preconceived ideas on what's happened or what's not happened. Well [I'm saying to them], ‘If you truly believe it, the moment has come to show yourself. There are things that we can do, under the parameters of the code, that will protect your anonymity'.
"I will work with them under this report. What wouldn't be... useful would be that under this wide-ranging inquiry that I'm leading, later, there are people in it who say, ‘Well, they got the facts wrong', when they knew that beforehand. You know something? Tell me! I'm working, working hard to uncover what's there or isn't there. [We've got] the framework, the channels through which people have got to come if they really think they have something to say. On whatever it might be! On whichever aspect of whichever question related to the World Cup. It is a message that has got to be heard. People have talked, written articles but what you have no is an official body which is in charge of this matter and it's important that people go see me to tell me what they've got [at their disposal]."
"I will pay attention to everything... I will examine all the information with the same impartiality, whether it comes from the US, from Qatar, from Russia, from Australia.
"The first of my priorities is obviously to determine if there have been, or not, breaches of the Ethics Code by football officials."
He would appear to mean business.
Less than a week out from a meeting of the executive committee in Zurich, Sri Lanka's Vernon Manilal Fernando has been provisionally suspended from the "ex-co" for reasons unspecified but which fall under "interference with the establishment of the truth" in the Code of Ethics.
Asian Football Confederation presidential candidate Worawi Makudi, meanwhile, is pre-empting the possible furnishing of new information regarding the many scandals his name has been attached to in recent times by threatening legal action to anyone who so dares even think about it.
He recently told Mark Bisson of World Football Insider: "I've cleared my name so I'm not afraid. But if people try to bring cases back, I'll respond very strongly, with legal action."
Ho hum. It's a familiar refrain. Perhaps Makudi would be better served by not giving so much ammunition to his critics and opponents. A judge in England, of course, recently threw out his libel action against Lord Triesman.
Candidate for Thailand Football Association presidency Pinit Ngarmpring is one such brave soul putting the fight for truth and transparency above personal considerations. He won't allow Makudi's utterances to his nebulous opponents to dissuade him from his mission.
So the call has been made by Garcia. Now is the time for anyone with information about dodgy football officials and dubious goings-on to come forward.
It remains to be seen how much of his own man Garcia is. He claims he has only met Sepp Blatter once in three months and has "kept himself outside of my sphere". Undoubtedly there are some titanic powerplays going on behind the scenes in regard the Qatar World Cup involving Blatter and his political rivals.
In an interview with Germany's kicker Sportmagazin he did not rule out running again in 2015: "If it is then established that FIFA will continue as it is, that it will remain global and that the pyramid will not collapse, then I will gladly hand the mantle over to a new president in 2015."
The stoush between Blatter and Platini is just hotting up.
But Garcia deserves to be given the opportunity to prove his independence. It's time to deliver results - not more rhetoric.