Robert Torres: Guam’s football corruption buster on a mission

While the football world pours over the surprising release of the full FIFA report into the awarding of the 2018 & 2022 World Cups one man who has been instrumental in helping to clean up the game’s governing body down the years is this weekend bidding to take the reigns of his own national association.

Robert Torres was involved with FIFA’s ethics committee for nearly 11 years and was an influential figure during the investigation that brought down former president Sepp Blatter as well as other leading figures that were expelled from the game’s governing body including US official Chuck Blazer.

Robert Torres is a former Guam Chief Justice.

Now the 59-year-old is aiming to clean up the tattered image of football in his native Guam after the former long-serving president Richard Lai admitted to taking close to $1 million in bribes in a US district court earlier this year.

It was an admission that rocked football across Asia given Lai’s close ties with several other leading officials in the region and one that Torres admits did great damage to the reputation of the island nation.

“It did bring significant damage to Guam and football as result of the plea agreement that was reached and that’s why I think football on Guam needs a fresh start.”

The challenge there is that Torres faces is the current long-serving General Secretary of Guam football, Valentino San Gil, a man who was Lai’s right-hand man when the elections take place this Saturday.

Richard Lai brought ‘significant damage to Guam’.

Speaking exclusively with FOX Sports Asia, Torres said though that it’s his deep connection with the game and formidable international experience that means he’s the best man to repair the tattered image of football on the idyllic island.

“I think the question that needs to be asked is does Guam want somebody who is going to bring credibility and integrity to the table and who has a lengthy involvement with the game or do they merely want to keep the old guard in place?”

“I think we also need to look at some of the activities that have taken place under the current board, including a criminal subpoena that was issued by the IRS to the GFA but never disclosed and certain contracts that are being awarded to those with close ties to the current board and ask whether those are in the best interests of football on Guam.”

Torres’ credentials are certainly impressive as not only was he a former youth national coach and instrumental in the establishment of the GFA, in addition to his work with the FIFA ethics committee he’s also a member – and until recently Chief Justice – of the Supreme Court of Guam.

It’s this experience of dealing with some of the most high-profile cases not just in Guam but also in world football that has him believe he can quickly repair the tarnished image of a tiny nation that had been the darling of Asian football after the national team’s run all the way to the final round of qualifiers for the 2019 AFC Asian Cup.

“I bring credibility and years of international experience to this position and no one can question my judgment or ethical attitude.

“I’ve handled some of the most important corruption cases in the past decade of FIFA and if you talk about pressure then the Sepp Blatter case certainly had that; if you asked six years ago would Sepp Blatter ever have been prosecuted for unethical conduct the answer would have universal but I had no qualms handling that case.

Torres was involved in the investigation into Sepp Blatter.

“I think if Sepp Blatter was to reappear today before the congress and ask to be elected again you can guess how that would play out so there was certainly plenty of pressure in that case.”

After the national team was surprisingly withdrawn form those final round of Asian Cup qualifiers, Torres – who is the only one of the two candidates to actually publish a manifesto on how to improve football on the island – has vowed to restart the program and declared that Guam has vast potential to impress in international tournaments.

“I think it was a huge mistake to withdraw the team from that qualification campaign and not to build on the success generated during the World Cup campaign.

“Guam may have a way to go to reach the bigger powers, Japan, Korea and China, in the region but certainly we should be aiming to regularly qualify for the East Asian Cup.

The election takes place this coming Saturday.