Pressure mounts for change at Brazilian federation
Just over a year after Ricardo Teixeira resigned under duress as head of the Brazilian football federation, his successor is also being pressured to quit.
Allegations swirl around Jose Maria Marin, who has denied any wrongdoing and doesn't plan on resigning.
Congressmen, former players, fans and local media have shown growing discontent with Marin, pointing to his alleged link to the country's dictatorship era, to his inefficiency as head of the federation, and to accusations of unethical behavior.
The 80-year-old Marin is also the president of the local 2014 World Cup organizing committee.
"The LOC does not comment on speculations,'' the committee said in a statement to The Associated Press on Friday. "The entire LOC team is focused on the delivery of the Confederations Cup and we have the full involvement of president Jose Maria Marin in the event's preparations.''
Congressman Romario has been spearheading the campaign against Marin, and fellow former player Ronaldo, a member of the local organizing committee and the face of the World Cup in Brazil, also is in favor of changes in the Brazilian federation, or CBF.
"What they want I also want, which is to shake up Brazilian football,'' Ronaldo told the O Globo newspaper. "There are a lot of things that we don't want to see anymore ... lack of transparency, poor calendars, fan violence. If Marin can't do that, we need to make a change. CBF needs to move forward. Football needs young and dynamic people with new ideas.''
Ronaldo is seen as one of the possible candidates to replace Marin, according to local media, along with former Corinthians president and CBF director Andres Sanchez and former Brazil player and Paris Saint-Germain director Leonardo.
Teixeira resigned from the CBF citing medical reasons in 2012, though under a cloud of allegations of corruption and irregularities in his administration. Swiss court documents later linked him to receiving kickbacks worth millions of dollars from World Cup broadcasting deals.
The biggest complaint against Marin is his connection to the country's military dictatorship. He belonged to the party that supported the regime which ruled Brazil from 1964-85. A group led by Romario wants Marin investigated for his possible indirect connection to the torture and killing of a prominent Brazilian journalist in 1975.
Romario recently gave the CBF a petition featuring nearly 55,000 signatures demanding that Marin quit to avoid the "embarrassing'' situation of him sitting alongside Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff and other heads of states in VIP tribunes during the Confederations Cup in June.
Marin went to court to make an official complaint against Romario's allegations and accused Brazil's media of trying to create chaos as the country prepares for football's showpiece event.
On Friday, the Brazilian UOL web portal published a report showing documents allegedly linking Marin to the misuse of public funds when he was a public official in the past.
"It's a campaign based on lies,'' the CBF said in a recent statement.
FIFA has tried to distance itself from the allegations against Marin, saying it's a local issue.
"This is part of the history of this country and we are not in position to comment,'' FIFA communications director Walter De Gregorio said. "We accept the president who is in charge now.''
The local organizing committee is fully financed by FIFA, which has had to deal with delays in the country's preparations led in part by Marin. He publicly promised that all six venues for the Confederations Cup would be ready by Monday or would be excluded, but the deadline won't be fulfilled for at least two venues.
There have been many calls for a congressional investigation into the CBF, but Brazil's Sports Minister Aldo Rebelo said the government can't easily interfere with the federation, which also is a private entity.
"I don't have a vote,'' he said. "I wish I had more influence, but I don't. President Dilma Rousseff will not interfere, it's not part of her role.''
Marin, a Sao Paulo state governor in the 1980s, also made headlines recently after allegedly being caught on tape criticizing Rebelo, as well as threatening local businessmen and offering expensive dinners to federation presidents. Marin said it's not his voice on the tapes, which were widely published on social medias.
He also attracted unwanted attention last year when he was captured by TV cameras putting a winner's medal in his pocket during an under-18 championship. Marin was never accused of any wrongdoing by organizers and he said the medal was given to him. But a player left the ceremony without one, receiving it only a few days later.