FIFA’s president Joseph Sepp Blatter touched down in Belize for only a few hours on Wednesday; he arrived and left on a private plane heading to Nicaragua. The visit, albeit short, gave him enough time to express his stanch support to Dr. Bertie Chimilio, the president of the Football Federation of Belize which is a FIFA affiliate. On the ground, the F.F.B. is responsible for promoting and developing the sport as well as grooming the country’s young talents. But there is a major power play for its executive seat that has both the organization and the government in a twist. Blatter says government shouldn’t interfere in F.F.B. affairs. News Five’s Isani Cayetano has the following report.
Isani Cayetano, Reporting
The conflict over the legitimacy of Dr. Bertie Chimilio’s role as president of F.F.B. couldn’t have been any clearer when the Minister of Sports chose not to attend the launch of Goal Project Two. The undertaking, in part, saw the inauguration of a new seating facility and changing rooms at the FIFA-certified stadium in Belmopan. In attendance was Sepp Blatter, president of the most powerful global sports organization.
Sepp Blatter, President, FIFA
“Let football [be] in peace. Let football work according to the statutes of football and these [are] statutes according to statutes of the international federation. We need the support of the government but the government should not and never interfere in the organization of our game and especially not in the statutes.”
The comment comes months after the signing of a statutory instrument that would allow for an investigation into the affairs of the F.F.B. According to Chimilio there is no issue with the government. The problem, he says, are the personalities therein.
Dr. Bertie Chimilio, President, F.F.B.
“The problem is not with the government. I don’t think we have a problem with the government. We have a problem with a minister who wants to do things his way and not the right way and we in the federation will do all our best to make sure that we remain independent and we do what has got to be done even if we have to go to the courts and I’m saying this with no apology. We are ready to go to the courts because we know [that] what he has done is totally out of order so Mr. Minister we are ready for you when you’re ready.”
The purpose of Blatter’s visit nevertheless was to approve the work that has gone into modernizing the stadium. In September of last year major efforts were made to bring the arena up to par with international standards which include proper seating, lighting and on-field demarcations.
“I think we are on the good track and what we have to do more in football here is to take care of the youths and let them play. And we need some more pitches and here we’ll need the government’s support and I spoke with the prime minister today and he promised that he will do or will help that some of the football pitches [be] made available through the government that they could be reconstructed or arranged and we will help them to do so.”
The stadium, Chimilio concluded, was the product of money well spent.
Dr. Bertie Chimilio
“He has looked around and has seen that yes we have done our job and that’s the reason why he came to inaugurate it. So it’s a milestone and we’re hoping that with the third phase we could finish up and have our international matches here.”
Before leaving, Blatter made a firm commitment to the F.F.B. and the country that FIFA will continue investing in the development of football in Belize through infrastructure and training opportunities for local athletes. Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.
Blatter also referred to the unprecedented Statutory Instrument signed the Minister Sports, John Saldivar, on January sixth, which established an investigation on Bertie Chimilio’s election and the F.F.B. And according to the president of the sixth largest nation of more than one billion people, FIFA is an independent entity with its own statutes.