From the SA Sunday Times:
How a humiliated old man sold SA's World Cup hopes down the river
JESSICA BEZUIDENHOUT, CLINTON ASARY and ANDRE JURGENS
ON the very day - six weeks ago - that Charlie Dempsey was made a
warrior and given the tribal name of Falana Pupu, he knew that he
betray South Africa in its bid to win the 2006 soccer World Cup.
As his cheeks were daubed with red paint and a bone necklace was
around his neck in the Aggie Greys Hotel in Samoa, the "Flying Scot"
angry old man. (See picture on page 1.)
He had been cornered and he knew it.
Everything had gone against him and for once in his life he had been
what to do.
It happened in May at the Oceania Football Confederation's congress,
bidding countries had arrived on the small Pacific island to present
of their bids to countries in
But first on the agenda was the election of the confederation's new
president, a position Dempsey has held for the past 18 years - well
sell-by date, his critics felt.
He was the only one who had been nominated and he assumed he would be
re-elected without any fuss.
But delegates from member countries that include Australia, Tahiti,
and Vanuatu had other plans.
In front of Fifa president Sepp Blatter, and the bidding countries
Germany and South Africa, it was proposed that Dempsey's re-election
not take place until September as other "issues" had to be sorted out
One of which was that as president, Dempsey would vote for South
The long-time soccer boss grew angry.
"I refuse to wait, you must do it now," he said. His daughter,
King, a powerful force behind her father, and general secretary of the
confederation, lashed out at the members for embarrassing her father
front of Blatter and reminded some of them that they had not yet paid
The meeting was adjourned amid much tension.
Blatter then called for a private meeting with Dempsey, where the Fifa
laid down the law.
Dempsey, a Fifa executive, was told clearly by his boss that he was 79
old and that the time was fast approaching for him to give up his
announcement that he was going to vote for England because "his roots
there" was not acceptable, Blatter told him.
At that time the only other person who had backed England's bid was
Will, the Fifa executive member from Scotland.
The two men returned to the meeting, where it was announced that
accepted that the re-election take place in September . That was his
Later in the day the confederation executive met privately in a hotel
and there Dempsey suffered a second ***. Delegates decided
although he would be allowed to back England in the first round, in
rounds he would have to back South Africa instead of Germany as the
of second choice to host the World Cup.
But it seems the angry old man had already made up his mind to defy
confederation and exact revenge on Blatter and the others who had gone
This week in Zurich, when four bidding countries, South Africa,
England and Morocco, gathered for their final presentations to the
executives before the announcement of the host country for the 2006
Cup , Dempsey had his revenge.
It was at the exclusive Dolder Grand Hotel, where all the Fifa
stayed, that the Germans clinched the cup hours before the final vote
It was also where Dempsey sat at the cosy little wood-panelled bar
his favourite tipple of Guinness with his old friend Lennart
boss of the European confederation UEFA who wanted him to vote for
THE irony is that what Dempsey did to South Africa is what Blatter did
Two years ago Johansson, European soccer's most powerful man, was
to get the vacant job of Fifa boss. But Blatter, by promising to bring
World Cup to Africa, gained crucial support from South Africa and
African countries to score an upset victory.
Both Dempsey and Johansson had a reason to get back at Blatter.
In the meantime, as the lobbying went on , UEFA and the Germans, who
assured of eight votes, met the Asians.
Among the promises made at that secret meeting was that Dr Chung
whose vote Germany already had, would get UEFA's backing to go up
Blatter to become the next Fifa president in 2002.
Mong-joon, the boss of Hyundai in Korea who has ambitions of becoming
president of his country, recently signed a multimillion-dollar deal
Germany's DaimlerChrysler. The title of Fifa president was appealing.
Asians, who until then had been threatening to vote along individual
decided to deliver a bloc vote to Germany.
Now the Germans could be assured of 12 votes.
But even then Germany could not be sure of victory if Dempsey had
his confederation's orders. The result would have been a tie and
who as president has a casting vote, could have delivered the World
BUT on Wednesday night Johansson already knew differently. He sat in
of the Dolder Grand Hotel, surrounded by his key allies Per Ravn Omdal
Norway, Joseph Mifsud of Malta and Michel D'Hooghe of Belgium.
The glasses were filled with scotch and clinked, the pianist played,
Johansson - singing, smiling broadly and banging the table in
accompaniment - led the choruses.
As he left the bar, Johansson stopped briefly. "I know who the winner
he said. "It is a country like England. "
At 9am on Thursday morning at Fifa House, in Zurich, Dempsey shocked
fellow executives when he walked into a meeting and announced that he
be voting for England and "nobody else".
By 10.30am South Africa was told that it had lost the bid. Dempsey had
wreaked his revenge and even before the official announcement to the
the defiant Kiwi was jetting his way, first-class, to Singapore for a
By 2pm the world knew that Germany had got the showpiece of soccer and
Dempsey had not voted.
Now all hell broke lose as Dempsey sparked claims of vote-rigging and
***, a hoax letter and death threats as his excuse for not casting
vote for South Africa.
The man who has been labelled as arrogant, who has fought many a
Australian soccer chiefs, and who has ruled soccer in the Pacific with
iron***was expecting the world to believe he had become a cowed
He spoke of the "unbearable pressure" he had been put under and told
receiving a letter that offered him gifts if he voted for a certain
that made him feel intimidated.
"I was scared standing there at 5am with this letter in my hand," he
"On the last evening before the vote my night's sleep was interrupted
five phone calls. I did not make any calls as I feared my phone might
been bugged. I had death threats. I was also phoned by Nelson Mandela
6.30am. I never thought the World Cup was so important to so many
Few, however, believe him.
Jack Warner, the member for Trinidad and Tobago, told a British
"Dempsey made it all up. He lost his nerve and he concocted the whole
in his head. I am livid. Football does not deserve a man like Charlie
Warner said the letter that he had also received was clearly a hoax (a
German satirical magazine later confirmed it had sent the letter to
executives) that no one should have taken seriously.
Warner's theory is that Dempsey used the letter to justify a decision
made long ago to defy his confederation rather go up against his old
Johansson. That explanation is supported by comments made by the New
Sports Minister, Trevor Mallard, who said soon after the vote that
had refused to take telephone calls from his own country.
"It is clear that we have a problem in getting him to face up to his
responsibilities. This reflects very badly on New Zealand and I am
upset that one individual can do so much damage to the reputation of
country. He has taken a decision which directly contradicts what he
previously said he was going to do.'
Former Australian soccer chairman David Hill has called for Dempsey's
"I think Charlie is a joke. He must resign over this," he said.