Brazilian soccer tries to clean its image with new president
RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — The next president of the Brazilian soccer confederation took office Tuesday with allies hoping he can clean up the image of the scandal-tainted body.
Rogerio Caboclo, a 46-year-old finance lawyer, ran as the only candidate and follows a group of men who have been discredited, investigated, suspended from FIFA and even jailed because of corruption.
“I am aware of CBF’s worn out image, I will face this. We will increase our governance controls. I will not tolerate any suspicious practice of misconduct,” Caboclo said in his inauguration speech.
One of his predecessors, Marco Polo del Nero, was key to Caboclo’s election by removing other candidates from contention. The former CBF president, who had the job from 2015-18, doesn’t travel outside Brazil because of the risk of imminent arrest.
The biggest challenges for Caboclo will be ending Brazil’s World Cup title drought, dating back to 2002, improving the country’s youth teams and moving the national governing body away from scandal. His election slogan was “transparency and efficiency.”
Besides running the confederation, Caboclo will also lead the organizing committee of this year’s Copa America, which will be played in Brazil from June 14-July 7.
But he started with some smaller measures, such as announcing that former Arsenal, Barcelona and Manchester City defender Sylvinho will be Brazil’s coach for the Tokyo Olympics next year. He also revealed a redesign of the Brazil crest, with a sharper blue tone around CBF’s name and fewer stripes on each side. Instead of two yellow stripes with a green one in the middle, the new design only includes one yellow and one green stripe.
The Brazilian also tried to distance himself from his mentor Del Nero.
“I am grateful to those that preceded me. But I have total independence,” the new CBF head said.
Caboclo started in soccer in the early 2000s at Sao Paulo as finance director. Then he took the same role at Sao Paulo state’s soccer federation, chaired then by Del Nero.
He also worked in the 2014 World Cup organizing committee as a link between FIFA and the CBF, chaired then by Jose Maria Marin, who is currently serving a four-year sentence in New York for corruption.
Saint-Clair Milesi, the former communications director of the World Cup in Brazil, said Caboclo’s style could help the CBF’s image.
“He was a calming presence in our committee at a time Marin took over the CBF because of investigations on his predecessor, Ricardo Teixeira,” Milesi told The Associated Press. “Caboclo was the man dealing with the tougher problems in a way that Marin could understand and make his decisions. He also speaks English, which is a plus if you think of the last heads of the CBF.”
Caboclo was also the head of Brazil’s delegation at the World Cup in Russia. In a move that allies say is an example of his discretion, he silently gathered the support of more than 30 Brazilian soccer executives by paying their trips with CBF money. Caboclo also received the credit for a renegotiation of Brazilian Cup TV rights in 2018 that made the champion of the tournament earn about $15 million in prize money, almost five times more than in the previous deal.
FIFA President Gianni Infantino attended Caboclo’s inauguration and said the Brazilian gave him a positive impression. Brazil has had little say in soccer politics since former CBF head Ricardo Teixeira left the job in 2016 amid corruption allegations.
“To improve (Brazil’s) image he needs to show serious work and develop soccer,” Infantino told journalists.
Alejandro Dominguez, the head of South America’s soccer body CONMEBOL, said Caboclo is committed to move Brazil’s confederation past the scandals.
“It is time to modernize soccer, and Rogerio is a partner in that direction,” said Dominguez, who also took his job amid a wave of accusations against top CONMEBOL leaders.
But adversaries are never far away. Former Brazil great Romario, now a senator, said he will try to remove Caboclo from the job via the courts because of his connection to Del Nero.
Caboclo will also have to sweeten Brazil’s relations with other South American soccer executives that are still upset with the decision of Antonio Carlos Nunes de Lima, who presided over the CBF after Del Nero was suspended, to vote for Morocco’s losing bid to host of the 2026 World Cup.
The other South American national bodies voted for the winning bid of the United States, Canada and Mexico.
Savarese reported from Madrid.