Tuesday, June 06, 2006

A Day Full of Friends...

The day was going to start early with staff coming to my suite to review final preparations for the CONCACAF Extraordinary Congress scheduled for 1500 hours at the Hilton Park Hotel in Munich.

Deputy General Secretary Jason Hughes was the first to arrive at 1000 hours. Having made some late changes in the Congress program, the Powerpoint for the projection screens needed to be updated and then a final review and scripting to make sure everyone had their assignment so the meeting would go smoothly.

The population in the small junior suite stretched the walls as another Deputy General Secretary, Rafael Tinoco, tucked his head out the window to use his cell phone and leave CONCACAF Executive Committee Member Guillermo Canedo White on his laptop with Jason to his back and me at the desk. Minutes later we would be joined by Sunil Gulati, newly elected President of the United States Soccer Federation and Jack Austin Warner, the President of CONCACAF and Vice President of FIFA.

When Jack arrived, we reviewed the schedule and adjusted the timings to his likings. Jack is famous for running professional meetings which are well organized and documented. Although much of it is prepared well in advance, the pre-meeting lets the President personalize the program on the day of the game. Gulati gave him a preview of the remarks he wanted to make at the Congress, being a new Association President, he had substantial offerings of technical and developmental assistance in hand that we knew the members would be happy to hear about and from our part represented a major shift towards internationalism of a previously insular body.

The rest of the details were agreed and Jason finalized the Powerpoint that would be seen just a couple of hours away in the Hilton. Ted Howard, another Deputy, was at the Hilton where he and Competitions and Events Director Jill Fracisco were finalizing the seating and technical setup of the meeting hall. At 1430, we boarded the Hyundai Van provided me during my stay at the World Cup and a local Munich driver, Mr. Wald eased the vehicle from the Bayerbischer Hof through the streets of Munich for the 10 minute ride to the Hilton.

Following the roll call and establishment of a quorum with 39 present and only Panama stuck in air traffic and unable to make the meeting, Sunil addressed the delegations and they were very pleasantly surprised to hear the new approach to international relations offered by the USA. Warner then asked Mary Harvey, the FIFA Director of Development to come up to the podium, where he presented her with a boquet of flower and then a special birthday cake all with the love and appreciation of the members where with her patience and good management skills, our Confederation now boast an almost perfect record in completing its audit requirements to FIFA
Jack then introdced Dr. Urs Linsi, FIFA General Secretary and then it was the turn of the FIFA President, Joseph "Sepp" Blatter to take the floor to speak. Sepp skillfully complemented the team of Warner, Sasso and Blazer, who have been collectively serving on the FIFA Executive Committee for 50 years. He noted that between Warner and Blazer they chair a total of 5 FIFA Competitions, including all four youth events and the FIFA Confederations Cup. Unquestionably, CONCACAF has provided an unbroken string of support for the FIFA President, and it appeared clear that he was making it known that he would seek a third term next year.

Warner took the opportunity to introduced Oscar Thamar Torres, who served as the Deputy General Secretary and marked over 32 years of continuous employment by CONCACAF. Oscar who was previously inducted into the CONCACAF Hall of Fame 6 years ago in Paradise Island, Bahamas, would in two days be honored with the FIFA Order of Merit. On the left Oscar appears over my shoulder. He has been a great friend and my colleague since 1990 when we took over the administrative role in CONCACAF. Oscar was accompanied to Munich by his wife, Magaly and his son Oscar. It is hard to think of anyone else who has personified the rich history of the Confederation and it is a great personal pleasure to see Oscar recognized for his many years contributing his skills and energy to the sport.

[I will finish this up in the morning with more on the CONCACAF Congress and a night of fun at the Hofbrauhaus... lift your glasses high]

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