MANILA, JANUARY 15, 2011 (STAR) SPORTING CHANCE By Joaquin Henson (photo at left) - A week ago, well-known British investigative reporter Andrew Jennings sent an e-mail to The STAR saying, “I enjoyed your articles about the PFF (Philippine Football Federation) rows and the AFC (Asian Football Confederation) Congress I would like to follow your writings about the situation at the PFF.”

Jennings described himself as a specialist in exposing FIFA (Federation Internationale de Football Association) corruption. In 2006, his book “Foul! The Secret World of FIFA: Bribes, Vote-Rigging and Ticket Scandals” was published and shook up the Zurich-based governing body.

I’ve followed Jennings’ career from when I bought his book “The Lords of the Rings: Power, Money and Drugs in the Modern Olympics” in 1992. I bought his follow-up book “The New Lords of the Rings,” published in 1996, and former Philippine Sports Commission chairman Mel Lopez gave me his 2000 book “The Great Olympic Swindle.”

Jennings is at the forefront of a tireless crusade to expose global leaders who use their influential positions in sports to make illegal money and help themselves to excesses.

He initially trained his sights on International Olympic Committee (IOC) bigwigs and dug up shady backgrounds in questioning their moral authority to stand as models of integrity in sports. Jennings exposed IOC officials with links to fascist regimes, the Mafia and criminal organizations. He looked into allegations of corruption in choosing Olympic host cities and related how IOC officials were wined, dined and bribed by bidders.

“I spent a dozen years investigating the IOC,” said Jennings in an interview by Steve Amoia. “I have a criminal record because Juan Antonio Samaranch, the former IOC president, is a fascist, I mean, like you know, Hitler, a guy who puts his right arm out in front and marches in jack boots, he was a Franco-Fascist in Spain in 1939 up until the time Franco died in 1975. I revealed his background, I got photographs of him wearing his fascist uniform and giving that horrid right hand salute as late as 1974 and he went to court in Lausanne where the IOC is located, said it was all untrue and they said how could this wonderful man, all that is moral in sport, turn bad? So I got five days suspended jail sentence. You could be the best journalist in the world but you know when they put you in jail, you’re getting it right.”

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Jennings also went after Anwar Chowdry, the Pakistani strongman who ruled international amateur boxing as president of the world federation from 1986 to 2006. He was widely known to rig boxing results to favor countries that “came across.” It took Taiwan’s Dr. Ching Kuo Wu to finally oust Chowdry as president, winning a close election, 82-78, in 2006. Chowdry was the world federation vice-president in 1966 and secretary-general in 1974 before taking over the presidency. In 2004, IOC president Jacques Rogge virtually confirmed Chowdry’s corrupt practices by announcing he would withhold nearly $1 Million due to the boxing organization as its share of the Athens Olympics revenue because of unexplained financial irregularities.

But to prove Chowdry’s influence despite Rogge’s denouncement, he was just three votes short of securing another term in 2006.

IOC member Frank Elizalde said the other day he has personally met with Jennings.

“In one of his books, he mentioned my name because of my involvement as a member of the IOC selection committee to visit cities bidding to host the Olympics,” said Elizalde. “There was nothing irregular in my work with the IOC. I asked Andrew why I was mentioned and he told me it was his co-author who just happened to mention my name as an IOC member. At first, Andrew went after the IOC. Then, he went after Chowdry. In fact, he once told me at the height of his exposes on world amateur boxing, he had death threats. Now, he’s after the FIFA.”

Jennings spent seven years researching on FIFA shenanigans and when his book was ready to hit the stores, FIFA president Joseph Blatter tried to place a global ban in a Swiss court.

Blatter, 74, is running for a final four-year term as president at the FIFA Congress in Zurich on June 1. So far, he is unopposed. But there is a rumor that newly reelected AFC president Mohamed Bin Hammam of Qatar may throw his hat in the ring.

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Blatter recently created an anti-corruption committee in the wake of allegations that there were bribes and vote-rigging in awarding the World Cup hosting rights to Russia in 2018 and Qatar in 2022. The IOC ethics commission is now studying evidence that FIFA officials took kickbacks from its former marketing partner in the 1990s and is zeroing in on the world soccer body. Jennings triggered the probe after his 30-minute expose entitled “FIFA’s Dirty Secrets” was aired on BBC’s Panorama program last November.

Blatter was recently in Doha for the AFC Congress and elections. He campaigned for Jordan’s Prince Ali Bin Al-Hussein who narrowly beat South Korea’s Chung Mong Joon as the AFC nominee for FIFA vice president. Jennings said Blatter got rid of the outspoken Chung “to replace him with an obedient Little Prince who will not cause any trouble – the Little Prince has decided to become a FIFA vice president and run the people’s game the way Blatter wants him to .... this bizarre appointment is part of Blatter’s attempts to dodge new corruption allegations coming this year and be reelected FIFA president.”

Jennings will no doubt be interested in finding out how the PFF plans to recover the P2.8 million missing funds from its coffers. There is a rumor that a former PFF official tried to pocket $100,000 of the Azkals’ share in gate receipts of the first game of the recent Suzuki Cup semifinals against Indonesia in Jakarta. If Jennings finds out about this and checks it out with Football Association of Indonesia president Nurdin Halid, it could be another chapter in his continuing expose of global corruption in the sport.

[PHOTO - THE PHL TEAM - The Philippine national football team ranked 2nd in the qualifier round for the 2010 AFF Suzuki Cup. The team played against southeast asian counterparts – Cambodia, Laos, and Timor-Leste. Due to this qualification and improvement of football culture in the country, the Philippines reached an all-time high of 151st ranked country in the latest FIFA World Rankings. It was a good result following a great run at the Homeless World Cup – winning against a strong Croatian team.  We hope every filipino support the country’s national team… the way they support Manny Pacquiao in the ring. We are a quality team that lacks your support. Support and Be proud you’re a filipino! Photo & caption courtesy of Sugod Pilipinas Azkals!]

Jennings probably wouldn’t have noticed Philippine football if the Azkals hadn’t upset defending Suzuki Cup champion Vietnam, 2-0, last month. That win was rated No. 10 among the world’s top soccer stories in 2010 by Georgina Turner in her Sports Illustrated column “Inside Soccer.”

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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