South American soccer head Juan Angel Napout, who’s stayed away from the region’s top tournament amid a U.S. probe into soccer corruption, will be at the Copa America final, according to Colombia’s soccer president.
The 99-year-old Copa America, soccer’s oldest regional competition, finishes July 4. The U.S. government alleges the 12-team tournament is also at the heart of a $110 million bribery scheme involving regional soccer heads and marketing companies that bought exclusive rights to sell television and sponsorship deals.
Several current and former soccer leaders have been implicated in the scandal, including Uruguay’s Eugenio Figueredo, a then-FIFA vice president held with six other officials from the sport’s governing body in Switzerland pending ongoing extradition proceedings. Napout, who hasn’t been named in the case, has remained in Paraguay where South American soccer’s Conmebol organization is based.
“I think Napout will come,” Colombia’s Luis Bedoya said in a short conversation at the Sheraton hotel in Vina del Mar, Chile, where his national team is staying before today’s quarterfinal with Argentina.
Napout isn’t the only member of soccer’s hierachy to stay away from the compeition. FIFA President Sepp Blatter, who attended the 2011 final, hasn’t yet confirmed his plans. He hasn’t traveled since the U.S. charges were filed on May 27. The Women’s World Cup final is July 5 in Vancouver.
The U.S. investigation alleges that other South American soccer bosses accepted bribes from Copa America rights holder Datisa. Investigators from the Colombian prosecutor’s office are reviewing Bedoya’s financial transactions, according to newspaper El Tiempo. Bedoya, who’s also on FIFA’s executive committee, said he’s not implicated and hasn’t been contacted by U.S. authorities.
It’s been a month since Bedoya’s former colleagues including Figueredo, Venezuela soccer boss Rafael Esquivel and former Brazilian soccer chief Jose Maria Marin were arrested in dawn raids at a luxury Swiss hotel. They’re fighting extradition to the U.S.
“I hope they’ll all be OK,” Bedoya said.