Brazil Soccer Crisis Sees Internal Feud Amid FIFA Arrests

  • Vice president asks FIFA to suspend indicted soccer leader
  • FIFA opened probe into Brazil soccer head del Nero on Nov. 23

Brazil’s soccer federation, one of the groups at the heart of a U.S. criminal probe into corruption at the top level of the sport, is facing an internal battle as one of its vice presidents asks FIFA to suspend its local chief.

Vice president Delfim de Padua Peixoto has written to FIFA’s ethics committee to ask for the immediate suspension of Marco Polo del Nero, the head of the Brazilian federation, according to documents reviewed by Bloomberg News. The documents were provided by a person familiar with the situation who asked not to be identified because the paperwork was confidential.

Del Nero took a leave of absence from his position on Dec. 3, the same day the U.S. Justice Department included him in a list of 16 additional people charged in its soccer corruption probe.

As the oldest of the Brazilian confederation’s vice presidents, Peixoto would have taken over the organization known as the CBF if Del Nero be forced to leave office. He didn’t get that chance. The CBF suddenly called an election for Wednesday to choose a new vice president and elected the only candidate in the race, Del Nero’s ally Antonio Carlos Nunes. At 79, Nunes is four years older than Peixoto. He will now be next in line to take over from Del Nero.

Wednesday’s election came after Jose Maria Marin, the former Brazil soccer head and among those indicted by the U.S. in May, resigned from his post as a vice president on Dec. 11. It’s unclear why he didn’t step down before.

“Keeping Marco Polo Del Nero in capacity of CBF’s president means that CBF will still be used according to his own will and with the aim to protect his powers in Brazilian football,” Peixoto’s letter said.

The troubles in Brazilian soccer, a much-loved passion in South America’s biggest country, led to a group of current and former players, including World Cup winners, to protest at the CBF’s headquarters on Tuesday.

“This is a disgrace for all of us, not only in terms of the outcome, but also in the ethical and moral dimension,” said Rai, a member of the 1994 World Cup-winning squad.

Peixoto asked FIFA’s ethics committee for an immediate suspension of Del Nero in the letter dated Dec. 14.

“The last developments are showing what could be, in the view of several persons in Brazil, criminal actions put in place in order to justify the new election for one vice presidency,” Peixoto said in his letter.

A spokesman for FIFA’s ethics committee confirmed it had received supporting evidence for its probe into Del Nero. Romario, top scorer on the 1994 World Cup team, confirmed last week that he’s provided evidence against Del Nero to the ethics committee.

Fallout from the U.S. investigation has led to corruption charges against the last three Brazilian soccer leaders. Del Nero hasn’t left Brazil since hurriedly returning to the country a day after the Zurich raid that nabbed Marin. It’s unclear when FIFA’s case against Del Nero will be closed.

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