KUWAIT CITY, April 17: FIFA has started investigations into the participation of former England captain David Beckham and former England manager Fabio Capello in the All-Star football match in Kuwait in December last year, considering the organization issued a directive prohibiting the match.
According to a report published Sunday by The Mail, the game featured the ‘Football Champions XI’ against Kuwait’s All-Star XI to mark the official opening of the 60,000-seater Jaber Al-Ahmad International Stadium.
Former FIFA presidential candidate Luis Figo played alongside Beckham in a team managed by Capello, as well as former Brazilian World Cup-winner Roberto Carlos, former Arsenal stars Jens Lehmann and Robert Pires, and former Chelsea striker Andrei Shevchenko among others.
The game pushed through on Dec 18, after FIFA suspended Kuwait’s membership from the global football family – and then warned all FAs around the world, twice, in writing, that there must be no ‘sporting contact’ with Kuwait, ‘or its affiliated clubs, players, etc’.
As FIFA discovered that a number specific individuals intended to be involved in the match, including England’s Steven Gerrard, Italy’s Andrea Pirlo, Brazil’s Ronaldinho, Italian manager Carlo Ancelotti and referee Pierluigi Collina, they were ‘warned off’ and stayed away.
But a Football Champions XI still turned up and played. There is no suggestion that Beckham and the others wilfully defied FIFA. It is believed the message from FIFA was not distributed effectively.
The embarrassment to FIFA is magnified by the fact that when new president Gianni Infantino staged a glitzy campaign launch for his presidency in February in London, he paraded some of those who played in the ‘banned’ match as supporters: Figo, Capello and Roberto Carlos. And in a PR stunt days after winning, he invited some who had played in the banned match for a kickabout at FIFA house, including Shevchenko, Figo, Pires and Deco.
The Mail on Sunday, in conjunction with Ekstra Bladet newspaper in Denmark, has conducted a wide-ranging investigation into the circumstances in which Kuwait was suspended from FIFA. The world governing body has confirmed to the MoS: ‘In regard to the Football Champions Tour [of which the Kuwait game was a part], FIFA was assured by the organisers at the time that it is a “private event” where “no active players, coaches or referees” participate. This matter is currently being further reviewed by FIFA.’
In theory, any football professional involved in the game could face sanction under FIFA statute 14.3, which states: ‘A suspended Member shall lose its membership rights. Other Members may not entertain sporting contact with a suspended Member. The Disciplinary Committee may impose further sanctions.’
The reality is FIFA’s current probe is likely to conclude the lack of effective enforcement was a cock-up, not a defiant act, although that will only be confirmed after the review.
The MoS has seen copies of both official circulars sent by FIFA’s acting general secretary Markus Kattner, in October then December last year.
They warned: ‘FIFA member associations (or their affiliated clubs, players, etc) that are not suspended may not entertain sporting contact with the suspended FIFA member association (or its affiliated clubs, players, etc) as this is a consequence of the relevant suspension. Such principle is, of course, also to be followed at all sporting levels involving football in the territory of the State of Kuwait.’
The wording rules out participation by anyone active in the game. Beckham remains active as a club owner in the USA, while others involved included Roberto Carlos, who is player-manager at Delhi Dynamos in India, and Shevchenko, a coach with the Ukraine national team.