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Mussenden wants to lead journey to redemption

A “humbled” Larry Mussenden announced his intention to run for the Concacaf presidency yesterday, saying he wanted to restore trust and credibility to the position.

The region's governing body has been without a leader since the arrest of Alfredo Hawit, the acting president from Honduras, on bribery charges last month.

Hawit's arrest came on the back of those of two former Concacaf presidents, Jeffrey Webb and Jack Warner, both of whom were caught up in the Fifa corruption scandal.

“We had looked for good leadership over the last umpteen years,” Mussenden said yesterday. “Apparently, it wasn't there.”

The Bermuda Football Association president said he had been approached by several people over the past couple of months about running, and finally decided to do so after the Concacaf meeting in Antigua last week.

Mussenden said he would “respect the requests of those who have asked me to do this” and said he was looking forward to the challenge of getting Concacaf “back on track”.

Webb, who was also Fifa vice-president, pleaded guilty to racketeering, wire-fraud and money-laundering charges. He agreed to forfeit $6.7 million in bribes as part of the deal with United States prosecutors. Warner, meanwhile, has been indicted on bribery charges.

In the interim, Concacaf's executive committee has opted for a collective leadership, and will hold an extraordinary congress in Zurich on February 25, the day before the Fifa presidential election is held, to discuss reforms of the North, Central American and Caribbean governing body.

Mussenden intends for that process to be a “model for other Fifa confederations specifically and sporting organisations generally”.

The Concacaf presidential election has been pencilled in for May 12 in Mexico City before the Fifa congress there, and Mussenden said he would campaign on a platform of a “commitment to governance, transparency in all our dealings and plain, old hard work”.

He wrote in a letter to Concacaf members, announcing his intention to run: “While we must learn the lessons from our past, we cannot dwell on it as we chart a course for the future based on transparent, principled governance, real accountability and financial probity.

“Recent events suggest that achieving this outcome requires firm, decisive and principled leadership.”

Mussenden is under no illusions as to the task that he and others face in restoring trust in a sport that has been significantly damaged over the past eight months. It is not just among the general public that trust must be rebuilt, but within the governing bodies themselves, where staff have seemingly woken up to an endless stream of headlines outlining another arrest of a top football official.

“I know groups of people in Fifa and Concacaf, and everybody has been affected by this,” Mussenden said. “We have had those disappointments, but I know all those people are committed to their jobs.

“[The public] can be sceptics, but what we have to do [is prove them wrong], not by the words that we say, but the things that we do. It's going to take hard work to turn things around; let's see where we are in four, six or eight years' time.

“What has happened recently has been hugely damaging, there is no hiding from that. But there has got to be only one way [to go] from there, and that is up. Once we are on our way, then it will get easier as we go.”

In the present climate, it is somewhat surprising that anyone would want to take charge of a governing body with a reputation so battered that further tales of corruption would be considered unsurprising.

Mussenden, though, considers himself to be uniquely qualified to lead the region on “an important journey” of redemption, and points to his role as chairman of the Fifa appeals committee, and former position as Bermuda's Attorney-General and Minister of Justice as evidence of this.

He also believes in Concacaf, and in his letter urged his fellow presidents to remember that it is a “great organisation with the best ideals”.

Mussenden said: “I have known the Concacaf presidents and other general secretaries for quite a long time; there is a camaraderie among us. I have the background to be able to step up to the plate. I want to do that, I have been asked by a number of other countries to do that, I am committed to doing it because I believe in football, and I believe that Concacaf is a good federation that represents a diverse and varied group of countries.”

Presidential campaign: Mussenden hopes to lead Concacaf (File photograph by Glenn Tucker)

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Published January 23, 2016 at 8:00 am (Updated January 23, 2016 at 12:11 am)

Mussenden wants to lead journey to redemption

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