President Barack Obama on Monday made his first comments on the scandal enveloping soccer’s governing body, saying the sport is a “massive business” that needs to be run with integrity.
“In conversations I’ve had here in Europe, people think it is very important for FIFA to be able to operate with integrity and transparency and accountability,” Obama told reporters at a news conference after the G7 summit.
Obama said he could not comment directly on the FBI’s investigation into bribery and corruption at FIFA.
But he said soccer is not only a game but a business and “a source of incredible national pride,” and that the United States wants “to make sure that a sport that’s gaining popularity is conducted in an upright manner.”
Obama’s comments came before Italian police said yesterday that Argentinian businessman Alejandro Burzaco, who has been indicted by US authorities in the FIFA corruption scandal, has turned himself in.
Burzaco (50) was being held in Bolzano, near Italy’s northern border with Switzerland after turning up at a police station with his lawyers.
He was being held pending a hearing later in the day on whether he is formally arrested.
Burzaco’s whereabouts has been a mystery since seven FIFA executives were arrested in Zurich on the eve of a FIFA Congress last week.
According to reports, Burzaco was in the hotel where the executives were cuffed and promptly disappeared in the knowledge he was likely to be on the indicted list.
Burzaco was wanted by the US authorities in connection with his role with company Torneos Competencias.
Meanwhile, International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach encouraged FIFA to continue with its reforms on Monday but warned soccer’s scandal-plagued governing body that the process would be painful.