(AP) — Sepp Blatter had no sooner been returned as president of FIFA during a controversy-filled week when he took time Friday to thank his friends in the most remote and smallest of the six international football confederations.
“We need more respect for the Oceanian confederation,” Blatter said not long after winning election for a fifth term at the Zurich congress. And the 79-year-old Blatter made another reference to the 11 voting members of the Oceania group spread across the South Pacific.
It came during a tumultuous week for Blatter after police, acting on instruction from U.S. and Swiss judicial officials, arrested senior FIFA officials and others on corruption and racketeering charges.
Here are a few things to know about the Oceania Football Confederation:
THE PLAYERS: Oceania is headquartered in Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city and the confederation’s biggest and most adept soccer-playing country. The other 10 countries with voting rights are American Samoa, the Cook Islands, Fiji, New Caledonia, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, the Solomon Islands, Tahiti, Tonga and Vanuatu. There are three “associate” countries which don’t have voting rights: Niue, Kiribati and Tuvalu. The combined population of its member countries is just 15 million.
THE CONTEXT: Friday’s presidential voting involved all 209 member countries. Africa had 54 votes, Europe had 53, Asia 46 votes, North and Central America and the Caribbean 35 votes, Oceania 11 votes and South America 10. So Oceania, a confederation with very little international football pedigree, had one more vote than a conference representing powerhouse South American teams like Brazil and Argentina.
THE SUCCESSES: Oceania has sent teams to the World Cup four times: Australia in 1974 and 2006 and New Zealand in 1982 and 2010. Australia has since left to join the Asian Football Confederation.
THE HALF SLOT: Oceania is the only FIFA confederation that does not have a guaranteed place in the World Cup finals. Between 1966 and 1982, the OFC teams joined the Asian zone qualification tournament, while from 1986, the winners of the Oceania qualifiers had to face a further intercontinental playoff against a team from another confederation in order to gain a full spot in the World Cup finals. Although Blatter had suggested that Oceania might be guaranteed a full spot in future World Cup tournaments, there were no changes made to the qualifying format at the congress on Saturday.
THE SUPPORT FACTOR: The Oceania confederation announced in January and again last month that it would be supporting Blatter, as it has done consistently through his terms. However, New Zealand changed its mind after the FIFA arrests. New Zealand’s closest neighbors, Asia confederation members Australia, also voted against Blatter.
THE CONTROVERSY: Former FIFA vice president and Oceania confederation president Reynald Temarii of Tahiti was suspended for 12 months in 2010 for breaking FIFA confidentiality rules. Temarii was cleared of corruption, but ended his six-year presidency of the OFC after being secretly filmed talking to undercover reporters during lobbying for the hosting rights of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. Temarii met with a reporter at OFC headquarters in September 2010 and was filmed appearing to ask for $3 million New Zealand dollars (then $2.3 million; euro1.7 million) to fund a football academy there. Temarii, who maintains his innocence, said he told the journalist that his 2018-2022 votes could not be bought, and says only a small part of the videotaped interview was ever made public.