Former CONCACAF president Jack Warner has left the hospital and now in quarantine as he continues to recover from infection with the coronavirus.

The 77-year-old former football official turned politician, confirmed in a statement that he had been released from the Couva Hospital on Sunday.

Warner was rushed to the hospital two weeks ago, after testing positive for the disease and experiencing some of the symptoms.  Warner, who had a tough time battling the disease, reflected that he would not have inflicted it on his worst enemy.

“This was not a good road trip and I will be following the medical guidelines to the dot and to the tittle not simply because it is my social and legal responsibility to do so but because the discomfort, the isolation, and the pain that one goes through is not an experience that anyone will wish for another,” the release read.

The former FIFA vice president said that he intended to spend his recovery out of the limelight and that he was thankful to God.

“During my period of recovery, I will remain in the shadows away from media contact and this is not because of any disrespect to this profession to which I have grown to love but rather to allow me to recover undisturbed; I would truly wish that my request for silence during this period is respected,” he said.

“Let me, first of all, thank God for this second chance and for His mercy in allowing me to unite with my family and also once again to thank my family and friends for being my source of comfort and strength along this journey and for their prayers for healing which ascended to the throne of grace and my behalf.”

A difficult battle with the coronavirus has left former Concacaf boss Jack Warner in a repentant mood, insisting he would not wish the affliction on his worst enemy.

The 77-year- old former football administration turned politician, contracted the virus two weeks ago, and has been in the hospital since.  Warner is, however, reportedly in good spirits at the Couva hospital and took the time out to thank all who have wished him well for their continued support.

At one point rumous had surfaced that the politician was gravely ill and had even succumbed to the virus.

“The outpouring of love and concern by people from all walks of life really caught me by surprise and for that, I wish to say a special thanks for the caring of which I am still the recipient,” Warner said in a recent post.

“One friend text me to say “any energy you needlessly expend is directing that energy away from your healing” so I spend my days praying, seeking God’s forgiveness to those I may have wronged and living with the hope that very soon this COVID-19 will pass not only for me but for the many who continue to suffer locally and abroad.”

Warner also warned citizens to continue to be vigilant and follow the guidelines of the government.  The former member of parliament still faces extradition to the United States, where he is expected to face corruption charges related to his time in football.  

The Reggae Boyz have done well to push their CONCACAF rankings and make it directly to the final round of World Cup qualification.

But I don’t believe that this has helped them. I believe it would have been better had the Reggae Boyz not done so well up to this point.

The brand, Reggae Boyz, is not what it used to be and as it stands, the team hasn’t been getting high-quality opponents during friendlies.

I believe that the match windows the team could have used to get sharp and stay sharp will be wasted on teams not of the quality to prepare the Reggae Boyz for the harsh realities of the Octagonal they are to face in June of 2021.

So far, the Reggae Boyz, the number four team in CONCACAF, will play against the United States, Mexico, Costa Rica, and Honduras. Three other teams will join the Reggae Boyz in the final-round fight for a place at the World Cup in Qatar.

The Reggae Boyz, if properly prepared, can compete against any of these teams, but without having to play in further qualifiers before the final round, I fear they may not be.

Outside of a 3-1 defeat to the United States in June of 2019, in the last year, the Reggae Boyz have played against Curacao, Panama, Antigua & Barbuda, Guyana and Aruba.

No disrespect to these teams, but as far as oppositions go, they may not be good enough to accurately prepare the Reggae Boyz for high-quality opposition in the Octagonal.

With no international football since the spread of COVID-19 and attempt to cauterize it from creating further devastation, the Reggae Boyz have been, in a word, idle.

You might say this applies to all the teams in the final round, however, these teams have a greater history of being successful at this level.

It is the Reggae Boyz who need to step up, improve to their level.

The team, I believe, has all the requisite talent to do so. The Reggae Boyz performance in making the second Gold Cup finals in their history is proof of that.

However, coach Theodore Whitmore and standout centre half Damion Lowe, have pointed to one thing while noting the excellent chances of this team of making it to Qatar in 2022.

The two have said the preparations need to be on point.

One of the ways of preparing is to play friendlies against high-enough quality opposition to ensure, match readiness and to figure out how to diminish your weaknesses.

While the opposition the Reggae Boyz have faced over the last year may provide them match readiness, these teams do not adequately show up the Reggae Boyz’ weaknesses.

Those weaknesses will not be shown up because, again, no disrespect to the opposition so far, the Reggae Boyz are better.

The Jamaica Football Federation has kept its plans for the months preceding the Octagonal close to its chest but if the nature of friendlies in the recent past is anything to go by, the Reggae Boyz might find themselves short of work come June.

Despite a rich history in football, the Caribbean has not had many moments to savour on the World stage, making them, interestingly, all the more special.

Cuba provided the first of the moments, making the quarterfinals of the FIFA World Cup all the way back in 1938.

Cuba had always been a little special island, long proving itself self-sufficient and able to compete with the rest of the world, despite any political or financial issues that could serve to slow its development.

That self-sufficiency and ability to achieve despite significant odds meant that Cuba’s entrance to the FIFA World Cup was not a emblematic moment and the rest of the Caribbean felt no closer to the possibility of making it on the world stage.

Thirty-six years later, Haiti provided the second moment, getting to the FIFA World Cup in 1974.

That feat, for a country, which had long-standing political issues and an overbearing poverty problem, was immense.

Now the rest of the Caribbean began to take note. Maybe now other islands could dare to dream.

While Haiti’s football has ebbed and flowed and they have not quite gotten back to those heady heights, the moment was important.

All of a sudden, the possibilities for Caribbean football were immense.

But it took another 20 years before the Reggae Boyz were on a similar journey. For the first time, CONCACAF had more than the obligatory two spots that would go to Mexico and the United States.

Now there was hope for someone else to join the fray. Still there were obstacles.

In 1997, the Reggae Boyz were up against it. In the final round they were winless, until a series of three games, 1-0 wins over each of El Salvador, Canada, and Costa Rica.

After finishing winless in the first four games of the final qualifying round, Jamaica recorded three 1–0 wins over El Salvador, Canada, and Costa Rica, giving them a chance at history.

Jamaica were on the cusp of becoming the first English-speaking team from the Caribbean to make it to the World Cup.

But standing in their way was the mighty Mexico. Jamaica needed to avoid losing to a team they had lost to 6-0 earlier in those qualifiers. There was hope but it was slim.

History has a funny way of staying the same and no matter how many times this story gets told, the 0-0 draw the Reggae Boyz achieved against the attacking juggernauts that were Mexico still seems unlikely.

An entire nation celebrated, but so did the rest of the Caribbean. After all, there were other countries in the region that had proven worthy adversaries for the Reggae Boyz and that meant somebody else could make it too.

In 2006, somebody else did.

Trinidad and Tobago, still with two of its legends, Dwight Yorke and Russell Latapy, in tow would take an ageing team, and prove the Caribbean were now becoming a force to be reckoned with.

Until 2018 when Iceland made their World Cup bow, T&T were the smallest nation to ever play in the tournament.

But it wasn’t easy either, and Trinidad and Tobago, after finishing fourth in the final round had to contend with the unknown quantity that was Bahrain.

The tiny twin-island republic had to play against a team, which had financial resources that would dwarf it.

Things looked even more bleak for T&T after the first leg of the home-and-away tie on November 12, 2005, played at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, ended 1-1.

This meant, T&T had to go away to win against a team they couldn’t get the better of at home.

Again, the Caribbean beat the odds and a 1-0 win at the Bahrain National Stadium on the 16th of November 2005 again changed the course of history for the Caribbean side and the region around it.

The Caribbean has, since those moments made great leaps in the transport of its players all over the world, even if those marginal improvements have yet to bare fruit in terms of consistent Caribbean representation at the ICC World Cup.

But the improvements continue as can be seen with the large number of locally grown players, now turning out for the national teams of countries all over the region.

Today there is more and more competition from the rest of the Caribbean and neither T&T nor Jamaica have a free run of the region anymore.

It is interesting that the success of the three over the last 46 years, is what has created a competitive Caribbean and destroyed the spectre of their unquestioned dominance.  

Reggae Boyz central defender, Damion Lowe, continues to maintain that his side stands a very good chance of finding its way to the World Cup in Qatar, even with the changes of the final round from the traditional six teams to an eight-team format.

CONCACAF has three and a half spots, meaning the top three from this group earns an automatic berth to the World Cup, while the fourth-placed team plays in a play-off for a chance to join them.

With two additional teams in the final round for which the Reggae Boyz have already qualified should mean more competition for the the three and a half spots but, according to Lowe, the performance of the team in its recent past suggests it has the tools to get over the line nonetheless.

“I believe the teams ranked ahead of us is because they play bigger opponents and more games, but if you look at tournaments where we play against each other, Jamaica are second or third and we can challenge Mexico and anybody else when we are prepared properly,” said Lowe during an interview with local newspaper, the Jamaica Observer.

By preparation, Lowe means further improving on the personnel in the squad coached by Theodore Whitmore, as well as getting top-class opposition to warm up against.

“We maybe fourth ranked now, but we have to scout properly in order to find the right pieces. When we find the pieces, we have to now play top opponents to help us prepare for the qualifiers,” he said.

CONCACAF announced the following on Monday:

The new Concacaf Qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 comprise of three rounds and provide all participating Member Associations with the chance to compete for the Confederation’s three and a half World Cup spots.

The First Round (30 teams) will be played between the Concacaf Member Associations ranked 6-35 based on the FIFA rankings as of July 16, 2020.

The 30 men’s national teams will be drawn into six groups of five in a seeded draw. The six highest-ranked teams, El Salvador, Canada, Curacao, Panama, Haiti, and Trinidad and Tobago will be pre-seeded into groups A to F respectively.

Each team will play every other team in their group once, playing a total of four matches; two home and two away. These games will be played in the FIFA match windows of October 2020 and November 2020.

At the end of the First Round, the six group winners will progress to the Second Round.

The Second Round (six teams) will be played between the group winners from the First Round, with the matchups pre-determined as follows:

 

Group A winner vs Group F winner

Group B winner vs Group E winner

Group C winner vs Group D winner

 

The teams will play home and away in a direct elimination format in the FIFA match window of March 2021. The three winners will progress to the Final Round.

The Final Round (eight teams) of the Concacaf Qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 will see the three winners from the Second Round join the Concacaf Member Associations ranked 1-5 based on the FIFA rankings as of July 16th, 2020. The national teams ranked 1-5 had already gained enough FIFA ranking points to guarantee their place in the Final Round prior to the development of a new format.

Final Round teams: 1. Mexico 2. USA 3. Costa Rica 4. Jamaica 5. Honduras 6. Second Round Winner 7. Second Round Winner 8. Second Round Winner.

The Final Round will begin in the double FIFA match window in June 2021 and continue in the FIFA match windows of September, October, November 2021 and January and March 2022.

The eight teams will play each other home and away, with each team playing 14 matches.  

Concacaf president Victor Montagliani has asserted the confederation is looking to fill eight spots at the 2026 FIFA World Cup, which will be jointly hosted by Canada, United States and Mexico.

The ambitious plan could come to fruition as a part of a unique set of circumstances that surround the competition.  As hosts of the tournament Canada, Mexico and the United States will automatically be granted spots.  The situation will leave the region’s normal three and a half spots available to Concacaf’s other teams.  In addition, however, because it won the bid to host the tournament, Concacaf will receive another half spot.  Half spots are confederation playoffs between teams, which sees the winners advancing to the tournament.

According to Montagliani, a major part of the confederation’s focus will be on ensuring the region is able to take full advantage of the situation.

“What has been confirmed is that we have six direct spots and then we have a half a spot, which means we go to a playoff.  Now, because we also won the bid and we won the right to host the World Cup, we gained another half a spot.  So, that means we have six plus two halves,” Montagliani explained to the SportsMax Zone in an interview on Monday.

“I’ve been very clear that one of the reasons we are investing in the League of Nations, expanded Gold Cup and all the things that we are doing is because we really want to set that bar that we have eight Concacaf nations at the 2026 World Cup if we can win those play-off spots."

 The former president of soccer’s governing body for North and Central America and the Caribbean was sentenced to time served for his role in accepting $1.66 million in bribes in the FIFA scandals and will return to Honduras after 4 1/2 years in the U.S.

Alfredo Hawit of Honduras, CONCACAF’s president from May 27, 2015, until Dec. 4, 2015, was given the sentence Monday by U.S. District Judge Pamela K. Chen in Brooklyn during a video hearing.

The 68-year-old Hawit also was sentenced to two years of supervised release and barred during that time from holding a title in FIFA, CONCACAF or any professional soccer organization. Chen deferred a ruling on restitution for 90 days, said forfeiture will be $950,000 and said he must pay $400 in special assessments.

“I do take responsibility and I have changed considerably. I want to ask forgiveness for all those things I did back then,” Hawit said through a translator.

“There are no words to express how sorry I am,” he said in a written statement read by the translator to the court. “I also regret all the harm I did to soccer, which is the sport that I love. ... From the day of my arrest in Zurich and the time that I spent in jail and 4 1/2 years so far, I’ve suffered. I’ve felt humiliated and shamed by my behavior, and I’m paying the price.”

Hawit, a lawyer, teacher and former professional soccer player, will be deported when the coronavirus pandemic eases and Honduras reopens its border. Prosecutors said his family is working with the Honduran consulate to arrange transport, and Chen recommended that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement allow him to self-deport.

Hawit pleaded guilty on April 11, 2016, to two counts of wire fraud conspiracy and one count each of racketeering conspiracy and conspiracy to obstruct justice. Each count carried a possible sentence of up to 20 years.

His sentence showed the impact of a guilty plea early in the case rather than risk a guilty verdict at trial. Former South American governing body president Juan Ángel Napout is serving a nine-year sentence following his conviction and former Brazil federation president José Maria Marin was sentenced to four years after his conviction. Marin was given compassionate release about eight months early in April, shortly before his 88th birthday.

Chen said Hawit tried to conceal bribes and even used the name of his wife, a superior court judge in Honduras. He also tried to cover up the payments by directing co-conspirators to create a sham contract.

“The government’s investigation and prosecution in this case has rightfully served as a wake-up call to the entire professional soccer world and to all of its associations that business cannot be conducted in this manner,” Chen said.

She said Hawit did not warrant additional jail time, given that he voluntarily accepted extradition, spent two months incarcerated and about four years under house arrest, and he expressed remorse.

“While it is clear that Mr. Hawit faltered badly by agreeing for a number of years to take bribes of a significant amount on multiple occasions and covering that up through elaborate schemes," Chen said, "he did recover after being caught and has since tried to make amends.”

Hawit became CONCACAF’s president after Jeffrey Webb was arrested while attending a FIFA meeting in Zurich, but Hawit was arrested in Switzerland on Dec. 3, 2015. He was extradited to the U.S. the following Jan. 13 and released on bond that Feb. 2.

He was banned for life by FIFA on Dec. 19, 2016, after the adjudicatory chamber of its independent ethics committee found him guilty of violating FIFA's code of ethics provisions on general rules of conduct; loyalty; duty of disclosure, cooperation and reporting; conflicts of interest; and bribery and corruption.

According to Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) general secretary, Dalton Wint, the potential of changes to the hexagonal stage of CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying could hurt the Reggae Boyz chances of making it to Qatar in 2022.

Wint was responding to CONCACAF president Victor Montagliani’s comments about the possibility of the six-team final round going through changes because of the delays in sports on account of the worldwide spread of Coronavirus.

Montagliani, who witnessed FIFA’s cancellation of friendly windows in March and next month, is doubtful that matches can be played in September when the hexagonal section of CONCACAF qualifying is set to resume.

According to Montagliani, the hexagonal may involve more teams but that how that would look would depend on a new calendar coming from FIFA.

Wint explained that playing more games would mean a greater financial burden that the JFF had not bargained for.

“It depends on how the fixtures are set up because we do have a plan in our heads that we are approaching corporate Jamaica with, and that is to play 10 games. If we are having more games with a shorter time, then you might have some difficulty in acquiring the services of your best players, the facilities that you might need may not be available to you if you have more games, and the timeline in which to complete these things could cause us not to be prepared as properly as we would have wanted,” explained Wint.

Teams vying for a place at the World Cup in Qatar were to be given the opportunity to play in the CONCACAF six-team final and Jamaica, who now stand at fourth in the region, were preparing for that eventuality. The cut-off point for those rankings to count would have been June.

However, with teams not getting the opportunity to play for a spot in that six because of the COVID-19 issues, CONCACAF may be forced to make changes. As it stands, Mexico, the United States, Costa Rica, and Honduras are also among the six top sides.

“It might be disadvantageous to us,” said Wint, although he was keen to point out that a solution that was reasonable would not be met with opposition from the JFF.

Christopher Samuda, President of the Jamaica Olympic Association (JOA ) has been appointed a member of the Caribbean Professional Working Group that will focus on the feasibility, format and structure of a potential Caribbean Professional League as part of the overall development of the sport regionally.

The date, November 22, 1986, The place, the Las Vegas Hilton hotel in the United States. The occasion, the WBC heavyweight championship clash between Jamaica’s Trevor Berbick and the USA’s Mike Tyson. Round two. Tyson almost knocks Berbick’s head off with a massive overhand right. Berbick, his faculties barely intact, initiates a clinch. Tyson wants none of it. He frees himself enough to land a booming right to the body, shifting Berbick’s intestines and internal organs like a housekeeper rearranging living room furniture. The the-20-year-old demon then goes for a murderous uppercut with the right. He misses. Tyson then connects with a left hook that must have felt like a crowbar as it crashed into Berbick’s left temple. The Jamaican falls. Legs like jelly and a brain giving his limbs 500 commands all at once, undermines Berbick’s attempts to stand and fight on. As he falls into the ropes like a bag of yam flung off a truck at the Coronation Market, referee Mills Lane gives the universal gesture signalling the fight is over.

History should by now have attached significance to what happened inside Committee Room 15 at Britain’s House of Commons in London on May 10, 2011. It was there that the former head of the Football Association in England, Lord Triesman made damning allegations about Austin Jack Warner as he addressed Members of Parliament sitting on the Culture, Media and Sport Committee. Triesman told the MPs that Jack Warner asked for £2.5 million to build an Education Centre in Trinidad and Tobago, with all the cash channelled through him. Lord Triesman also alleged that Warner asked for £500,000 to buy Haiti’s World Cup TV rights, again with all the money being channelled through him. The claims were shocking if only for the fact that it was the first time such a senior administrator had accused Jack Warner of corruption. It wasn’t only what Lord Triesman had said though. It was about where he said it. It wasn’t him talking at an after-dinner event or giving an interview to a journalist. He was, for all intents and purposes testifying to the highest decision-making body in Britain about the reasons for England’s failure to secure the rights to host the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

Now Warner had long been rumoured to be jowl deep in corruption as he wielded awesome power as a FIFA Vice President, CONCACAF boss and head of the CFU. Indeed, the British journalist Andrew Jennings achieved fame through his ravenous hounding of Warner, whom he believed to have been the most corrupt administrator in all of sport. But despite numerous claims of wrongdoing, nothing ever stuck. It birthed the nickname ‘Teflon Jack’ as none of the mud slung at this son of Santo Claro could ever sully his reputation. In his heyday, which lasted for decades, Jack Warner was one of the most powerful men in the world, let alone sport or football. He was there on the couch at the White House in 2009 when his old friend, Joseph Sepp Blatter, presented jerseys to US President Barack Obama. He was the man who any nation preparing a bid for World Cups and big tournaments in CONCACAF and the CFU had to get on side if they were to have any hope of success in the voting process. He was a man who had an extraordinary work ethic, famously inviting associates for meetings at 5 am at his office, only for them to turn up at a quarter to five and be told that Warner could not chit-chat with them as he was already in a meeting with other associates. The same Warner would then be sending emails at 10 pm, leaving persons to wonder if he ever slept.

So Lord Triesman’s testimony was the start of the tide changing for Warner. Only 19 days after that statement to British MPs, Warner was suspended by FIFA for what was alleged to have been his role in the corruption of officials of the CFU at a now-infamous meeting held at the Hyatt Regency hotel in Port of Spain. A month later, on June 20, 2011, Jack Warner resigned as FIFA Vice President and his long list of enemies now undertook the task of turning his fall from grace into imprisonment.

There’s no need to retell too much of his recent history. We all know Warner has gone to the UK Privy Council to fight his extradition to the USA to face multiple charges of bribery and corruption related to the awarding of rights for the hosting of World Cup tournaments. On March 18 this year, a fresh indictment was filed at the United States District Court (Eastern District Court of New York), naming Jack Warner among 17 defendants charged with a massive and sophisticated corruption of football as a sport and FIFA as a governing body.

With two hefty US Federal indictments and a laundry list of charges against him, Jack Warner appears to be Trevor Berbick fighting against Mike Tyson. The now 77-year-old has always maintained his innocence, staying true to his vow to fight the charges with every resource available to him. But the game appears to be up. If the first indictment and attendant charges were like the body punch that Tyson hit Berbick with 34 years ago, then this second indictment is like that left hook to the temple. Even if by some miracle he beats the charges, Warner’s name will never be cleared. For the tapestry of crimes woven by US prosecutors you feel that even if he’s acquitted, Jack Warner will always be in jail, just minus the bars. This is Warner’s extended Trevor Berbick moment. And the US prosecutors are like a prime time Mike Tyson, sizing up their target and going in for the kill. What chance does uncle Jack’s glass jaw have against a raging Iron Mike? Selah.

Former FIFA vice Jack Warner has officially been given final approval to appeal extradition proceedings filed against him to the UK Privy Council.

Warner, the disgraced former CONCACAF boss, has been battling to avoid extradition to the United States since 2015.  The ex-football official faces charges of corruption stemming from alleged financial impropriety committed during a long tenure with world football’s governing body. 

Last year, Warner tried and failed to have the extradition appeal dismissed on procedural grounds.  The three judges of Trinidad and Tobago’s Court of Appeal opted to uphold the original decision to dismiss Warner’s review, which was made in September 2017.

Warner, who was also been ordered to pay US$79m in damages to CONCACAF by a federal judge in New York City last summer, is currently out on $TT 2.5m bail and banned for life by FIFA.

The authority to proceed (ATP) with Warner’s extradition as part of the FIFA indictments, was signed in 2016 by Trinidad and Tobago Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi.  Warner is wanted on various counts of corruption, graft, bribery and money laundering.

 

‘Thoroughly disappointed’ is how Trinidad and Tobago Pro League chairman Brent Sancho described the news that no team from the Pro League will take part in CONCACAF competition for the second season running.

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