FIFA finds it hard to give up five-star lifestyle

Mon May 16, 2016 9:27am EDT
 
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By Brian Homewood

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - A few steps from the entrance to Mexico City's imposing Presidente Hotel, where FIFA delegates are staying during this week's Congress, a boy of around 10-years-old sells tamarind balls covered in chili powder from a cart for 10 Mexican pesos ($0.55) each.

The spicy, tangy sweets are a local specialty yet are unlikely to have been tasted by the FIFA delegates. The guests of world soccer are more likely to be inside sipping lattes for eight times the price.

FIFA has often been known for lavishing a five-star lifestyle on its delegates and officials. When former president Sepp Blatter went to an event in Zurich with the city's mayor, he arrived in a chauffeur-driven limousine while the politician came and went by tram.

But after Gianni Infantino was elected president of soccer's scandal-plagued body in February, one of his first pledges was to make FIFA more humble, suggesting, among other things, that federation officials no longer wore suits to matches.

The early signs were promising as he flew to Britain for his first official engagement by a budget airline rather than the private plane favored by his predecessor.

But this week's Congress in Mexico City has looked as extravagant as any held under Blatter.

FIFA confirmed that it paid all the expenses for each of its 209 member associations to bring a three-man delegation, flying business class and staying in five-star accommodation. Each delegate was also given $1,000 in spending money.

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A FIFA sign is seen outside the FIFA headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland December 17, 2015. REUTERS/Ruben Sprich