BERNE (Reuters) - FIFA’s reform chief meant no offence to United States authorities when he questioned why they were investigating corruption in football, he said on Thursday.
Francois Carrard, head of FIFA’s recently-created reform committee, also told reporters that he had failed to make himself properly understood when he described soccer in the United States as “just an ethnic sport for girls in schools.”
The remarks were contained in an interview he gave to the Swiss newspaper Le Matin Dimanche.
“When you give a long interview, what you talk about is squeezed for printing,” Carrard told reporters after a meeting of his committee on Thursday.
“I expressed surprise at the harshness of the action taken in Zurich, it was a surprise blitz so to speak. I have the greatest respect for the American justice and I have no frustration at all with them.”
Carrard was referring to the dawn raid on a luxury Zurich hotel in May where seven people, including FIFA officials, were arrested, two days before the annual FIFA Congress.
They were among 14 soccer officials and sports marketing executives indicted in the United States on bribery-related charges.
The 77-year-old Swiss lawyer also explained his comments on soccer in the United States.
“This was a long conversation.....I meant that originally, soccer in the States, 50 or 60 years ago, was practiced more by ethnic groups,” he said.
”And then, what I was trying to point out was the development of sports went through a major development in high schools, in particular with practices by the girls.
“We see now how important soccer is in the States. I should speak less.”
Writing by Brian Homewood in Berne; editing by Justin Palmer