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Saturday, April 19, 2014

Book Review | "Omertà" by Andrew Jennings

Cover design: Alex Noble.

How to buy "Omertà":
This book is available on Kindle via local Amazon stores (You can also download a free PC-friendly program or read it in the cloud): 
  • Amazon Australia
  • Amazon USA
  • Amazon UK
  • According to a representative of Transparency Press, French, German, Portuguese and Spanish versions will be available in the near future with potentially more translations.

Image credit: Transparency Books.
"Reporters do not work to be loved. Our responsibility is to put hard questions to the rich and powerful."
 --- Andrew Jennings

"Most reporters do not have the courage of Andrew Jennings. He has the ability and willingness to put what is true in the pages, the radio, the Internet and television. Andrew is one of the guys within journalism for which I have 100% respect. For all he has done in the fight against FIFA, in publishing his articles and books.
Glad to know that my work here in Congress has been very positive for which he has provided me with material. I thank you and ask you to keep sending things to me. Here I am not Andrew Jennings, but I'm Romario! I have the guts like him and a lot of courage."
--- Romario de Souza Faria, former player and Congressman.
"I sniffed around FIFA in the 1990s and from 2000 began to focus on Blatter and Havelange. Soon I realized that I was back in the dark ethos of Sicily and the criminal culture of --- but transferred to another continent. I travelled further back in time, researching and reading and arrived in Bangu 50 years ago. From the world of the bicheiros (1) I travelled back to Europe and discovered secret suitcases of gold ingots collected in Zurich. Following them completed the circle back to Copacabana and now ... the World Cup of 2014.
--- Andrew Jennings, page 9, "Omertà: Sepp Blatter's FIFA Organized Crime Family", published by Transparency Press in April 2014 with a list price of US $9.99, Australian $10.75 and £8.00, respectively.
Reviewer's Note

(1) Bicheiros refers to those who run an illegal, but very popular, betting lottery type of game in Brazil.

Omertà: The Sicilian code of silence that has entered the global lexicon through "The Godfather" novel and its subsequent films. Andrew Jennings has been a thorn in the side of Joseph "Sepp" Blatter and FIFA for many years and his book's title was quite appropriate. He has been barred from Mr. Blatter's press conferences since 2003.

FIFA has tried to silence Jennings which only seems to strengthen his resolve. His singled-minded obsession to bring FIFA to justice has made him public enemy number one in Geneva, Switzerland, and a cult-like figure among his many admirers around the world. I doubt that Luca Brasi himself could stop the investigative efforts of this tireless journalist.

The author chronicles a less-publicized side of FIFA from the times of Joao Havalenge in the 1970s to the current era of his protege, Joseph "Sepp" Blatter. From twists and turns, intriguing characters and more forgettable ones, to a detailed financial trail, he paints a complete portrait.

Let's take a look at what is contained between the covers.

Organized Format

Andrew Jennings in a brief interchange with Joseph Blatter.

There is a forward by Romario de Souza Faria, a prologue, along with 21 detailed chapters. Here is a brief look at its contents:
1.  Confronting the Mafia in Palermo, tracking them to FIFA in Zurich, following the crime trail to Rio.
2.  Joao Havelange’s ‘Hands-off my Gangster friend’  letter to Rio detectives and Judges.
3.  Transforming FIFA into an empire of racketeering & organising vast contract kickbacks.
4.  Havelange’s successor Sepp Blatter changes FIFA’s Ethics Code so his hired investigators cannot catch him.
5.  Germany’s bribes for 2006 World Cup stab Nelson Mandela in the back.
6.  Sepp Blatter exhumes family’s coffins, to avoid confrontation with detective investigating him.
7.  A bonus chapter – Rio, bribes and 2016 Olympics.
My only editorial complaint was an omission of a detailed index.

Writing Style and Content

Brazil National Team photo BrazilNationalTeam.jpg
Photo credit: AndhikaMPPP.
This e-book format was designed for ease of reading in a Kindle or other handheld devices. The author uses plenty of white space and frequent paragraphs breaks. His writing style, similar with his other best-sellers, is detailed with a capital D, edgy, engaging, informative profane and provocative. The content reads like a suspense-filled film documentary or lengthy court depositions from famous trials.

This book is a tedious read truth be told. At times, the sheer volume of financial figures would make a MBA's head spin; however, the author leaves no stone unearthed. As he told me in a 2008 interview for Football Media, "Google will not replace shoe leather." It is safe to say that Mr. Jennings could buy a shoe store after writing this book. He dug deep and walked far and wide.

For example:

On a FIFA ExCo member, Amos Adamu:

"The Nigerian vacuum cleaner Amos Adamu has been a member of FIFA's 24-man ruling executive committee for four years. He passed the test to join FIFA with ease; he stole every penny he could find in Nigerian sport." (Page 22)

On Joao Havelange's former son-in-law, and CBF (Brazilian Football Federation) President, Ricardo Teixeira:

"Baur au Lac hotel, Zurich October 2010: 'Mr. Teixeira, Mr. Teixeira!' Ricardo turns to look. It is a scruffy, grey-haired man in a Joe Colombo-style beige raincoat shouting at him from the hotel gateway. 'Mr. Teixeira, did you take your bribes through the Sanud company?' Teixeira freezes. He stares. He can't think of anything to say." (Page 47)

On Nike and the CBF (Brazilian Football Federation):

"A bunch of American businessman from Beaverton, Oregon, whose company was registered across the Atlantic in a European tax haven, were waiting for him with their lawyers and a document containing 11,500 words. Ricardo signed it and gave control of Brazilian football to a foreign shoemaker. The Americans, via their tax haven, paid Ricardo $160 million --- with the promise of more later --- and bought the right to choose players for the Selecao and tell the team who they could play and where and when. There would be 50 of these games. They could open their own shop inside the CBF offices in Rio." (Page 68)

Reviewer's Note:

A Selecao is the Portuguese term for the Brazilian national football team.

On World Cup ticket brokers:

"Every ticket for the World Cup goes through Jaime and Enrique's (Byrom) computers. Whatever Sepp tells you, some end up in the hands of dealers. Over the years have passed through the varied hands of a Polish martial arts expert, Caribbean hustlers, a very fat man in Trump Tower, fixers in Eastern Europe, indeed all over the world, all doing secret business in the vast underside of the iceberg with the blessing of senior FIFA officials." (Page 108)

On Jack Warner's role in USA 1994:

"Warner would deliver whatever Havelange and Blatter needed. A crucial need was that the USA must qualify for the 1990 World Cup in Italy. The next tournament in 1994 would be in the USA and it was essential to build media interest in a country were football was low on the sports agenda. Warner held the key. He controlled Trinidad football...

Warner saw his chance for eternal gratitude from Zurich. He did everything possible to make life difficult for his team... There was a curious change of match officials before the game. Warner needed chaos at the stadium... Trinidad fans have forever contested the referee's decisions but all that mattered was that the Americans scored one goal, Trinidad didn't score any and the marketing of 1994 was secure." (Pages 128-129)

On Qatar winning the vote for World Cup 2022:

"Blatter knows the event cannot possibly be held in the European summer in Qatar --- too hot --- nor the winter. The European leagues, clubs, fans, TV rights holders and the football industry cannot afford to accept the huge financial and sporting losses of a suspension of at least six weeks...

We can respect the right of the people of Qatar to their own culture --- but we did not ask for a World Cup on the terms of their unelected government and built by slave labour." (Page 269)

On FIFA's independent investigators on the ISL scandal, Michael Garcia and Hans-Joachim Eckert:

"Disgracefully, the supposedly independent Eckert and Garcia have bowed to Blatter's demand for Omertà, his mobbed-up culture of non-disclosure and his ban on transparency. All 4,200 pages have been locked away in Blatter's safe in Zurich. That has been approved by all the members of the FIFA ExCo. The timorous 209 national associations are silent. The reporters has not noticed.

The most crucial document in the Garcia bundle must be the transcription of his 'interrogation' of Blatter. What was the date of this interview? Where did it happen? Was it in the comfort of Blatter's office? What questions did Garcia ask? That's all secret." (Page 292)

On FIFA President Joseph Blatter in a 2011 interview in Aargauer Zeitung:

"The President says he is 'Profoundly religious' adding that God talks to him. 'From time to time he tells me "You fix that on your own. I can not help you on that.' " (Page 308)

On FIFA as an organized crime family:

"Fans joke that FIFA is a 'mafia.' It's not a joke --- the evidence shows that Blatter's leadership group at FIFA has all the elements of an Organized Crime Syndicate... Did John Gotti publicly disown any members of his Gambino crime family when they were busted for murder, heroin trafficking and racketeering? Blatter has never criticized Warner or Blazer --- both men sitting on devastating evidence against him and his complicity in the theft of tens of millions of dollars from FIFA." (Page 323)


There were no images contained in my review copy.

Other Notable Quotes

"Havelange's tame reporters in Brazil and Europe created a legend that his extraordinary business skills made FIFA rich. They got it totally wrong. He was lucky, arriving at the helm of international football as TV and sponsors were prepared to pay more and more to officials like him who were happy to quietly privatise the people's game." (Page 36)

"What really happened to Ronaldo in Paris in the hours before the World Cup Final against France? Sometimes the simple answer may be the true one. The expectations of Brazil, of the world and its biggest shoe retailers put impossible pressure on a 21-year-old athlete, his nervous system rebelled and his mouth frothed. Did the shoe company pressurise him to wander the field, because they had made him their poster boy for the final? The people who know say little." (Page 70)

"It's the Belly that stops pedestrians in the street, casts long shadows at dusk, causes private jets to lurch down the runway. He cannot ride in cars; FIFA had to hire a van with wide sliding doors. How many decades since sunlight caught a glimpse of his testicles? Why does he blog no-stop, with photographs, about all the things ordinary people like you and I will never do? Chuck is meeting prime ministers and presidents, beauty queens, billionaires and football stars." (Pages 152-153)

"Reporters do not work to be loved. Our responsibility is to put hard questions to the rich and powerful." (Page 289)

"Sepp's first job in sport was general secretary of the Swiss hockey federation. In 1975 Horst Dassler spotted Blatter's ambition and took him to FIFA alongside new President Havelange as the reliable bagcarrier to help protect the future for adidas and his marketing contracts." (Page 305)


Andrew Jennings has written what is likely to be viewed as controversial in some circles and a milestone of dogged investigation in others. Regardless of which side of the pitch you find yourself in this argument, Omertà is a book that makes an important contribution to world football investigative journalism.

Please Note

I have received a complimentary review copy from a representative of the publisher, Transparency Books. I was not financially compensated by the author, publisher, or any party who would benefit from a positive review.

About the Author

Andrew Jennings (@AAndrewJennings) began his journalistic career in the 1970s as a reporter and re-write man. He then moved to BBC radio and subsequently to television where he specialized in investigative documentaries. Andrew is the author of three books on corruption at the Olympic games along with "Foul!" which focused on FIFA. 
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Steve Amoia is a freelance writer and translator from Washington, D.C. He is the publisher of World Football Commentaries since 2006 and The Soccer Translator since 2008. 

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