The CONCACAF June 13, 2017 match between Panama and Honduras played out like a Cinderella story for the host country Panama as Roman Torres overcame a desperate sliding tackle by a Honduras defender to put in a goal in the 90th minute of the match. The goal sent the crowd at Estadio Rommel Fernandez into a celebratory frenzy and put Panama on track for qualification to the 2018 World Cup. That is, until a recent FIFA investigation found that there was collusion between Panama and Honduras in the match that ended in a 2-2 draw.
“That the match was fixed is clear to FIFA,” FIFA Vice President David claimed. “We have sworn statements by several witnesses on the matter, and we’ve acted to remedy the situation. That this plays out in favor of the US team is irrelevant to us. Our goal is to act in a manner that protects the integrity of the game, and we feel we have done just that.”
When asked to elaborate on the matter, Gill replied that FIFA was in possession of evidence that placed the managers from both teams and a handful of Honduras players at the Las Vespa Ristorante Vista Mare in Panama City two days before the match.
“According to key eye-witnesses, both managers were diagramming a series of plays on scraps of paper that they called ‘a match contingency plan,'” Gill reported. “The evidence points, in part, to goalie Donis Escober, who not only gave up the tying goal at the 90-minute mark, but who also drew a yellow card late in the game. He and a few other players were in on the fix, that much we know.”
The ruling seems to come as no surprise to former USA Soccer Coach Jurgen Klinsmann. Measuring his words carefully, Klinsmann stated, “I have found that some Central American countries have a rather colorful interpretation of FIFA rules at times, so I am not surprised with the findings. The US team has not played all that well since my departure, but they should not feel bad about this.”
The decision by FIFA did not sit well with Roman Torres, however. “We did not fix the match, no, no, no,” Torres stated. “I love the Americans. I play in America (Seattle Sounders), but I am for Panama first and always. I play hard. I play fair. They (Honduras) did not give me a gift. I put in the equalizer. My country is proud of what our team did. It’s FIFA that has a problem. FIFA has a history of this, of cheating disadvantaged countries like Panama. I demand justice be done and Panama be allowed to advance!”
Away from the pitch, one person that seemed especially pleased with the results was the United States President Donald Trump. As usual, he posted his message on Twitter:
“Some of those countries are desperate. They wish to take the spotlight off their economic problems and use sports as a diversionary tactic. I am proud of our boys. Soccer has never been better in this country. Attendance is at an all-time high, unlike the NFL. I am looking forward to our team winning the World Cup. It’s an incredible team, simply incredible. We haven’t had a team like this since the girls brought home the Cup. Now it’s the boys’ turn to make America great again!”
According to anonymous sources, the American president also seemed to hint that he had a hand in the FIFA investigation, as he confided to his aides:
“Look, I don’t want to tell FIFA what to do, you understand. That’s not my place. But I did place a call to some of their folks and expressed my disappointment with what I was hearing with regards to the match.”
Yet, despite FIFA’s ruling, David Gill stopped short of addressing the current rumor that the decision came as a result of strong-arm tactics by the new Russian President Vladimir Putin. The unconfirmed rumors allege that Putin was unhappy that the United States would not be in attendance when his country hosts the event of the summer.
“He did not want a repeat of the 1980 Moscow Olympics when the US boycott hurt the prestige and economy of the Games,” a source close to Putin, who did not wish to be identified, said. “Putin needs the Americans there to showcase our facilities. He put pressure on FIFA. We have operatives inside their organization, and we have rather sensitive information that implicates most of their hierarchy in a ‘sex for play’ scheme that has been going on for decades. He (David Gill) knows that we know. It’s FIFA’s dirty secret. It’s estimated that if the US team is missing, the effects to the Russian economy would be in the hundreds of millions, some of which is tied into a lucrative TV deal. Simply put, no US team means lower ratings, and that would be grounds for a restructuring of the current TV deal.”
Asked if there was any connection between Putin and President Trump with regard to FIFA’s decision, the source confirmed that:
“The two have talked. They have definitely talked over the issue. Anything that impacts the Russian economy in this fashion typically will have links back to the White House. I am not saying that Trump directly influenced the decision, but yes, he knew about what Putin was doing and he was okay with it.”
Still, ever optimistic that the current ruling by FIFA will be overturned before the World Cup actually kicks off, Roman Torres is making plans to be in Russia for the tournament.
“Politics is politics,” Torres commented. “But the pitch is a sacred place. God will not allow this – you will see. The Americans are a good team, but I say to myself, ‘Roman, you know the truth. You know that no defense in the world could have bested you that day. You know the truth, and the truth will always win out in the end.’ So I got myself a ticket, and I pray every night that the truth in all of this comes out. The pitch is a sacred place, and God won’t let me down.”