SAO PAULO (AP) – Brazilian football head Ricardo Teixeira is under increasing pressure to step down after the country's largest newspaper published a report linking him to a company being investigated for over-billing an international friendly four years ago.
The story by the Folha de S. Paulo newspaper on Thursday comes amid widespread reports that Teixeira will resign or take a leave of absence, effectively ending his contentious 23-year rule of Brazilian football and the national team.
Folha says the company linked to Teixeira, the president of Brazil's football federation and the 2014 World Cup organizing committee, over-billed air tickets and hotel stays for a Brazil friendly against Portugal in 2008.
Teixeira has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.
Folha said police found evidence that a partner from the company Ailanto Marketing, which organized the friendly that cost nearly $5 million in public money, made payments to Teixeira four months after the match in Brasilia. The payments, which could total $350,000, were supposedly part of a contract for renting land owned by Teixeira near Rio de Janeiro.
Teixeira told Folha that the land contract had nothing to do with the friendly in 2008, which was organized by marketing agencies and not the Brazilian federation.
Calls to Ailanto Marketing were not successful on Thursday.
The 64-year-old Teixeira took over the Brazilian football federation in an election in 1989, when the entity struggled financially. He revamped it completely and saw results on and off the field, with Brazil winning two World Cup under his command and the federation becoming one of the most valuable in the world.
But the success didn't come without controversy in Brazil and abroad.
Teixeira was never convicted of any wrongdoing and has always denied all the allegations against him, but he was twice investigated by Brazil's Congress and was accused of taking kickbacks from former FIFA marketing partner ISL in the 1990s.
He was also accused of unethical behavior by the former chairman of England's Football Association, David Triesman, who said during a British parliamentary inquiry that Teixeira and other FIFA executive committee members engaged in improper conduct during bidding for the 2018 World Cup. FIFA cleared the Brazilian, who said the allegations were made because the English were upset over losing the World Cup bid.
Brazilian media often accused Teixeira of irregularities in his administration of Brazilian football, and some fans have protested against him in public marches and on social media.
Teixeira used to have the support of FIFA President Sepp Blatter and at one point was touted as his possible replacement in football's governing body. But the relationship between the two apparently hasn't been as good recently, especially after Blatter decided to allow the release of the documents that allegedly implicate Teixeira in the ISL case. FIFA eventually postponed publication of the documents citing legal measures.
A possible replacement to Teixeira in the Brazilian federation is Jose Maria Marin, who also isn't free of controversy.
Earlier this year, television cameras caught him putting a winner's medal in his pocket while presenting them to the players of a traditional Under-18 tournament in Sao Paulo. He later said that the medal was given to him and organizers didn't accuse him of any wrongdoing.
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