Posted: 7/9/2007


       It was 1988, the 4th of July and America had cause to celebrate. In a Holiday Inn in the ouskirts of Zurich, Switzerland the FIFA World Cup Committee had a decision to make. The choice  between Brazil, Morocco and The USA to host the 1994 FIFA World Cup.

      I had been in Zurich earlier in the summer and sneaked a peek, reading upside down on the desk of then General Secretary Sepp Blatter, the 3 official bids.  Rules stated that they were to be preseted in plain manilla covers, but the Moroccans had cheated. Theirs was bound in beautiful hand tooled Moroccan leather. The USA bid was correct while the Brazilian one was half finished.Sepp had a wonderful corner office and a huge leather topped desk, with large windows overlooking Lake Zurich and the spacious terrace of FIFA HOUSE at 11 Hitzigweg, on Sonnenberg (Sunny Hill) with vineyards slopping down the hill.  It had been a great real estate coup of Sir Stanley Rous, a former FIFA President. This year FIFA opened a new multi-million dollar modern home to house 300-400 employees from the 3-4 employees during Rous's  Presidency.

     The morning was not good for the Americans. It was raining, and I think their official hotel had to be evacuated after Clive Toye strutted round with his big Cuban cigars, which of course are legal outside USA, but thankfully you have to smoke outside these days. Worse was the headline news in all newspapers and TV channels. On Sunday, July 3rd, The US Navy guided missile ship USS Vincennes captained by William C. Rogers III had shot down an Iranian civil airliner IRAN AIR 655 with 290 passengers and crew on board, by mistake, and the video of the joy of the navy crew on board their ship was shown worldwide. They thought that they had shot down an Iranian Air Force jet.   The Moroccans tried to use the incident as a ploy to derail the USA bid, but FIFA would have none of it. "We don't get involved in international politics" said Blatter.  

    I was hanging around the corridor when the President of the Brazilian Soccer Federation came out of a private meeting with the FIFA excecutive committee after the vote. He looked at Werner Fricker the USSF President and shook his hand and said 'Congratulations'. Only 3 delegates had been allowed in the presentation room, including Fricker , Sunil Gulati(now USSF President)  and maybe Paul Stiehle , the bid chairman who was later replaced. I knew at that point that the 1994 World Cup was to be awarded to USA. There was a ceremony in the ballroom a little while later and Werner was in his element with Swiss TV as his mother tongue was German. Lots of USA candidate country pins were handy out and delegations from various US cities hoping to host matches were on hand. I remember the Seattle delegation, who never got matches due to the incompetance of their then Governor

 I had visited Morocco and they had no stadiums capable of hosting a World Cup match and their infrastructure was poor.  In later years Alan I. Rothenburg of USA 1994 fame was used as a promoter of yet another failed bid, due to his experience and due to the fact that he was Jewish, to show that Morocco was a country of many faiths.   He even had the audacity, in between as a FIFA bid assessor, to say that England was behind Morocco in his estimation for the 2006 bid, won by Germany.

    The very successful FIFA World Cup in USA had record crowds at all venues and in the quarter final on another July 4th, 1994 USA played Brazil in front of over 84,000 fans at Stanford Stadium in Palo Alto, CA. refereed by Joel Quiniou of France, who ran the referees section of FIFA World Cup, France 1998. The Americans were doing very well until Tab Ramos received an elbow and he went off after 45 minutes. Despite a red card for Leonardo and 45 minutes against 10 men Brazil, Bebeto scored in the 72nd minute for what was to be the only goal of the match, and of course went on to win the Final at The Rose Bowl in Pasadena after penalty kicks over Italy.