Chuck Blazer, an influential and controversial figure in the history of American soccer, has died, as first reported by Jack Bell and confirmed by Andrew Das of the New York Times. He was 72.
Blazer was CONCACAF’s General Secretary from 1990 to 2011. During this time the U.S., which had only meekly embraced soccer in the past, was awarded its first ever World Cup in 1994. Blazer was also a member of FIFA’s Executive Committee from 1996 to 2013, giving him the power to control the world’s game.
Blazer and his CONCACAF partner Jack Warner became internationally infamous in 2013, when they were accused of serious fraud that involved bribery and the mismanagement of millions of dollars used for personal enjoyment, most notably in Morocco and South Africa’s World Cup bids of 1998 and 2010, respectively.
This fraud had been previously discovered by the FBI and IRS because of Blazer’s failure to pay income tax, but authorities were able to turn Blazer into an informant on other instances of sporting corruption. Blazer became crucial when he secretly recorded meetings of both fellow corrupt international football executives and those of London 2012 Olympic officials.
In 2015, however, Blazer received a lifetime ban from FIFA due to his many crimes. While his whimsical appearance, occasional whistleblowing, and role in expanding the American game paint him in a positive light, his legacy, like all of FIFA’s over the past few decades, is still mostly one of decadence and criminal activity.