By Rawle Toney
Georgetown, Guyana – After spending 22 years as President of the Guyana Football Federation (GFF), Colin Klass was banned by the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) for 26 months and fined US$5,537 for his involvement in the Bin Hammam “cash for votes” scandal.
Since August 11, 2011, Klass could not be close to any organized football, going into exile until he surfaced on Monday evening at the Semi-finals of the Kashif and Shanghai School’s Football tournament.
It was the first sighting of the former high ranking football official since the scandal that also implicated former FIFA Vice President Jack Warner; the famed Trinidadian politician who was forced to resign from the position he held for 28 years.
“I feel the same way I was feeling before” Klass told News Source in an exclusive interview at the Police Sports Club Ground, in Georgetown.
A bit reluctant to speak but wearing a broad smile, said “To be honest, I feel great, nothing has changed, the way I feel now it’s the same way I’ve been feeling all the time – happy. God has been good to me you know and that’s all that matter to me” Klass said.
Quizzed about whether he missed being in the position that he once held, Klass was quick to answer “I don’t want to talk about that right now. I’m good. I’m happy and I’ve been this way all the time”
Following Klass’ departure, the GFF held its General Elections on April 13, 2013 and in a closely fought battle with Aubrey ‘Shanghai’ Major, Christopher Matthias was elected President.
But it has not been a smooth sailing for the new administration with public pressure mounting daily to revive the defunct National Programme, given a fact that it’s been over a year since the country’s national unit – Golden Jaguars – has seen any action.
A tussle for the rights by member associations and promoters to host their tournaments at the end of the year coupled with obvious favoritism shown by Matthias led GFF heard calls from the public and pundits for Klass’ return.
Asked what are his thoughts on the ongoing feud in Guyana’s football with such a still relatively new Federation, Klass said “I honestly don’t have all the facts, so I don’t want to make any comments on those issues. I think when I do then I can but right now, I don’t want to say too much”.
He added “But what I can do though is tell them to pray and pray a lot. It’s not easy to be in that position and I think right now they will need as much prayers as possible, so they just have to pray.
Klass opined that the administration should however strategically invest in youth football with his comments coming after watching Christianburg Wismar Secondary defeating St George’s High 2 – 1 and Ash Education edging Waramodang by the same score line to reach the finals of the nationwide school’s football tournament.
“I can’t tell when last I was kept this intrigued and on the edge at a football game but there must be a plan for development coming from the top. I think this school tournament is giving the kids a big stage to play on and I applaud the organisers but there must be investment into youth football” Klass noted.
In a statement dated September 23r, 2011, FIFA said that Klass “was found to have breached various articles of the FIFA code of ethics (articles 3, 9 and 14) following an investigation related to the special meeting of the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) held in Trinidad & Tobago on 10 and 11 May 2011.”
After the meeting, which led to Bin Hammam being given a life ban for bribery, Klass orchestrated a campaign of support for Jack Warner who resigned as FIFA Vice-President in June after himself being charged with bribery.
According to a witness statement, Klass was seen emerging from the boardroom where envelopes containing US$40,000 were being handed out to Caribbean associations and was “giggling slightly”.
Klass denied having received any cash gifts but it is understood the brown envelope for the GFF had been distributed.
The report by investigators from the former FBI Director Louis Freeh’s company quotes evidence from Bahamas vice-president Fred Lunn, who took a photo of the cash he was given before returning it on the afternoon of May 10, stating that Klass went into the room when the money was being given.
The report states: “Outside the boardroom, Mr Lunn encountered Lionel Haven [a former Bahamas FA board member] and Colin Klass.
“According to Mr Lunn, Mr Klass stated: ‘Why is this door locked, are there people getting bribed around here?’ The male [CFU official] then allowed Mr Klass to enter the boardroom, which he exited after a few minutes. Mr Lunn noticed that Mr Klass had a smile on his face and was slightly giggling.”