A former Greater Toronto Area resident is in the running for the Confederation of North, Central American & Caribbean Associations of Soccer (CONCACAF) presidency.
Mark Rodrigues, who spent 32 years in Canada before relocating to Tampa Bay in 2008, is seeking to become the region’s seventh president.
The Guyana Soccer Federation endorsed his nomination for the post to be filled on May 12 in Mexico City, ahead of the International Soccer Federation (FIFA) congress in the Mexican capital.
A collective leadership has been running CONCACAF since acting president Alfredo Hawit was arrested in Zurich last month. The Honduran and FIFA vice-president had replaced Jeffrey Webb of the Cayman Islands who pleaded guilty to racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering charges last November.
Webb assumed the CONCACAF presidency four years ago after Trinidadian Austin “Jack” Warner was indicted for corruption. Barbadian Lisle Austin, who took over from Warner, was suspended days later by CONCACAF when he tried to sack Chuck Blazer, the organisation’s former general secretary who blew the whistle on alleged cash bribes.
FIFA later banned Austin for a year after he went to court in the Bahamas to try to force through his claim to succeed Warner as CONCACAF president.
With regional and world soccer under the microscope, Rodrigues understands the challenges that the next CONCACAF president will face.
“That’s exactly the reason why I have put my name forward,” he told Share recently while in Toronto with the Guyana women’s national squad preparing for next month’s Rio Olympics qualifier in Houston. “After thinking about it for a few months and getting my family’s approval, I made the decision about a month ago to enter the race. There’s a need for the restoration of honesty and integrity in the sport along with fresh faces. We need change and I want to be part of that.”
Needing the support of three CONCACAF member associations in order to be eligible to contest the presidency, Rodrigues is confident he can secure the backing.
“After receiving the seal of approval from Guyana, I travelled to Trinidad & Tobago and met with FIFA’s technical development officer Anton Corneal who is one of my biggest supporters,” he said. “I also stopped off in St. Lucia, Barbados and St. Maarten and met with their soccer federation presidents. They gave me verbal commitments that they will support me, but they have to meet with their executive committees first to discuss it with them before making a decision.”
Having a strong soccer administration and business background provide Rodrigues with a solid platform that he feels can convince voters he’s qualified to lead the confederation which has 35 votes.
A club coach, director of coaching and member of the Ontario Soccer Association provincial staff, he started the women’s soccer program in Guyana before heading to Florida where he was the University of South Florida women’s program assistant coach and head coach of the RSL Florida Under-14 and 17 elite girl teams prior to becoming the West Florida Flames executive director.
Completing high school at David and Mary Thomson Collegiate Institute in Scarborough, the married father of two children attended Seneca College for 18 months before embarking on a business career.
“When I was 13 years old, my high school teacher told me I was born to lead and when I got into Seneca, a lecturer suggested I go into business right away,” he said. “I followed their advice.”
Rodrigues spent eight years in the banking sector before entering the real estate industry and handling almost $110 million in sales. He was also the chief operating officer of a fast food chain that he sold to a large pizza outlet.
The former St. Stanislaus College student, who migrated from Guyana with his family at age 16, has significant plans to advance the confederation.
He’s proposing the establishment of a CONCACAF soccer council that will advise the organization’s president and executive committee on strategic soccer matters, including competition formats and strategies for the development of the sport. He’s also advocating for an increase in participation of all ages and genders at the grassroots level, and the development of women’s soccer with its own budget.
Rodrigues, who has Canadian and American national coaching licenses and a FIFA/Interpol integrity certification, said that he decided to get involved in the sport when his daughter started playing soccer as a nine-year-old.
Ashley Rodrigues, 27, graduated from Eastern Michigan University in 2009 and is the Guyana Lady Jags captain.
By RON FANFAIR