Chuck Blazer cut his soccer teeth with the New Rochelle Soccer Club. (Joy Rubenstein/FrontRowSoccer.com Photo)
By Michael Lewis
Chuck Blazer was a larger than life figure in so many ways.
His hefty appearance spoke for himself, but his deals helped the rise of U.S. soccer in so many ways, which helped line his pockets as well.
He eventually turned states’ evidence against FIFA and CONCACAF and shook up the soccer world with a scandal of monumental proportions, which resulted in the resignation of FIFA president Sepp Blatter. Blazer’s revelations are still being felt today.
Blazer passed away Wednesday night. He was 72.
In recent years, Blazer had been hospitalized with colon cancer. In 2013, Blazer revealed he had rectal cancer, diabetes and coronary artery disease. It was not immediately known what was the direct cause of his death.
Those deals turned Blazer into a multi-millionaire. He lived a high lifestyle in the Trump Towers in New York City. He was known for his pet parrot and had an apartment just for his cats in the Towers.
Blazer started his path with the New Rochelle Soccer Club as he coached his son, although he never played the game. He eventually went to the Westchester United S.C. Eventually, Blazer moved up the ranks in Southern New York Youth Soccer Association — he was first vice president — before becoming a U.S. Soccer vice president in 1984.
He was far from finished as Blazer moved up the ladder quickly, teaming with Jack Warner of Trinidad & Tobago to dominate CONCACAF for two decades. Blazer became the general secretary of the organization (from 1990-2011) and Warner the president.
Blazer also was a FIFA executive committee member from 1996 to 2013, making him one of the most powerful men in the sport.
The Westchester County native negotiated multi-million television deals in which he pocketed a sizable amount. In fact, he was known as Mr. 10 percent. Few members of CONCACAF at the time complained because he helped boost the confederation and helped line their pockets as well.
Faced with tax evasion charges and racketeering conspiracy, Blazer worked with the U.S. Justice Dept. to unearth corruption throughout the soccer world. Translated: he became an informant, which led to the arrest and conviction of many global soccer officials. The investigation is still ongoing.
In November 2013, Blazer pleaded guilty to one count each of racketeering conspiracy, wire fraud conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy and willful failure to file a Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts, and to six counts of tax evasion.
“Chuck felt profound sorrow and regret for his actions,” Blazer’s attorney, Mary Mulligan, told The New York Times. “Chuck also accepted responsibility for his own conduct by pleading guilty and owning up to his mistakes.”
When told of Blazer’s passing during the post-game press conference of the U.S.’s 3-2 win over Martinique at the CONCACAF Gold Cup Wednesday, U.S. head coach Bruce Arena said: “I’m sorry for the passing of Chuck Blazer. I know his family and I pass along my condolences to them.”
On Thursday afternoon, CONCACAF issued this statement about Blazer: “CONCACAF has learned of the passing of former general secretary Mr. Chuck Blazer. We extend our sympathies and condolences to his family and loved ones.”