ASUNCION (Reuters) - Nicolas Leoz resigned from FIFA’s executive committee and as president of South American football organisation CONMEBOL (CSF) on Tuesday because of health reasons.
The 84-year-old Paraguayan, who had heart surgery for the fourth time in December, has led CONMEBOL for six consecutive terms of office since 1986 and been on the executive committee of world soccer’s ruling body FIFA since 1998.
“I have invited you to this meeting to share with you my retirement from ... FIFA,” Leoz told reporters before adding he had advised president Sepp Blatter of his decision.
”I‘m announcing my retirement from all FIFA committees because it’s important for my life. A very important committee is the organising committee for the 2014 World Cup (in Brazil) but important reasons prevent me from staying in that position.
“I still have good mental health but physically I‘m often impeded,” added Leoz who was accused in a 2010 BBC Panorama programme of receiving money from ISL, FIFA’s former marketing partner.
The Paraguayan, who has enjoyed the support of another of FIFA’s ageing officials, 81-year-old Argentine FA president Julio Grondona, denied any wrongdoing.
The results of a FIFA investigation into allegations of bribery involving ISL were due in March but could now be presented as early as this week or ahead of Congress in May.
A Swiss prosecutor said in a legal document released in July that ex-FIFA president Joao Havelange and former executive committee member Ricardo Teixeira, both Brazilian, took multi-million dollar bribes on World Cup deals in the 1990s.
Leoz received $730,000 in alleged bribes from ISL, a company that collapsed in 2001.
His resignation on Tuesday followed that last year of Teixeira as president of the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) which is organising next year’s World Cup.
In May 2011 former English FA chairman David Triesman, in a parliamentary inquiry into his country’s failed bid to host the 2018 World Cup, said Leoz had asked for a knighthood in return for his vote but CONMEBOL denied the allegation.
Leoz said he quits with a clear conscience.
“I feel very happy because I‘m retiring with the tranquillity and knowledge of having done a sincere, honest job,” he added.
Soccer’s ruling body issued a brief statement following his announcement.
“FIFA has taken note of the formal resignation of Nicolas Leoz as a member of the executive committee and as president of CONMEBOL for health and personal reasons,” it said.
“In accordance with FIFA statutes CONMEBOL will now have to decide immediately on the replacement of Nicolas Leoz as one of its representatives on the executive committee.”
Leoz, who was due to remain president of the 10-nation CONMEBOL until 2015, said he would be convening a meeting of the organisation’s executive committee next Tuesday to discuss his resignation.
“That’s when the presidents who elected me to this position will decide what steps to take concerning my decision,” he explained.
”We’ll see what happens on Tuesday but I feel fine. At times my problem is physical, long trips make it impossible for me to continue with my work, they tire me tremendously.
“I‘m coming to an age when I‘m going to let the younger ones take my place.”
Writing by Rex Gowar in Buenos Aires, editing by Tony Jimenez