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With no Blatter, Hayatou to present trophy at Women’s WCup

With Sepp Blatter staying away, FIFA Senior Vice President and African soccer head Issa Hayatou will present the trophy at the Women’s World Cup final in Canada, a senior official at Hayatou’s Confederation of African Football said Wednesday.

Hayatou, the president of the African confederation and a long-serving member of FIFA’s executive committee, was “already in Canada,” CAF secretary general Hicham el Amrani said in an email to The Associated Press.

He was there to present the trophy in Blatter’s place, el Amrani wrote in a brief message.

Blatter, the FIFA president, is skipping the trip to North America in the midst of a U.S. Department of Justice investigation into corruption in the world body. The investigation prompted Blatter to announce his intention to resign just four days after being re-elected to a fifth term.

No charges have been laid against Blatter, but American law enforcement authorities have confirmed he is part of the investigation. Traveling for the women’s final would have brought the 79-year-old Swiss to Vancouver and about 25 miles (40 kilometers) from the U.S. border.

His absence is a break in FIFA protocol, which sees the head of the world body traditionally traveling to international tournaments for at least the final.

FIFA said Tuesday that both Blatter and his No. 2, FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke, wouldn’t go to Canada because of their “current commitments” in Zurich, where FIFA is based. FIFA said Wednesday it would announce plans for the Women’s World Cup trophy presentation in due course.

Nine top soccer officials and five sports marketing agents are already under arrest in the U.S. investigation and facing extradition to the United States on charges of bribery and racketeering. Four men, including former FIFA executive committee member Chuck Blazer of the United States, have entered guilty pleas.

In a second probe, Swiss authorities are investigating possible money laundering and criminal mismanagement at FIFA, mainly in the bidding contests which awarded the 2018 World Cup to Russia and 2022 tournament to Qatar.

The 68-year-old Hayatou has served on FIFA’s powerful executive committee for 25 years and was promoted to senior vice president as the committee’s longest-serving member following the death last year of Argentina’s Julio Grondona.

He has faced accusations of wrongdoing, though, including in connection with the executive committee vote that gave the 2022 World Cup to Qatar. Hayatou has denied a Qatari whistleblower’s claims that he and another African official accepted $1.5 million to vote for the wealthy Gulf emirate.

Hayatou also denied that he was sought for questioning by authorities in Switzerland while at the FIFA congress in late May, when officials were arrested in early-morning raids at their luxury hotel ahead of Blatter’s re-election.

Hayatou told Cameroonian media on his return home that he was “not bothered” by Swiss police.

“No one said anything to me, or contacted me for interrogations,” he said.

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This story has been corrected to show that the FIFA congress was held in late May and not last month.

Gerald Imray is on Twitter at www.twitter.com/GeraldImrayAP

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