PtG Article 02.12.2011

From terrible to tragic: The situation of sports corruption fighter Mario Goijman

The man who stood up and asked the homeless questions in world volleyball is soon to become homeless himself: Next week Mario Goijman will be forced to leave his house as a consequence of his fight against corruption.

The situation for the Argentinian anti-corruption fighter in volleyball, Mario Goijman, took a dramatic downwards turn Wednesday 30 November in the evening, when the 66-year old former business leader was handed over an official order to leave his home within ten days.

In that moment, the destiny of one of recent years' most valiant anti-corruption fighters in sport went from terrible to tragic.

Since 2005, Play the Game visitors have been able to follow the astonishing revelations of Mario Goijman who has exposed how the former international volleyball president Rubén Acosta and his flamboyant wife Malú ruled the federation FIVB as their private kingdom.

Their sometimes comical, operetta-like governing style was accompanied by misdoings of a less funny character: in total, over 24 years of reign, the couple is believed to have put 20-30 million US dollars from the federation’s commercial rights into their own bank accounts.

For Mario Goijman, once a prominent president of the Argentine Volleyball Federation (FAV) and in good standing with the Acosta royalty, his involvement in international volleyball has led to personal ruin.

Having acquired the right of Argentina to host the World Championships 2002, Goijman and the FAV took up loans and guaranteed for huge amounts in order to secure what became a very successful sports event. Relying on the contracts, policies, statutes and agreements with the FIVB, Goijman and his group felt safe that the FIVB would pay back a proportion of its earnings from the World Cup. But it never did.

Since then, Mario Goijman has suffered the consequences of a huge debt which today according to him amounts to 1.3 million dollars.VolleygateGoijman was never a type to suffer in silence. Already in 2003 he started a battle with president Acosta who soon decided to expel not only Goijman, but the whole very influential Argentine federation. This move was later ratified by the congress which in those days was a passive tool in the hands of Acosta.

In the years to follow, Mario Goijman started a campaign called ‘Volleygate’ in which he revealed numerous cases of gross mismanagement on the part of the FIVB leadership.

In 2004, the International Olympic Committee also took note of the situation and pressured Ruben Acosta to resign as an IOC member. His FIVB presidency, however, was not questioned on that occasion.

Mario Goijman’s most important accusations were brought to the world public at Play the Game’s 2005 conference and earned him our Play the Game Award that year. You can study Goijman’s 2005 presentation here.

When Ruben Acosta finally had to leave his post at the Beijing Olympics 2008, little was expected from his successor, the Chinese Jizhong Wei who had been a loyal vice-president for many years. But Jizhong Wei soon took steps to change the managerial style of world volleyball. Among many things, he stopped the expensive payments to the Acosta couple that were designed to continue for a long time after the departure.Also, Wei and the FIVB in 2009 agreed to compensate Mario Goijman for the considerable legal expenses he had taken on by waging court battles in Switzerland where the FIVB resides.At that point, however, the willingness to correct the past has unfortunately stopped. Though almost all top leaders at the FIVB had key positions in the times of Acosta and each have a share of responsibility for the financial and political abuse of sport, they seemingly cannot forgive a man who broke out of the inner circles of loyalty to the old king.No winners – only losersThere are so far only losers in this game. Volleyball and sport in general is losing by failing to display fairness in the corridors while claiming it on the sports field. The FIVB is losing by ignoring its true obligations to the past, and the IOC will lose to the extent that it maintains a passive role vis-à-vis corruption-ridden Olympic federations. 

Argentinean and Latin-American sport is losing, as the key players in this battle come from the same continent that aspires to gain international fame through the values of sport and spectacular events in the years to come.

In this case, deplorably, the loser also has a singular human face, that of Mario Goijman.

When Mario Goijman a few weeks ago gave testimony at Play the Game 2011 in Cologne, nobody could doubt that this man was broken financially and psychologically by a sports system unwilling to deal with its own failures.

Therefore Play the Game promised to re-engage in Goijman’s case and use all disposable means to restore his reputation and financial security.

We had just taken the first steps in this campaign as the bad news of the imminent removal from his house arrived. In these hours, we are communicating with the Argentine media, with national authorities and soon we will pick up contact with relevant international bodies. 

Everybody who picks up a fight must accept the risk of getting injured. But in the framework of sport and its ideals of fairness, peace and human dignity we cannot accept that anybody should pay the kind of price that Mario Goijman is currently paying.

A limit is passed, and the last word about Mario Goijman and his fight against corruption in volleyball has yet to be heard.