By TALES AZZONI, Associated Press
SAO PAULO (AP) — Ricardo Teixeira resigned as head of the Brazilian soccer federation and the 2014 World Cup organizing committee on Monday after a contentious 23-year stint in charge of the sport in the country.
The announcement ends an era that mixed success on and off the field for Brazil, with allegations that Teixeira took kickbacks from former FIFA marketing partner ISL in the 1990s.
The 64-year-old Teixeira, one of the most powerful men in Brazil, went on medical leave last week. Now, the Brazilian federation said he was leaving for good to look after his health and be with his family. Last year, he was hospitalized because of an intestinal inflammation.
Teixeira's term had been expected to end in 2015. His letter of resignation was read by the new federation and organizing committee president, former Sao Paulo Gov. Jose Maria Marin. Teixeira said he was leaving with the "sense of mission accomplished."
"It's not easy to preside passion. Football in our country is associated with two things: talent and disorganization," he wrote. "When we win, talent is praised. When we lose, it's about disorganization. I did what was within my reach, sacrificing my health. I was criticized in the losses and undervalued in the victories."
Former Brazil star Romario, now a congressman, had harsh words for Teixeira.
"Today we can celebrate," Romario posted on his Twitter and Facebook pages. "We exterminated a cancer from Brazilian football. Finally, Ricardo Teixeira resigned."
The 79-year-old Marin made headlines when he was filmed pocketing a winner's medal at an under-18 tournament won by Corinthians. He later said the medal was given to him, and wasn't accused of any wrongdoing by organizers.
Marin said nothing would immediately change at the federation or the World Cup organizing committee with him in command.
"It's not a new administration," he said. "It's a new president, but the stupendous work that was being done by Ricardo Teixeira will continue."
Brazil Sports Minister Aldo Rebelo said the change won't interfere in the country's preparations for the 2014 World Cup.
"We will continue working in harmony in the common tasks needed to be completed," Rebelo said in a statement.
Some local federations opposed Marin as president and wanted to pick a successor through elections or by changing the federation's statutes.
Teixeira had led the federation since 1989 and revamped the organization after it struggled financially. Under his command, Brazil won the 1994 and 2002 World Cups and the federation became one of the world's richest.
"By bringing the 2014 World Cup, Brazil earned the privilege to host the biggest and most watched event in the world, becoming a player internationally, boosting its economy and bringing pride to the Brazilian people," Teixeira said in the letter. "We substantially increased the profits of Brazilian football, developed its marketing and, mainly, we won."
His resignation comes a few months after his former father-in-law, Joao Havelange, resigned from the International Olympic Committee while facing a possible suspension for allegedly also taking ISL kickbacks when he was FIFA president.
Pressure for Teixeira's resignation grew last month after the Folha de S. Paulo newspaper, Brazil's largest, reported that prosecutors had allegedly found evidence linking him to a company that organized a game between Brazil and Portugal in 2008 in Brasilia. The company is being investigated for irregularities in organizing the match.
Teixeira was never convicted of any wrongdoing, but he was twice investigated by Brazil's Congress, including over a contract signed with Nike.
He was also accused of unethical behavior by a former chairman of England's Football Association, David Triesman, who said during a British parliamentary inquiry that Teixeira and other FIFA executive committee members engaged in improper conduct during bidding for the 2018 World Cup.
FIFA cleared the Brazilian, who said the allegations stemmed from England's disappointment at losing the World Cup bid.
After Brazil won the 1994 World Cup, Teixeira found himself amid a controversy when players and officials tried to re-enter Brazil without paying proper taxes on gifts and other imported goods bought by them in the United States. Before the 2006 World Cup, prosecutors accused him and a tourism agency of selling tickets for the event without following legal procedures.
Teixeira seemed to have the support of FIFA President Sepp Blatter and at one point was touted as his possible successor. But their relationship appears to have weakened, especially after Blatter seemed set to allow the release of the documents that allegedly implicate Teixeira in the ISL case. FIFA postponed the publication, citing legal measures.
"There are no series of unfair attacks that can take away the satisfaction of seeing the happiness in the face of Brazilians after winning more than 100 titles, including two World Cups, five Copa Americas and three Confederations Cups," Teixeira said.
He also thanked the Brazilian fans and said he will remain available to the Brazilian federation when needed. It remained unclear if Teixeira will also leave the FIFA executive committee, a position elected through the South American soccer confederation. Teixeira has been an executive member of FIFA since 1994.
FIFA wouldn't immediately comment because it hadn't been officially informed by the Brazilian federation or local organizing committee.
Follow Tales Azzoni at http://twitter.com/tazzoni
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.