(WFI) Try as they might, organizers of the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup could not escape questions about the world football governing body’s corruption scandal during the tournament’s kickoff presser on June 4 in Vancouver.

FIFA executive committee member Lydia Nsekera (right) at the opening presser for Canada 2015 (WFI)

FIFA spokeswoman Segolene Valentin unsuccessfully tried from the beginning to encourage questions on Canada 2015 itself.

Midway through the 40 minute session, she called for “any question on the tournament itself … can we start on women’s football?”

Valentin’s question was met with muted laughter from international media at the Westin Bayshore hotel.

When asked whether the FIFA scandal would harm the tournament, FIFA executive committee member Lydia Nsekera said, “It depends on the media.

“We are ready to show you how well organized the women’s football is.

“Maybe if we could have a break that we speak only about Women’s World Cup and maybe wait to speak about what’s happening [in] FIFA in July, that would be great.”

Victor Montagliani, president of the Canadian Soccer Association and chair of Canada 2015, said, “I actually think it’s a positive thing that the first tournament after whatever happened in the last week is the Women’s World Cup because women’s football is a very pure form of football.

“Women’s football can shine a light on the dark clouds that are hanging over the game.

The FIFA Women’s World Cup trophy, ball and sponsor backdrop (WFI)

“It’s an opportunity for women’s football to shine some light onto the game that has perhaps lost a bit of its moral compass.”

The news conference was supposed to include FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke.

However, the 54-year-old cancelled his appearance at Canada 2015 the day before president Sepp Blatter announced he would resign as FIFA president.

Montagliani faced a variety of other questions around the integrity of the soccer business.

He denied there were any improprieties in the bidding for Canada 2015. Canada won the rights to host the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup by default after the only other bidder, Zimbabwe, withdrew in 2011.

Montagliani was noncommittal about whether there should be a re-vote for the 2018 and 2022 World Cup hosting rights.

He was also asked if Canadians could have faith that the CSA was not involved in any of CONCACAF’s troubles.

“Those are things at the federation level we’re not involved with.

“We’re not involved with those [sports marketing and broadcast] parties. We have our due diligence in place.

“You can rest assured from a Canadian federation standpoint that our distance from that is quite a bit.”

Montagliani said that prior to last week’s arrests of 14 FIFA and sports marketing officials, he held a great deal of respect for fired CONCACAF president Jeffrey Webb, pointing out Webb’s push for anti-racism and fair play throughout soccer.

Victor Montagliani, president of the Canadian Soccer Association (WFI)

“It would be very hard to say that you wouldn’t respect somebody of that nature.

“Having said that, if the allegations last week are true, then obviously that would change a lot of people’s opinions.

“I hope it’s not. Obviously there is no room in the game for those kind of things.” Canada 2015 officials announced ticket sales had reached 920,000 for the 52-match, 24-country tournament–the biggest single-sport tournament in Canadian history. It has already exceeded Germany 2011’s totals, but that tournament featured 16 teams in a 32-match format.

Nsekera downplayed the risk of disparity because of the expanded tournament.

“In the last 10 years women’s football did improve, did develop all over the world.

“If you look at the [2014] Under-20 World Cup, Nigeria went to the final. The more teams you have, the more the different countries want to develop the sport, so it’s essential that we have 24 teams.”

Regarding a potential Canadian bid for the 2026 World Cup, Montagliani said he is too busy to think that far ahead.

“The only thing on my mind is, quite frankly, 2015, the tournament and–to be very partisan–is about the 23 girls that are going to wear the women’s national team [uniform]. That’s all I really care about.”

Canada kicks off June 6 in Edmonton against China.

Infostrada Sports’ analysis concluded that Canada and Germany are the most-probable finalists with Germany taking home the trophy.

The tournament, which concludes July 5 in Vancouver, is the first being played on all artificial turf surfaces.

By INSIDER staff

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