Two years ago Ricardo Teixeira would have been entitled to consider himself the king of the hill.
Teixeira, the long-term president of Brazil's football association, the CBF, was also president of the 2014 World Cup Local Organizing Committee (LOC) -- an unusual accumulation of functions. It was this conglomeration that made Teixeira a powerful man, surrounded by flatterers.
He was an important figure inside FIFA. In Brazil, some even saw him as a future president of the organization, stepping up to fill the post once filled by his former father-in-law, the hugely influential Joao Havelange. And he was also close to Brazil's president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, popularly known as Lula, one of the most charismatic politicians of recent times.
And yet Teixeira's empire has crumbled with astonishing speed. On Monday, he announced his resignation from both the CBF and the LOC -- a decision ostensibly based on the grounds of health but in reality part of a strategic withdrawal that has turned into something of a rout. He bowed out with a letter of excruciating self-pity.
"I have sacrificed my health," he wrote, "and deprived myself of irreplaceable time with my family. I have been criticized in defeat and undervalued in victory."
He was the victim of significant changes at home and abroad -- and also of his immense ineptitude.
At FIFA, president Sepp Blatter has been rocked by corruption scandals. With an eye on his legacy, Blatter has thrown himself into what is probably his final mandate, seeking to clean up the organization. Teixeira has frequently been linked with scandals -- a decade ago a congressional committee of inquiry in Brazil recommended his prosecution, and more recently his name has surfaced in connection with bribes paid by the now-defunct sports marketing company ISL.
Once allies, Teixeira and Blatter became enemies.
The end of the Lula era also changed the game. A football fanatic, Lula had been critical of Teixeira before he became president. Then, wanting to play the global statesman, he was quick to see the advantage of an alliance with the head of the CBF. Teixeira was effectively the owner of Brazil's national team, one of the strongest foreign policy resources the country possesses. And so Lula and Teixeira became friends. Soon after Brazil took responsibility for a United Nations force in Haiti, the national team turned up to play a friendly there.
But the corridors of power suddenly became a no-go zone for Teixeira when Lula was replaced as Brazil's president by Dilma Rousseff. Made of serious stuff, Rousseff has given her life to the cause of changing her country. She was reportedly tortured by the military government in the early '70s. There was always the feeling that Teixeira, for her, represented the bloated, inept, self-serving, whiskey-sodden oligarchy she sought to sweep away from Brazilian life. She refused to meet him.
Quite apart from any ideological differences, there was the question of the 2014 World Cup. Rousseff had every right to be angry at the way the preparations had been conducted. Brazil unofficially knew it would be staging the tournament in March 2003. It was then that FIFA announced that, following the short-lived policy of rotating the World Cup around the various continents, 2014 would be South America's turn. Conmebol, the continent's federation, almost instantly announced that Brazil was the sole candidate. (Colombia later broke ranks, but never with serious ambitions.)
By the time the decision was made official in October 2007, it seemed logical to expect that the country had made its plans and worked out which host cities it would use. But the process had not even started. Teixeira was caught in a political bind. His power base was not the country's clubs, but the presidents of the football federations of the 27 states that make up Brazil. He did not want to alienate his supporters by excluding them from the party. FIFA, looking to keep things simple, wanted eight host cities. Teixeira successfully lobbied for 12 -- but then would not take responsibility for naming them. For the first time the decision was pushed to FIFA, which after deliberation finally announced its decision at the end of May 2009. More than six years had been wasted.
The inevitable result of the delay increased costs. Teixeira argued that this was not a problem for Brazilian society because all the money spent on stadiums would be private, leaving public investments for more important areas such as transportation infrastructure.
It never looked viable. It is very difficult to see how stadiums in Cuiaba, Manaus and Brasilia will make money, and the private sector voted with its feet. As it turns out, almost all the money being spent on stadiums is public. And in the haste to ensure that the show runs on time, the most vulnerable area is that of urban mobility. VLT public transportation projects in two host cities, Fortaleza and Manaus, have not even started. The projected monorail in Sao Paulo has been abandoned.
The Lula government greeted this with alarming passivity. There were no complaints about the pace of planning, or at the fact that the Local Organizing Committee was formed exclusively by the Teixeira gang, with no representation from society. Indeed, there seemed to be no acknowledgement that Brazil's hard-pressed taxpayers would have to save the day.
The Rousseff government cannot afford to be so complacent. And so Teixeira was marginalized, detested by the state and with FIFA clearly hinting that things would be easier if he were no longer around.
But in terms of the 2014 World Cup, much of the damage has already been done. Money will have to be thrown at the tournament to ensure it runs smoothly. It already seems clear that staging the event will cost more than it should, and give back to Brazilian society less than it could.
In the long term it will be more interesting to see if the end of the Teixeira era results in important changes in domestic Brazilian football -- the league with the biggest potential to challenge the major European championships for global attention.
Currently the federal nature of the sports administration -- the fact that power in the CBF lies not with the clubs but with the state federations -- is preventing the game from realizing this potential. The big clubs are hamstrung by a domestic calendar that is clearly not in their interests.
Between mid-January and mid-May, they are forced to waste their time playing against tiny opponents in the outdated state championships, one for each of the 27 states. As a consequence, the national championship is out of sync with the rest of the world. There is no space for the clubs to travel to Europe, the United States and Asia and take part in prestigious preseason tournaments and the clubs lose top players to international competitions (the Copa America and the World Youth Cup last year, the Olympics this year).
Will Brazil's major clubs step forward and organize their own league? This, perhaps, is the most important question in the wake of the unlamented demise of Ricardo Teixeira.
Tim Vickery is an English football journalist who has lived in Brazil since 1994 and specializes in South American football.