It’s not often that you’d find a country’s leader on the soccer pitch. And it’s even rarer as a professional, as Suriname’s Vice President Ronnie Brunswijk finds himself at the advanced athletic age of 60.
Suriname is a South American country with a population of nearly 600,000, but Brunswijk has just taken time out from his vice-presidential duties to captain the club that he owns, Inter Moengotapoe, in a CONCACAF League match, a second-tier international club competition akin to UEFA’s Europa League.
Inter eventually lost 6-0 against Honduran side CD Olimpia on Tuesday, according to the official CONCACAF match report.
Brunswijk “made history by becoming the oldest player, at 60 years of age, to play in an international club competition,” according to ESPN.
But it’s not just his exploits on the pitch that’s raising eyebrows; it’s what allegedly happened after the game that has led to CONCACAF launching a formal investigation.
In a video shared on social media, Brunswijk appears to be handing out cash bills to people in the CD Olimpia locker room, before leaving with a shirt of the Honduran club.
In a statement sent to CNN, CONCACAF said it was “extremely concerned at the content of a video circulating on social media which raises potential integrity issues surrounding the Concacaf League match between Inter Moengotapoe and CD Olimpia.
“The matter is being referred to the Concacaf Disciplinary Committee who will commence a formal investigation and a further update will be provided when that process has concluded.”
‘We did our job’
Brunswijk had pulled on the number 61 shirt for the club that he owns, but his involvement in the match has also raised questions as to whether he had disrespected the competition.
CD Olimpia player Johnny Leverón spoke to the press following the game, saying that each team is free to make whatever decision they think is best.
“It’s a situation for our opponents, we don’t get involved in that,” said Leverón, who said he thought a lot of attention was being paid to Brunswijk’s appearance.
“Like I said, today we did our job,” he added.
A journalist also asked Gustavo Reggi, CD Olimpia assistant coach, if he felt disrespected by Brunswijk’s appearance.
Reggi said they found out that the vice president would play half an hour before the game started, but said it was a matter for Inter Moengotapoe, not his team.
“Whoever is in front of us, we have to give our all,” said Reggi.
CNN has contacted CD Olimpia, Inter Moengotapoe, CONCACAF and the office of the Surinamese Vice President for comment.
Suriname is a former Dutch colony which gained independence in 1975.
Brunswijk has a widely reported backstory, including a conviction in the Netherlands for drug trafficking, but became vice-president in July 2020. The Dutch court system did not immediately respond to CNN’s request for more details about the conviction.
“Everything I have, I give it to the people,” Brunswijk told the New York Times in January. “Ever since I was a child, I wanted to help others. I now have the chance to help the whole country.”
Chan Santokhi was elected president at the time, and referenced Brunswijk’s checkered past.
“Mr. Brunswijk has his history. We could look at his history and see that as a barrier,” Santokhi told the New York Times.”We’re looking forward to a better future, because we are two leaders who have been entrusted to lead this nation together.”