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FIFA’s Questionable Call

What is the opposite of a shocking revelation?

“While acknowledging for the first time that votes were bought in past World Cup hosting contests, FIFA is seeking to claim “tens of millions of dollars” in bribe money seized by U.S. federal prosecutors.”
–Associated Press

Then there’s this.

“FIFA claims it is the victim of corrupt individuals, despite widespread criticism that bribe-taking was embedded in its culture in the presidencies of Joao Havelange and Sepp Blatter, who was forced from office after 17 years by the current scandal.”
–Associated Press

Should we be shocked at this point?

First, there have been countless assertions throughout the past decade of institutions failing all around us. Remember though, it’s not so much the institutions failing as much as the people running those institutions who are letting people down.

Second, when leaders in powerful positions are revealed as corrupt, the guilty parties should/need to recognize and sincerely apologize for their deceit and/or willful ignorance to the public. Sadly, this doesn’t appear to be the stance of FIFA. When widespread hearsay became an infuriating reality for the global soccer organization in the summer of 2015, one presumed a 180-degree turn in tone and approach.

One would be wrong.

Does FIFA have a legitimate gripe?

In a courtroom, perhaps.

In the real world, seen through the lens of soccer’s most impassioned fans?

Everyone roll your eyes and put your hands in the air with a dispirited expression aimed into the unknown.

Soccer doesn’t have instant replay, but FIFA’s assertions certainly requires a second and third look to be believed for its specious contention.

At first glance, it looks out-of-bounds.

FIFA’s Red Card

(Pascal Mora, New York Times)

(Pascal Mora, New York Times)

FIFA’s uninterrupted, pampered 5-star treatment may finally be downgraded.

The breaking news regarding the arrests of several high-ranking FIFA officials (sans Sepp Blatter) at the 5-star Baur au Lac hotel in Zurich, Switzerland is a bombshell everyone saw coming a mile away. Its severity is enormous, yet it surprises virtually nobody, especially those who followed the bidding process of the upcoming two World Cups ( 2018 – Russia and 2022 – Qatar) that was riddled with accusations of painfully obvious corruption. The only surprise may be that the indictments were actually given.

FIFA is a multi-billion dollar organization with a surreal reach that hugs the entire globe in literally every country that has a soccer ball that has even the slightest ambition in getting a second ball…and soccer fields, media deals, inclusion with the world’s top nations and tournaments, etc. As Joshua Robinson revealed in a great article in the Wall Street Journal titled, “Why FIFA Can’t Get Out of Its Own Way,” every nation is counted as equals in the voting for its president. This unfair fairness, equalizing the voting impact of soccer leaders like Brazil, Germany, Italy, Argentina and Holland with Mauritius is mind-bogglingly incompetent. The most vital reason is the devastatingly easy route to corruption and abuse to bribe the smallest, least influential nations with “goodies” (use your imagination) that propel them in ways that might be nearly impossible on the pitch alone.

Now, Mauritius is not guilty of any wrong-doing, but they were listed only to serve as an example of a tiny nation that’s granted the same voting weight as soccer powerhouses.

The charges, accusations and evidence of bribery brought by the U.S. Department of Justice constitutes a long list of illegal activities that began in 1991, including hundreds of millions of dollars exchanged for precious influence and privilege in a variety of high-profile circumstances. And the soccer region that was a major player in these actions was CONCACAF. Yes, this is the same qualifying group as the United States of America.

According to the indictment, several international soccer events were tainted by bribes and kickbacks involving media and marketing rights: World Cup qualifiers in the Concacaf region; the Gold Cup, a regional championship tournament; the Concacaf Champions League; the Copa América; and the South American club championship, the Copa Libertadores. The indictment also claims that bribes and kickbacks were found in connection with the selection of the host country for the 2010 World Cup.  

Absorbing all this information results in one immediate conclusion: FIFA is not of sound mind or sound ethics to be the governing body of the world’s game. Soccer is too amazing of a sport to be dragged down by greedy executives and immoral officials. Perhaps the most vindicated collection of people today are referees, who are now able to declare they are (in accordance with the law) not the most corrupting force in the soccer.

However, this fact can be heavily debated and proven otherwise without much difficulty, but FIFA’s governing body is first in line for scrutiny and punishment right now. Well, we’ll have to see about that whole “punishment” thing, specifically when referring to re-voting on future World Cup sites.

The issue was, in fact, raised again Wednesday. When pressed by reporters at the news conference, Walter de Gregorio, a FIFA spokesman, repeatedly said that FIFA would not consider reopening the bid process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.   

There are almost no words. This shockingly oblivious admission of reality promises these bribery and corruption charges will sustain for at least the next 7 years, as de Gregorio wants.

The 14 FIFA officials arrested took the beautiful game whose roots grow with strength, purpose and opportunity in the poorest and richest nations and flooded it with dirty money, thereby damaging the sport’s foundation of hard work, creativity and upward mobility in countries and neighborhoods all around the world.

Do you remember when Zinedine Zidane headbutt Marco Materazzi of Italy in the 2006 World Cup Final?

This is like that, except magnified hundreds of millions of dollars times.

A Calm Reflection Amongst Chaos

A Thought to Ponder:

Isn’t it ironic that the very institution that is asking and demanding an enormous amount of trust from us (the people) is the exact same institution that is causing an enormous amount of distrust with us (the people) with seemingly daily revelations of targeted prejudice, secrecy, lack of transparency, lack of explanation, lack of personal responsibility and overwhelming incompetence?

Perhaps the reason why “big government” needs to be so vast is so all the bad ideas have the space and opportunity to collectively introduce themselves and become best friends forever (“BFF”). Plus, it provides ample time to disappear from a crisis for seven hours or to sail on a yacht during a military coup or to go golfing in the midst of anything important.

I’d venture to say today’s federal government and its leaders make former “BFF’s” Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie look like responsible Church Choir Girls.

Even with all their hijinks, at least Paris and Nicole were candid about who they were, what they were going to do and what they did…