By Zach Watkins – Sports Editor
Oh how the mighty have fallen. Just four days after being re-elected as Federation Internationale de Football Association president, and even fewer days after declaring to the world, “I am the president of everybody, I am the president of the whole FIFA,” Sepp Blatter resigned from being the president of everybody.
The Loretta Lynch led investigation indicted 14 FIFA officials on May 27, and while America isn’t always the favorite country in the world, on that day, Loretta Lynch was the world’s Women Crush Wednesday and America was “alright.”
Soccer fans around the world rejoice. Sure, it may have taken way too long to come to this, but there is no time like the present.
The timeline for this begins years, even decades ago. Blatter refused to believe anything was wrong with his organization, but when the corruption, bribery, tax evasion, wire fraud, racketeering, and money laundering, among other charges began pouring out of the United States Department of Justice, Blatter decided it was finally too much.
FIFA is so out of touch with reality. With multiple people from within organizations that are members of FIFA being arrested, they all refused to acknowledge any wrongdoing.
When Swiss Police stormed a Zurich hotel in May, Blatter responded by saying, “Many people hold me responsible. I can’t monitor everyone all of the time. If people want to do wrong, they will also try to hide it.”
As one of the most powerful people in the world, Blatter is responsible for what happens under his watch in his organization. Is a captain in charge of his ship? Yes. Does Grizzly Adams have a beard? Obviously.
Former Vice president of FIFA and President of the Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) and one of the men charged, Jack Warner, cited an Onion article as to why the Federal Bureau of Investigation and DOJ were bringing forth these charges, and that FIFA panicked and gave the U.S. the 2015 World Cup. An Onion article! One of the world’s biggest satire news sites fooled one of the most powerful men in football. How!? Is there no one close to Warner that can tell him it’s fake?
Just a few days later, Warner turned on his former boss and promised to give the investigators evidence which proved that Blatter was aware and took part in the misdealings of FIFA. Talk about doing a 180.
Chuck Blazer, former FIFA Executive Committee member, is another former football bigwig who’s just lost it. In 2013, Blazer told federal court authorities that he had conspired with other FIFA Executive Committee members to accept bribes in conjunction with the failed bid of Morocco and the successful South African bid.
It’s widely assumed and accepted that Blazer has been the key “snitch” in the bid to bring an end to FIFA’s corruption.
Sure, Blazer may be on the winning side now, but he also is a complete loon. The man had two apartments in New York’s Trump Tower. Who needs two apartments? Well, Blazer. One for him and one for his cats. Yes, cats.
This is all pretty recent stuff, but in the lead up to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, the South African Football Association gave $10 million to Warner and Blazer to secure the 2010 tournament. Warner and Blazer pretty much got South Africa to out-bribe Morocco for the 2010 World Cup. The $10 million payment to Blazer and Warner was approved by FIFA’s secretary general Jerome Valcke.
In an effort to spin the story, and deny the men of any wrongdoing, FIFA blamed the incident on a dead guy. FIFA decided that former finance committee chief, Argentina’s Julio Grondona who died last year, was a better scapegoat than Valcke. Grondona was no angel either, making anti-semitic statements and verbally attacking the U.S. and England.
Let’s talk about the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.
Russia is inline to host the 2018 tournament, which may not seem that far fetched, but how can a country who doesn’t respect another’s borders host the world’s game? How can a country that lacks basic human rights host a tournament that people from all over the world come to see?
Russia routinely arrests groups of people for peacefully protesting. When the olympics came to Sochi in 2014, small groups of peaceful protesters were arrested and held at police stations for hours and sometimes days, without food or water.
The country has a “blogger law,” which requires any website with over 3,000 daily visitors to register as mass media. The law limits what users can post and allows the government to keep an eye on whether or not the kremlin approves. This law passed during the Ukraine crisis, so it went relatively undetected.
Most of the world was shocked when Qatar won the right to host the 2022 World Cup. Going only against the United States in the final voting round, the Americans were widely expected to win it. When Qatar came out the victor with a 14-7 win, the football community lost it.
Many questions were raised about the legitimacy of the vote. How can a Middle Eastern country, whose summer temperatures routinely reach 120 degrees fahrenheit, host a summer tournament?
Qatar, the country with the world’s third highest GDP, quickly responded with, “We’ll make air conditioned stadiums,” which quickly turned out to be a lie. Qatari companies hired what is essentially slave labor to build their non-air conditioned stadiums. Qatar is using migrant workers from nearby countries like India and Nepal to build their stadiums.
At this point in time, it’s estimated that over 1,200 migrant workers have already died building these stadiums, due to the heat and the working conditions. Upon arriving in Qatar, the workers are often stripped of their passports so that they have no option of returning home. The International Trade Union Confederation estimates that 4,000 migrant workers will die before the 2022 World Cup begins. That’s double the amount of people killed by Hurricane Katrina! That’s more people than were killed in the 9/11 attacks!
The fact that FIFA can sit by, and allow these ill-equipped and oppressed nations to host a tournament bigger than the olympics is beyond me.
The United States and American companies aren’t completely innocent either.
Companies like Coca-Cola, Visa and McDonald’s all sat idly by, with all of this information floating out there. Coca-Cola finally sent “a strongly worded letter” to Blatter after the arrests. Nothing mattered to these companies until that day. I understand there are literally billions of dollars at stake for these companies, but how many migrant workers have to die? How many human right infractions must Russia make to get these sponsors’ attention?
An unnamed sportswear company was also listed on the indictment. Now, this company, assumed to be Nike, signed a gigantic $200-million contract with the Brazilian football association to sponsor the Brazilian squad for 10 years.
Justice Department officials believe that Brazil received kickbacks and bribes from the company, while bidding for the 2014 World Cup. According to the indictment, “Sportswear Company A agreed to pay a Traffic affiliate with a Swiss bank account an additional $40 million in base compensation on top of the $160 million it was obligated to pay to CBF pursuant to the Agreement. On July 14, 1996, three days after the Agreement was signed, a representative of Sportswear Company A and a representative of Traffic Brazil (Co Conspirator #2) signed a one-page letter agreement acknowledging as follows: “CBF has authorized Traffic, or its designated banking agent, to invoice [Sportswear Company A] directly for marketing fees earned upon successful negotiation and performance of the . . . [Agreement].” Between 1996 and 1999, Traffic invoiced Sportswear Company A directly for $30 million in payments.”
No one is innocent. FIFA is corrupt top to bottom.
To step away from the illegalities of FIFA for a moment, what about the voting process and division of earnings?
Everyone complains about the electoral college, but it’s probably the most efficient way to determine a vote. But what if, California had the same number of electoral votes as Vermont or Wyoming?
It wouldn’t make sense at all. How can the state that has more people than the 21 least populated states have their vote count the same?
All the money earned in the World Cup is evenly divided among all 209 of FIFA’s members. So a country like, Brazil, who brings the one of the world’s best teams to every World Cup and has over 200 million people, share the exact same amount as Andorra, whose team has never qualified for a World Cup and has only won four games total.
So, while the winds of change are blowing in FIFA’s direction, expect more and more information to trickle out to the public. Expect more indictments, expect more corruption allegations and expect more arrests.
Thank you Loretta Lynch.