Football, as the cliche often suggests, is a religion to many. The stadiums are a fan’s chapel and their chants of support, their hymns. FIFA would therefore be most fan’s God.
The Fédération Internationale de Football Association has been a mainstay of sport and the sole representative of football around the world for the past 110 years. They help build pitches for communities, they set the rules and arguably, most importantly, hold one of the biggest tournaments in the world; The FIFA World Cup, about to be kicked off in Rio de Janeiro in a couple of days.
While the organisation is a governing body, their motives are otherwise a little shady. Led by their elected President, Sepp Blatter, they claim to be a for non-profit entity, but they have a monetary reserve of over $1bn. While they may seemingly only govern the world of football, they aggressively impose their rules on other nations; Brazil have protested against FIFA’s bypassing of laws regarding the ban of alcohol within stadiums to make way for their sponsorship with Budweiser. Brazil was successfully pressured into passing the ‘Budweiser Bill’ after the secretary general announced FIFA’s intentions of refusing to budge. This is a lot more worrying considering that Brazil’s problems with alcohol in stadiums were so bad that in many matches, it was a regular occurrence that fans would die. Nothing says they care more when they prioritize corporate deals over public safety. This isn’t even the first time they have meddled with the law. In 2010, South Africa was dictated in creating 56 FIFA World Cup Courts; one of which managed to convict and jail two Zimbabwean thieves within two days on 15 year sentences – at least they are efficient.
Recently, investigations into the voting processes of FIFA have been called due to the largely controversial decision to select Qatar as the host nation of the World Cup in 2022. While it is fair to give every country a fair shake of the stick with regards to hosting such a lucrative event, the Emirate nation has failed to meet many human rights laws. As an immigrant worker, you are not permitted to leave the country if you leave your job without the permission of your boss, leaving many stranded, destitute. Due to the at times laxidasical health standards, extreme working temperatures (summer temperatures can reach 50 degrees celcius) and influx of cheap migrant workers, since the awarding in 2010, an estimated 1,200 Nepalese and Indian workers have died due to football related infrastructure (with an estimated death toll of roughly 4000 expected before a kick of a ball). Qatar are so poorly equipped for the tournament that all eight of the stadiums that were designed to host have to bebuilt from scratch and bafflingly, some of the cities in which the stadiums reside will have to be built – the World Cup Final host city, Lusail, does not exist at this moment. Not even including the excruciating reorganizing of the footballing year in order for teams to actually show up, it is very clear that Qatar are grotesquely unprepared to host such a prestigious event.
This is why calls for bribery investigation are met with feelings of inevitability rather than surprise. Vice president, Jack Warner was one of a few who lost his job after being linked with accepting bribes from foreign officials in 2011. While highly embarrassing for FIFA in the build up to a major event, Sepp’s reaction was largely unexpected. Blatter claimed that such bribery investigations leveled at FIFA are fuelled largely by racism.
“Once again there is a sort of storm against Fifa relating to the Qatar World Cup,” he said. “Sadly there’s a great deal of discrimination and racism and this hurts me.”
This “discrimination” against FIFA’s whispers of bribery are outwith race or color of skin. When in Sepp’s case, if all he can smell is excrement, he might as well check his shoe before making accusations. While England, Japan and Australia among many, may feel embittered by the alledged goings on between FIFA officials and Qatari representatives, the allegations must still be treated with impartiality by the members who govern our game regardless of its merit.
The growing discontent against Blatter is palpable. Among a laundry list of social faux-pas including sexism and the denial of match racism (Dani Alves would disagree), he has largely failed to keep control of an organization with both the presidents of the Netherlands and the UK calling for his head. After serving FIFA as the face of football for the past 16 years, he has become too big a person to fall, with a new announcement for a fifth term met with severe criticism.While at times, FIFA have been compared to a mafia in the way they operate, it seems Sepp’s control of many situations leading up to now are getting looser and ever more slippery as days go by. How long will this train of problems continue to roll along?