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FIFA Roundtable: Bon Voyage Sepp!

To say it has been a strange, rocky few weeks for FIFA and Sepp Blatter would be an understatement, but will it be transformative for a governing body widely known to be the most corrupt international sports organization in the world? A few of us here at DW muse over the recent events shaking things up at FIFA:

red-pill

Saqib Rahim: Taking the Red Pill

Listen, I didn’t think I was completely oblivious to soccer. I’ve watched the international game ever since I went to matches at World Cup ’94. I vaguely keep track of the megastars in the club game. I get pumped for every World Cup and I never miss a playoff game. I know what a vuvuzela is.

So it’s been jolting – and revolting – to learn that I wasn’t even seeing the tip of the FIFA iceberg. I wasn’t oblivious. Oblivious doesn’t begin to cover it.

I think what really gets me is that this isn’t just a huge soccer story. This is a proper international scandal, encompassing billions of dollars, a vast network of payoffs and back-scratching, and possibly even the hundreds of worker deaths that have occurred in Qatar. It is of the scope of Enron, Blackwater, or Wikileaks. It’s so much larger than what I thought soccer was.

When you get something that large, stories start to come out that are accordingly OMFG. One guy has actually used The Onion to defend himself. That’s a pretty good start for how cuckoo this whole this is, but it’s just small potatoes.

Here’s a nice big spud: As I understand, Sepp Blatter is in such hot doodoo that he can’t move. The US is building its case against him, which means if he visits a country with tight extradition laws, he’ll end up in a paddy wagon to the US.

Maybe the FIFA literate among you already understand this. But me? I’m more like: what the fucking fuck? Sepp Blatter is an internationally wanted man…à la Edward Snowden? Julian Assange?

I find this pretty puzzling: How are people confessing already? On Wednesday, news broke that a former US soccer official copped to helping FIFA take bribes. On Thursday, the Football Association of Ireland admitted it was paid off by FIFA to stop looking into the Thierry Henry handball that cost Ireland a chance to play in the 2010 World Cup. (Delightfully, they disagree on the amount of hush money. FIFA says $5 million, FAI says £5 million. Accounting is tricky stuff.)

This isn’t how it’s supposed to work at all. Where are the slippery defense lawyers? Shouldn’t this be dragged out in court for years, replete with denials and “allegedly”s? I feel like we missed a step. This shouldn’t be unraveling as it is.

***

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One of the rumored successors to Blatter is Michel Platini, current president of UEFA.

Seung Y. Lee: Next Man Up

Michel Platini is Diet Blatter, an opportunistic politician as corrupt as the FIFA lot who were recently arrested by the DoJ. The Washington Post reported that Platini allegedly received a Picasso from Putin for his vote and to whip up UEFA votes for the Russian bid to host the 2018 World Cup.His son works under the Qatari owners of Paris Saint-Germain football club, and he voted for Qatar in the 2022 World Cup bidding process and has previously called the anti-Qatar media and Football Associations as “conspirators.”

Many also believe that Euro 2016, which is going to be at Platini’s homeland France, won because Platini nudged the French bid over the arguably more prepared bid from Turkey.In sum, Platini’s recent antics are a push to get himself elected for the FIFA presidency, not because of some idealistic hope. The most decent man who might run for FIFA presidency again is Michel van Praag.

***

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Brian Wong: Just a Regular Day In Switzerland

Tuesday Morning, press conference at FIFA Headquarters in Zurich:

FIFA Spokesman: Hello everyone, thank you for joining us here today we are about to get started. President Bladder, I mean Blatter, will be delivering his remarks in French. Assisting him is Ernst B., who will translate from French to Bond villain.

Blatter slowly edges up to the podium, careful after a previous run in with podiums, ledges, and gravity.

Sepp: I have been reflecting deeply about my presidency and about the forty years in which my life has been inextricably bound to FIFA and the great sport of football.

Ernst: Have I really been doing this for that long? I must say, when you’re taking bribes, angering entire continents, and having fun, time flies.

Sepp: I felt compelled to stand for re-election, as I believed that this was the best thing for the organization.

Ernst: That was cute when you came out and backed Prince Ali, fabulous he. I won this one for spite. Platini’s face: priceless. It was all worth it for that.

Sepp: While I have a mandate from the membership of FIFA, I do not feel that I have a mandate from the entire world of football — the fans, the players, the clubs, the people who live, breathe and love football as much as we all do at FIFA.

Ernst: Thank you FIFA for keeping me around, together we were able to fight off the hatred of the world for four decades, no easy task.

Sepp: Therefore, I have decided to lay down my mandate. I will continue to exercise my functions as FIFA President until that election…I will urge the Executive Committee to organize an Extraordinary Congress for the election of my successor at the earliest opportunity.

Ernst: I quit. But not right now, more like at a time in the future, on a date I have not yet chosen. But it’s coming!

Sepp: Since I shall not be a candidate, I shall be able to focus on driving far-reaching, fundamental reforms that transcend our previous efforts. For years, we have worked hard to put in place administrative reforms, but it is plain to me that while these must continue, they are not enough.

Ernst: With no more elections to rig or bribes to pay, I’m going to have some free time. Free time for painting, for frolicking, but not free time for visiting America. I hear there’s nothing to see there anyway, we’ve got Disneyland in Paris.

Sepp: The size of the Executive Committee must be reduced and its members should be elected through the FIFA Congress. The integrity checks for all Executive Committee members must be organised centrally through FIFA and not through the confederations.

Ernst: Confederations, you have done a great job of providing members to stock our committees who are eager to be bribed. I mean really, they can’t get enough of it. And to ensure that pipeline continues,FIFA’s still going to have to check out your nominations to ensure their integrity is miniscule. You could try to slip a good one by us and we can’t have that.

Sepp: I have fought for these changes before and, as everyone knows, my efforts have been blocked. This time, I will succeed.

Ernst: I have been trying to get them to name the building after me for YEARS. I already called dibs on Chuck Blazer’s next cat.

Sepp: It is my deep care for FIFA and its interests, which I hold very dear, that has led me to take this decision.

Ernst: To be clear, I am not resigning because of the investigations. Or because Loretta has me on speed dial at this point. Or because once the Americans get people to roll over, it’s only a matter of time. None of those things. This one is all about Sepp. I mean FIFA. All about FIFA.

Sepp: I would like to thank those who have always supported me in a constructive and loyal manner as President of FIFA and who have done so much for the game that we all love. What matters to me more than anything is that when all of this is over, football is the winner.

Ernst: Thank you to my henchmen and minions who served so loyally over the years, we have done so much for this game,instituting a system of corruption and bribery, eschewing accountability, and making money without paying taxes. Blatter out.

***

October 24, 2011 in Doha, Qatar.

Serenity Joo: Everything Old is New Again

I’m struck by the question of why now. Why Qatar? As if the other World Cups before weren’t equally corrupt and filled with bribes. I remember the outcry in general when Qatar won (bought) the bid. There was a sense of “Where is Qatar? That’s not an important country. Just because some rich people live there doesn’t mean they get to host an international event.” There’s an assumption that World Cup and Olympics should be hosted in respectable, first world countries; and that third world, rich (brown?) folks are all inherently corrupt.

It’s not difficult to see a reassertion of Western dominance/imperialism as part of the DOJ motive. Those arrested are mostly from the S. American/Caribbean parts of FIFA (CONMEBOL, CONCACAF), which are mostly comprised of European ex-colonies. It could be the classic idea that imperialist countries like to use/abuse their colonies for profit, but then take great offense when those colonies start to act like powerful countries themselves. I think it’s hubris, stemming from a lack of accountability. It changes the perspective when you see FIFA’s operations as a familiar system of colonizers vs. colonized, first world vs. third world, with the latter entities being put back in their place.

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