FIFA’s tour de farce

Christian Soler on May 28, 2015 05:00 PM
FIFA’s tour de farce
Considered the world’s most powerful sporting figure, Blatter is now front and center of a larger-than-life corruption scandal that has finally surfaced on the legal front after the arrests of some of his closest associates in Zürich, Switzerland last May 27 (source: Getty Images).

Twitter: @christiansoler


I'm for truth, no matter who tells it. I'm for justice, no matter who it's for or against – Malcolm X


THE world’s beautiful game is governed by the world’s filthiest personalities. At long last, what was common knowledge will now be subjected to intense scrutiny in the halls of justice.

FIFA’s slogan reads, “For the game, for the world.” To say this is a complete lie is putting it mildly. Under the totalitarian, hooligan-like rule of Sepp Blatter, who’s been this corrupted organization’s leader through four leap years, five World Cups, 12 Chelsea managers, and 13 Copa Libertadores champions, FIFA has been marred by documented cases of bribery, kickbacks, and wire frauds. The earth-shattering arrests of top FIFA officials in Zürich, Switzerland last May 27 by Swiss authorities, in conjunction with the United States’ Department of Justice, are by far the most drastic moves to clean up the governing body. Its story is the stuff of fiction. Only, it’s not. Below is a timeline cloaked in greed, avarice, and the power of money.

2004: The FIFA Executive Committee, a 24-person body composed of Blatter, eight vice-presidents – one each from five confederations [AFC, CAF, CONCACAF, CONMEBOL, OFC] and the combined football associations of England, Scotland, Wales, and the Republic of Ireland, and two from UEFA – begins reviewing bids for the 2010 World Cup, which would historically be held for the first time in Africa. In a trip to Morocco, one of the candidate countries to host the tournament, Chuck Blazer, an American representing CONCACAF in the Executive Committee, is offered a $1 million bribe by the Moroccan bid committee in exchange for his vote. Shortly after, Blazer learns that the South African bid committee, together with the South African government, was preparing $10 million for his, and two other Executive Committee members’ votes. In May of that year, Blazer and two co-conspirators indicated they had voted for South Africa, which beat out Morocco and Egypt for the right to host the Cup.

2010: After an inspection committee visit to Qatar in September, the governing body shocks the world by awarding the 2022 World Cup to Qatar, which had garnered 14 of the 22 eligible Executive Committee votes. At the time of the vote, the Middle Eastern nation only had one stadium that would pass FIFA World Cup criteria. A second one already in existence would be expanded, while 10 more – including a venue the media and observers criticized for resembling a vagina – were mere proposals. The United States ended up second in the voting. England is likewise humiliated after losing out to Russia for the 2018 edition.

The proposed 40,000-seat Saoud bin Abdul Rahman Al-Thani Stadium in Al Wakrah, whose design is shrouded in irony considering the ‘conservatism’ of the host nation, but one that would validate psychology cult hero Sigmund Freud (source: IBN).

March 2011: Blatter announces his intention to run for a fourth term as FIFA president. Executive Committee member and Qatari Mohamed bin Hammam, president of the AFC and one of the men perceived to be responsible for Qatar’s winning bid in scrupulous circumstances, declares his intention to run against Blatter. In response, the incumbent pledges $1 billion to each of the then-208 member associations in ‘development’ funds. His, and anyone’s election, hinges on the one association-one vote structure FIFA employs.

May 2011: A member of the English Football Association accuses the Qatar bid committee of bribery based on statements from two whistleblowers from the English paper Sunday Times, who said they had been informed that two Executive Committee members each received $1.5 million to vote for Qatar. Another two Executive Committee members were alleged to ask for favors in exchange for their votes – one demanded honorary knighthood and another, in the person of Jack Warner of CONCACAF, solicited $4 million for an education center in his country. Later, English daily The Telegraph reveals Warner had received $2 million from a Qatari firm for his vote.

In the same month, FIFA suspends bin Hammam and Warner for purportedly dangling $1 million to members of Caribbean Football Union, a sub-unit of CONCACAF similar to how the ASEAN Football Federation is affiliated with the AFC, as a trade-off for voting for bin Hammam. Blatter runs unopposed and wins while pledging it would be his final term as president. Hours after his suspension, Warner reveals an email indicating that Qatar had “bought” the World Cup. FIFA secretary-general Jérôme Valcke confirms the veracity of the e-mail. 

July 2012: In an attempt to cleanse itself before the court of public opinion, FIFA employs an American lawyer, Michael J. Garcia, to probe allegations of corruption. Garcia then declares his intention to look into the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bids.

December 2012: One of the concerns raised by numerous FAs is the feasibility of holding the Qatar World Cup in the traditional summer months because of searing temperatures reaching as high as 46°C (115°F). The secretary-general of the Qatar 2022 supreme committee insists it was possible to stage the tournament in the summer months.

July-August 2013: A member of FIFA’s Executive Committee, Theo Zwanzinger (Germany and UEFA), calls the awarding of the World Cup to Qatar “a blatant mistake.” Soon after, Blatter himself says FIFA made “a mistake” in awarding the tournament to the Arab country.

November 2013: Human rights group Amnesty International expresses grave concerns over the treatment of migrant workers brought in to help build the World Cup stadia. In a documentary released by US network ESPN, a migrant rights advocate predicts that by the time the 2022 World Cup is staged, 4,000 foreign workers would have died due to inhumane labor conditions.

June 2014: The Sunday Times accuses bin Hammam of paying football officials roughly $4.6 million to secure a victorious Qatari bid.

September 2014: Garcia submits a 430-page report on the Russian and Qatari World Cup bids.

October 2014: FIFA’s top arbitrator, Hans-Joachim Eckert, decides against releasing the Garcia Report, citing legal reasons. A month later, Eckert releases a 42-page, supposed summary of Garcia’s findings, which among others clears Russia and Qatar of any wrongdoings while taking a swipe at the England bid for the 2018 tourney for improperly behaving to gain the support of individuals like Warner.

December 2014: Garcia resigns from his post as ethics investigator, citing Eckert’s “numerous materially incomplete and erroneous representations of the facts and conclusions detailed in [my] report.” Sports Illustrated senior soccer writer Grant Wahl anonymously quotes sources familiar to the report who claimed that the Garcia dossier was damning in its indictment of Blatter, and citing the Executive Committee’s sense of entitlement and insulation from FIFA’s binding rules. Garcia’s appeal against the veracity of the ‘Eckert Decision’ is turned down by the organization.

May 27, 2015: Swiss authorities raid a hotel housing some of FIFA’s top executives in Zürich, arresting seven FIFA officials preparing for the 65th FIFA Congress, which would run parallel to an election two days later in which Blatter is slated to run and win, unopposed once again. The arrests were made in conjunction with a Federal Bureau of Investigation probe that linked the officials to wire fraud, racketeering, and money laundering in a 24-year period amounting to $150 million. The seven officials are to be extradited to the U.S.

In a separate operation, Switzerland is launching a criminal inquiry on the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bids after seizing electronic data on the same day as the arrests. Blatter, as of writing, is not one of the individuals arrested or subject to inquiry by the U.S. and Switzerland, respectively.

One of the seven arrested FIFA officials, Jeffrey Webb is currently one of the Executive Committee’s eight vice-presidents. Conveniently, Webb is a national of the Cayman Islands, a notorious tax haven and cash stash house (source: Sky Sports UK)


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