FIFA’s descent into the Dark Ages

Alex Mitchell
Latest posts by Alex Mitchell (see all)

The worlds eyes once again return to sport, Looking on Brazil as they play host to the World Cup. Whilst international fans enjoy the show put on by the players, the Brazilian people are divided. With protests since 2012 and continuing throughout the World Cup against the high costs of hosting the games. You may have noticed a lack of speeches at the opening ceremony. This is due to the reaction of the crowds at the Confederations Cup where FIFA President Sepp Blatter and Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff were booed. A poll carried out in Brazil by the Pew Centre last week found a staggering 61% of Brazilians thought the World Cup is bad for their country because the money spent on the games could be put to better use.

The costs are mounting up with an estimated $14bn in total. With stadium costs being over 4 times the original estimate of $1.1bn. $900m has been pledged to cover security costs. It’s fast becoming the most expensive World Cup and this is at the expense of running of social projects.

Gary Huffbauer, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institution for International Economics told the LA Times “The World Cup could give Brazil a black eye”, amid a declining economy protesters demanded the money be used to help those in poverty, an estimated 16% of the country. One Brazilian said “These games are for FIFA not for Brazil”.

world cup stadium

President Rousseff’s political career hangs in the balance as she faces the electorate in October with declining popularity. The danger with the unpopularity towards the world cup is that the claims of corruption and overspending could spread like a disease from FIFA to the International Olympic Committee as Rio de Janeiro prepares to host the Olympics in 2016.

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Once the tournament reaches its finale in July the focus of the world cup will shift to the next host Russia in 2018, where no doubt the controversy that loomed over the Sochi Winter Olympics will surface once again. We are all aware I’m sure of Russia’s “anti-gay propaganda” law, which with no doubt lead to the increase in homophobic attacks and the marginalisation of the LGBT community. Not only that but the Moscow Bureau for Human Rights have stated that there are xenophobic and other racist traits in 50% of Russians with Amnesty International previously in 2006 saying that racism in Russia was out of control. We may see a repeat of the racist chants from the Ukrainian – Poland European Cup back in 2012. Ivorian player Yaya Touré has said that black footballers may boycott the 2018 games.

Further to this the 2022 World Cup in Qatar may feel like years away but it is already clouded in scandal, with allegations of bribes for votes hitting the news recently. Blatter decided to address the claims of bribery surrounding the Qatar bid by saying it was nothing more than hateful bigots out to destroy FIFA.

Let us not forget that Qatar too legislates against homosexuality and when Blatter was quizzed on this shortly after the winning bid was announced his reply was somewhat poorly thought through, stating “I’d say they should refrain from sexual activities.” He later apologised and in Blatter and FIFA’s defence they have passed tough new sanctions to combat racism and all forms of discrimination, however when posed with gay fans wanting to attend the Qatar world cup recently, Blatter said “What you are speaking about, I do not think it is part of racism, perhaps this is going in to ethics and morals.”

A debate similar to this occurred at my place of work. Each team was randomly assigned a country to support during the games. A colleague of mine was not pleased that she had been given Russia. She did not wish to support a country that attacked its own people for being gay. This was voiced and I added comments about the next two world cups being hosted in ant-gay countries. This was met with comments such as; “Calm down it’s a game”, “Chill out”  “Don’t bring socio-political views in to it”. It’s all well and good to say that when you yourself or a community you belong to isn’t being persecuted. When there is no ‘heterophobia’ in the sport. You may belittle or brush aside these views, however it just shows football has a long way to go if it wants to tackle discrimination. As for leaving Socio-political issues out of the World Cup. Look around, these games in Brazil are snowed under with these issues and the Qatar bribery claims are defiantly a political issue within FIFA. So think twice before ignoring these issues.

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Robbie Rogers

Steps to “tackle homophobia in football” have made giant leaps with Robbie Rogers and Thomas Hitzlsperger coming out whilst still playing football, the choice of the next two host nations for the world cup may make closeted players think twice before coming out for fear they might not be picked to play for their country if there is seen to be a risk to. Will we see eight years of no progress for gay football players? With the comments that have come out from the President of the organisation in charge of world football who could blame them? Here we see the comments from an out of touch FIFA President whose premiership itself has not been without controversy. Elected in 1998 and currently serving his fourth term as President. Blatter has faced allegations of financial mismanagement in a 30 page dossier compiled by his former Portégé Michael Zen-Ruffinen, which alleged the collapse of FIFA’s marketing partner International Sport & Leisure (ISL) led to losses of $100m. The Swiss authorities cleared Blatter, an internal investigation was halted by Blatter and led to the removal of Zen-Ruffinen from his post as Secretary General. In April 2012 The Council for Europe reported that it would be “Difficult to imagine” that Blatter would have been unaware of “Significant sums” paid to unnamed FIFA officials by ISL in connection to World cup television rights in 2001 which led to the collapse of ISL. FIFA’s Ethics committee cleared Blatter of any misconduct in 2013, however his predecessor, Joao Havelange resigned as honorary president having been found to have accepted bribes along with other former executives between 1992 and 2000.

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England fans will be no stranger to the fall out of goal line technology which peaked with the infamous Lampard goal against Germany in 2010

Having refused to allow goal-line technology this incident and the incident of Tévez’s goal that wasn’t in the Mexico vs Argentina game led to a rethink with goal-line technology having already played a part in the 2014 World Cup.

Blatter ran unopposed for his third term in 2007 and was once again unopposed for his fourth term in 2011 after Bin Hammam the Qatari who now finds himself at the centre of the Qatar bid scandal stepped aside. Though Blatter said he would not seek a fifth term as FIFA President after winning his fourth, he is showing little sign of stepping down at the next vote, although pressure is mounting in the anti-Blatter camp. It’s time to bring FIFA into the 21st Century with a 21st Century approach to the world, with a view of inclusion and accountability, a step away from the monarchical reign with elections that have become a formality rather than democratic. Enjoy this World Cup President Blatter for I hope the winds of change are coming.


About Alex Mitchell

Political observer and current affairs addict. I observe - I analyse - I debate