Football, the beautiful game is undeniably the most popular one across the world and FIFA one of the richest sports body in the world. FIFA has long been accused of corruption, of inefficient processing of bids and for being a crony capitalist organization. But this time around, FIFA is embroiled in a full-blown scandalous crisis.
“World Cup of Fraud “
On 28th May, 2015, when the clock chimed 5 a.m in the yet sleepy Swiss town of Zurich, FIFA officials were arrested and ushered away under the cover of white sheets by plain clothed Swiss Police in unmarked cars. What followed has rocked the world of soccer. Turns out that seven have been arrested in Zurich amongst the total of 14 FIFA officials who have been charged in an explosive US Department of Justice indictment, over racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering.
Loretta Lynch, the US attorney general, said the Fifa officials had allegedly run a “rampant, systemic and deep-rooted” scheme to “acquire millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks”.
“These individuals and organizations engaged in bribery to decide who would televise games; where the games would be held; and who would run the organization overseeing organized soccer worldwide,” Lynch said.
The total graft and corruption charges amount to $150 million over a span of 20 years extending from the sale of TV rights to voting for which countries should be awarded the right to hold the World Cup and other tournaments.
Sepp Blatter re-elected as FIFA president
Joseph S. Blatter was re-elected as the FIFA president on Friday for his fifth term as his main challenger Prince Ali Bin al-Hussein conceded defeat.
Its almost miraculous that despite widespread criticisms, charges of graft and corruption, parallel investigations in US and Switzerland, Blatter has managed to hold on to his seat of authority. It is interesting to note that Sepp Blatter has a reported net worth of $20million with annual salary of $1.4million.
Source: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images
He can be said to be a pretty honest man (and a not so humble one), in his own words, he said “I am the president now, the president of everybody,” after winning a fifth term as head of Fifa.
Investigation of World Cup bids
Swiss prosecutors have simultaneously launched a criminal investigation looking into the awarding of world cup tournaments hosting to Russia and Qatar for year 2018 and 2022 respectively. There have been many legitimate concerns such as about the heat in which matches would be held and the treatment of migrant workers building the infrastructure underpinning the tournament in Qatar. Shockingly, it’s been estimated that 2022 World Cup will cost lives of 4,000 migrant workers in Qatar due to the poor living and working conditions in Qatar.
World Leaders come to the Fore
Due to the huge amount of cash and national prestige involved in hosting a FIFA world cup, it comes as no surprise that US investigations has given a respite to some grieving leaders (British PM: David Cameron) while it has angered some (Russian President: Vladimir Putin)
David Cameron has said Fifa president Sepp Blatter must resign, adding “the sooner that happens the better”.
Mr Putin has accused the United States of meddling in FIFA’s affairs, and trying to take away Russia’s World Cup. He described the arrests of senior FIFA officials in Zurich as “at best, odd,” and said they were the latest attempt by the US to extend its jurisdiction to other states.
To his defence, well the Brits and Americans were considered to be the most popular for the 2018 and 2022 teams respectively. The fact that their bids lost because of wide-spread corruption and inflated pockets of FIFA executives has led to the rise in temperatures, bruised egos and a fealty sworn by US Dept. of Justice to extract well, justice for the alleged wrong-doings of FIFA.
Summing up, world football is presently battling a self- inflicted crisis.
Hopefully, now that FIFA’s functioning is under the scanner, reforms will follow sooner or later. In the words of Sepp Blatter, it may all be the best : “For the game, for the world.”