Soccer is the world's sport.
In fact, in every country but the US, it's called football. Most people already know that though, even as casual fans. What they don't know is that the crisis currently ripping through the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) makes the NFL crisis look like child's play.
In a few words, FIFA is faced with a bribery scandal. The long embattled Sepp Blatter—president of FIFA since June 1998—swears that the organization is not in a crisis.
His contention is that the allegations of bribery on the part of two FIFA executives (Mohamed bin Hammam and Jack Warner) are unfounded and that Caribbean leaders were not paid $40,000 to vote for bin Hammam's FIFA presidential bid.
Here's the thing. Blatter's term as FIFA president is up in December, meaning the upcoming election to determine whether or not he serves a fourth term is extremely important.
What makes it more important is that bin Hammam was the sole competition for Blatter's position as FIFA president. For some reason though, Blatter doesn't see it as an issue that the election shouldn't happen, despite his organization mired in turmoil and his lone competitor at the heart of that turmoil.
This is where it gets even more interesting.
Qatar was recently awarded the 2022 World Cup (Russia got it in 2018) and bin Hammam just so happens to be in Qatar. When Qatar was awarded the World Cup over England and the United States eyebrows were raised that Qatar "bought" the World Cup.
Now, their own bin Hammam is part of the scandal regarding bribery about his being elected the new FIFA president.
Blatter is content to bury his head in the sand and take the approach that there is no crisis, as evidenced by the gem below.
"Crisis? What is a crisis? Football is not in a crisis," Blatter said. "We are not in a crisis, we are only in some difficulties and these difficulties will be solved—and they will be solved inside this family."
It's hard to discern what Blatter's thinking here. Is he worried that this will reflect poorly on his presidential candidacy, that such bribery happened on his watch? Or is he concerned that this news will reveal the even more damning allegations that Qatar bought the 2022 World Cup?
FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke admitted emailing Warner that bin Hammam might have been thinking that "you can buy FIFA as they bought the WC." Yes, the same Warner as the Jack Warner mentioned earlier.
The whole thing gets even more scandalous when you realize that it was Chuck Blazer, the American general secretary of CONCACAF and a long-time FIFA executive panel member, who started this whole thing by submitting a file of evidence accusing the bribery.
Was he just upset because the US lost the bid to Qatar? Or did he really submit it on behalf of FIFA's executive committee? And is Blatter downplaying it because it's coming from the US?
Regardless of his thought process, FIFA is at a crossroads here. Numerous sponsors, such as Adidas, Coca-Cola and Visa have urged postponing the election until the mess is sorted out. Transparency International, a German-based anti-corruption watchdog, has even called for the election to be postponed, issuing the following statement.
"Free and fair elections cannot take place when there is a suspicion that voters may have been swayed," spokeswoman Sylvia Schenk said. "FIFA should be setting a better example to its billions of supporters and especially to young fans that look to the sport for inspiration and role models."
If Blatter's goal is to single-handedly kill all the momentum soccer/football is building as an international sport he's doing a phenomenal job. You can't argue that in the US at least, the national team's run in last year's tournament has had a profound effect on interest domestically.
It's still not on the same level as the rabid fan bases in certain other countries, but it's miles ahead of where it was since even the World Cup in 2006. This scandal only furthers the perception that soccer is won and lost in backroom deals though and not on the pitch.
The election needs to be postponed. The Qatar bid for the World Cup should be investigated along with bribery allegations on the part of bin Hammam. Blazer should be questioned to discover his motivation in exposing the supposed bribery.
FIFA must work to cleanse its reputation as a greedy, corrupt organization now in its 107th year of governing the finest international sport there is. It all comes back to Blatter though and FIFA just needs to get rid of him.
You can't spell "embattled" without Blatter.
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