I didn’t really feel anything when news broke on Wednesday that numerous FIFA officials had been arrested on corruption charges. Nor did I feel any strong urge to write and emphasise how incredibly appalled I should have felt. Some members of FIFA have been accused of corruption. So what?
But what changed my mind was the actual FIFA presidential election that took place in the following days. Sepp Blatter won, but what annoyed me was that I seemed to have more opinions about Blatter’s victory than David Cameron’s victory in the recent General Election.
Yet here I am, trying to get my head around this whole concept of democracy and fairness that is so synonymous with FIFA. After all, this is the FIFA that gave World Cups to the democratic republic of Russia, and soccer legends Qatar. The latter country, let’s not forget, has worked over a thousand people to death. Unfathomable. However, we have ended up with an almost universally disliked decision of reinstating Blatter as supreme football overlord.
First of all, it’s probably best to check out which of Blatter’s associates have been implicated in this recent controversy. Rafael Esquivel, president of the Venezuelan Football Federation, is one member arrested, as well as Eduardo Li, president of the Costa Rican Football Federation. The arrests have mainly centred around fraud and money laundering in the Americas and are not necessarily linked to the future World Cups in 2018 and 2022.
Jack Warner, former vice-president of FIFA, has also been arrested, and not for the first time has he been involved in a bribery scandal engulfing the federation. This time, sons Daryan and Daryll have also been involved. Like father like son eh?
Perhaps the most damning of all, FIFA vice president and head of CONCACAF, Jeffrey Webb, has also been arrested. Surely with his empire falling beside him, Blatter must lose the upcoming election. Prince Ali bin Hussein should win and provide a hopefully refreshing facelift to FIFA.
Although Blatter didn’t win a majority (it kind of ended up as a hung parliament, except he couldn’t rely on FIFA’s equivalent of Nick Clegg to form a coalition), bin Hussein withdrew after the first round of voting, sensing the inevitable. Other candidates to stand included Jérôme Champagne (who withdrew in February), Michael van Praag, Luís Figo and Paddy Power’s publicity puppet David Ginola. Figo and van Praag were the last men to withdraw, both realising that the best chance of ejecting Blatter from his throne was for it to be a head-to-head battle, and so promoted bin Hussein’s campaign instead. It was all in vain though, as Blatter received 133 votes to the Prince’s 73.
I would not dare say that votes were bought to swing this election, however there were allegations of this practice in the 2011 election, which resurfaced in the aforementioned corruption case. It’s interesting to see how the voting process for the election actually worked. It’s like a more boring, tedious version of Eurovision. Every country submits their vote in a small booth in the arena where the election takes place. Honestly I’d rather Nigella Lawson standing in front of a green screen, “Twelve points go to….Blatter!”
Every member of FIFA has an equal vote. Although beautifully democratic in principle, it does raise the point of why? It’s difficult to argue that France, Brazil or England input the same to the world of football than New Caledonia or Uzbekistan. So, in theory, a small favour to an impartial country’s delegate could be a vote to either Blatter or bin Hussein. But this is purely theoretical, and until the next scandal inevitably overwhelms FIFA, we can only hypothesise.
All the threats of boycotting the World Cup will likely lead to nothing, and with the support of Blatter from Africa (who marginally have the most FIFA members), any attempt to force through change by the anti-Blatter UEFA will be fruitless. Opinions have not been limited to the footballing world either, with the nominal president of the FA, Prince William, voicing his opinion.
But we now have four more years to tolerate, and let’s face it, there are bigger injustices in the world to focus on. To reiterate, people are dying in Qatar to bring this so-called beautiful game to their nation. It’s horrific.
Blatter has recently spoken post-election victory to accuse the British media of attempting to topple his reign. Perhaps the only true thing he’s said throughout this whole farce.