The FIFA snowball keeps on building

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Although lingering on the lips of most people even remotely involved in football, it was officially confirmed the other week that FIFA are corrupt. Numerous officials had been arrested on corruption charges, and I wrote an article about it. The most depressing part about this whole scandal was not that our beautiful game had been tainted, but that I had to re-write this article to keep up to date with all of the developing affairs.

Sepp Blatter originally won the election, but then decided to fall on his sword that he had spent the past 17 years crafting. Amidst all the corruption, whether you deem it noble or cowardly, Blatter has resigned as head of FIFA. For context, here is what’s caused all of this mess.

FIFA had handed World Cups to the democratic Russia, and soccer legends Qatar. Questions have been raised of both decisions, which are yet to be answered. On 27th May, Rafael Esquivel (president of the Venezuelan Football Federation), Eduardo Li (president of the Costa Rican Football Federation) and many more had been implicated in an FBI led inquiry. The arrests mainly centred around fraud and money laundering in the Americas, and were not necessarily linked to the future World Cups in 2018 and 2022. However over time, the inquiries have spread dramatically.

Jack Warner, former vice-president of FIFA, had also been arrested, and not for the first time he has 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, was arrested. Surely with his empire falling beside him, Blatter would have lost the upcoming election the following day. Prince Ali bin Hussein should surely have won and provided a potentially 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. It would be easy to spend lots of words speculating whether money had exchanged hands in order to swing this election. But with the amount of genuine stories coming out indicting FIFA, it’d be wasteful.

The almost fictitiously named Chuck Blazer, former executive member of FIFA, was implicated in 2013, and became an FBI informant in their quest to cleanse the footballing organisation. Fair play where it’s ironically due, Blazer has perhaps become the most influential figure in unveiling the true extent of FIFA’s corruption.

But this only revealed more damning evidence against the American. Transcripts from court cases have been released, showing that bribing had become a regular aspect of bidding processes during the 1990s, with money being involved in the 1998 and 2010 World Cups. Usually that sentence would start with ‘unbelievably’, but it’s all too believable now.

South Africa had supposedly paid to obtain these hosting duties for 2010, which led many to claim that this was just an unjust smear campaign against African countries. It is probably also worth noting that all African FIFA members were said to have voted for Blatter in the election. But soon, people claimed that anti-Blatter European countries were dirty too, as news broke that money was also exchanged in the 1998 bidding process, which saw France host the World Cup. That was before people realised that it was actually Morocco who transferred money in exchange for what was ultimately fruitless votes.

Not just the World Cups were affected, but Blazer (amongst others) ‘agreed to accept bribes in conjunction with rights to the 1996, 1998, 2000, 2002, and 2003 Gold Cups.’ The Gold Cups for reference, being the biannual tournament between Caribbean, North and Central American countries. With the increasing numbers of events having been heavily influenced, it’s impossible to look at some tournaments with an 100% knowledge of it being pure.

Originally people thought these wrongdoings were just recent, but the fact that some dodgy dealings are over 20 years old has surely given FIFA an irreparable reputation. More details are being revealed now that provoke laughs rather than frowning faces. It turns out that FIFA paid the Irish FA $5 million to keep quiet about Thierry Henry’s deliberate handball in their World Cup qualifier in 2009. And there is also a rumour (which must be stressed as a rumour) that Germany gave Saudi Arabia arms in exchange for a vote. What’s worse, is that General Secretary Jérôme Valcke knew all about this.

So it’s quite obvious that FIFA is in turmoil. With no actual president at the moment, it begs the question how long this will remain, and when will the revelations stop? The slightly delusional Jack Warner has threatened to spill an ‘avalanche’ of secrets, but let’s just hope that it’s all information we pretty much knew.

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