FIFA’s Ominously Lengthening Shadows

world-cupIt’s finally over. The month long FIFA World Cup is finally over.
Germany has returned home as World Champions for a fourth time, having its first victory in 24 years, to celebrations all over the country bordering on mayhem.
Argentinians engaged in their own variety of mayhem having been disappointed to lose in the final game of the tournament and in extra time at that.
At home in Brazil, the protestors who never stopped during the competition, must now feel all the more justified that theirs remains a legitimate reason to be out in full force on the streets and may well be preparing to launch an attach on the next big event at home, the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, in 2016.
Scolari has finally done what is expected of him, hightail it out of the post as Brazil’s coach. He failed to put together a team that would have given Brazilians reason to feel that they were still masters of the sport of Football, at least in their very own back yard.
Throughout the four years leading up to an including the FIFA World Cup in Brazil, we have been exposed to the many dark shadows that hound the world sporting body in so many ways.
FIFA’s Straws
An article in Bloomberg written by Tariq Panja dated 30 April 2013 carried the headline,
Bloomberg, Ex-FIFA President Joao Havelange Resigns After Bribes Found.
The article stated in part…The 96-year-old Brazilian quit his position as “honorary president” earlier this month, according to a report into payments made by the ISL marketing company released today by Hans-Joachim Eckert, a former German judge hired by FIFA to rule on ethics breaches.
Havelange and two former executive committee members — Ricardo Teixeira and South American federation president Nicolas Leoz — were named as accepting “not inconsiderable amounts” through “front companies in order to cover up the true recipient.”
Followers of the sport of Football may recall that Havelange was one of the persons featured in the critical analysis of the world of sport some years ago called, Lords of the Rings and was generally regarded as one of the major strongmen in global sport.
Rather interestingly, however, Sepp Blatter, General Secretary of FIFA under Havelange, emerged from the investigation unscathed. The report cleared current FIFA president Sepp Blatter of any criminal or ethical wrongdoing but described him as “clumsy” for not being aware of the payments to Havelange after ISL transferred 1.5 million Swiss francs ($1.6 million) into a FIFA account for the Brazilian.
Of course critics around the world may have adopted a different view after learning of the report. Some have had immense difficulty accepting Blatter’s seeming innocence given his longstanding relationship with Havelange who appointed him to the post of General Secretary in 1981, a position he held until Havelange’s departure that opened the door for his ascension to the top sport of President of the organization.
It should be noted according to Panja’s article… The ethics report does not state the total sum ISL paid but says the payments took place over eight years between 1992 and May 2000. A separate report released by a Swiss court last year said Havelange and Teixeira received at least $22 million between them.
Qatar and Russia
Since FIFA voted for the hosts of the World Cup for 2018 and 2022 won by Qatar and Russia respectively, there has been an ongoing debate as to the way in which things appeared to have been done. To many the process seemed uncomfortably flawed.
FIFA found itself having to conduct an investigation into itself, in a manner of speaking, relative to the voting.
Rob Harris of the Associated Press, in an article carried in the Globe and Mail on 2 June 2014, put it this way… The integrity of Qatar’s winning bid for the 2022 tournament has been repeatedly questioned since FIFA’s vote four years ago. The Sunday Times newspaper in Britain reported that it had obtained millions of pieces of evidence detailing irregular payments.
The way in which the voting took place and the several issues attendant to the vote have left many very concerned about the way F IFA does business. Indeed the very integrity is being called into question.
The same article by Rob Harris stated…
Four members of FIFA’s 24-man executive committee were banned or resigned following allegations of rule-breaking by bidders and favour-seeking made during bidding for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups… Bin Hammam challenged Sepp Blatter for the FIFA presidency in June 2011 but withdrew his candidacy days before the vote after being implicated in trying to bribe Caribbean voters. FIFA expelled Bin Hammam in 2012.
Trinidad and Tobago’s Vice President, Austin ‘Jack’ Warner, eventually resigned from FIFA. There were several challenges leveled at Warner including what saw as a coming together of he and Bin Hammam in the CONCACAF meeting in Trinidad and Tobago that severely dented the latter’s standing with FIFA and may well have led to his eventual withdrawal from the race for the presidency of the organization.
The British seemed particularly peeved at having lost out on their bid to host the World Cup and made a number of claims that must have piqued FIFA at its very core.
Many found it strange that the English FA turned up with a squad ion Trinidad and Tobago as part of that country’s FA’s celebration of 150 years of existence. In hindsight some may well hold the view that this agreement may have been an attempt to have Warner win the CONCACAF block of votes for England’s World Cup bid.
The English leveled an accusation at Warner claiming that he wanted a sport facility constructed in an area considered by some to be part of his political constituency.
The Trinidad Express newspaper of 17 March 2014 which stated…The Daily Telegraph in London yesterday reported that former FIFA vice-president Jack Warner and his family were paid almost US$2 million from a Qatari firm linked to the country’s successful bid for the 2022 World Cup.
According to the Telegraph, Warner appears to have been personally paid US$1.2 million from a company controlled by a former Qatari football official shortly after FIFA’s decision to award the country the tournament.
The point being made here is that the FIFA vote for the World Cups of 2018 and 2022 have caused many to come forward with challenges and several leaders in the sport have had to leave their prestigious positions with the organization.
As always the issue is whether individuals who would have attained the status that some of the FIFA members had, would so readily leave them if the accusations leveled against them had no merit.
Some wonder whether the FIFA big wigs who have had to leave their lofty positions were not acting much like athletes accused of using performance-enhancing substances. The latter are always eager to deny any knowledge of what is being referred to until they are backed into a corner with no room to escape the truth
While FIFA’s Ethics Committee has been making claims of uninhibited investigations not many followers of what has been happening with the organization are impressed. Making things worse was the apparent refusal by football great, Franz Beckenbauer of Germany, to adhere to requests by the FIFA Ethics Committee.
A Fox News story carried on 13 June 2014, one day after the officials tart of the World Cup in Brazil, stated… Former Germany great Franz Beckenbauer was banned from all football activities for 90 days by FIFA on Friday for not cooperating with an investigation into the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bid.
FIFA said the suspension was requested by ethics prosecutor, Michael Garcia, making Beckenbauer the first person to be punished as a result of the investigation into the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bid contests.
Beckenbauer refused “repeated requests for his assistance, including requests that he provide information during an in-person interview or in response to written questions provided in both English and German…”
It is difficult to understand why Beckenbauer would risk his global reputation in this way but that it in essence what he has done.
The truth is that the accusations of corruption in FIFA simply refuse to go away and it is not only football aficionados who are bothered by their continued existence and overall impact.
A CBS/AP article dated 8 June 2014 stated…Among the latest allegations were charges that Bin Hammam arranged government-level talks for Thailand’s FIFA executive Worawi Makudi to discuss a natural gas sale that the paper said was “potentially worth tens of millions of dollars to Thailand,” and was invited by Vladimir Putin to discuss sports-related relations between Russia and Qatar before their victories in the votes for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. The newspaper also alleged he made payments of $1.7 million to win support from Asian officials.
One wonders when FIFA would get to the whole truth about the Bin Hammam issue.
It is also important to ask whether FIFA would have opened up the can of worms on Bin Hammam if he had not chosen to run for the presidency against the incumbent, Sepp Blatter.
The concerns about the depths of issues surrounding Bin Hammam and others caught up in FIFA’s ever-lengthening shadows may lead some to ask for an investigation into the World Cup held in South Africa and whether there was any link between the award of the World Cup back then and the splitting of the African votes in the elections when Isaac Hayatou of Cameroon challenged Blatter for the FIFA presidency
In a previous article we made mention of Sony, a long timer sponsor of FIFA, relative to some of the allegations floating around the sport body. Now another sponsor has raised its concerns.
The same article referred to above (CBS/AP) stated… Adidas said it was concerned about renewed allegations of corruption.
“”The negative tenor of the public debate around FIFA at the moment is neither good for football nor for FIFA and its partners,” the German company said in a statement.
The World Cup ball provider spoke out following renewed claims of financial wrongdoing linked to Qatari former FIFA board member Mohamed bin Hammam and his country’s successful 2022 World Cup hosting bid.
With the World Cup now over the sporting fraternity would now return to business as usual.
The fact that Suarez committed what appears to have been his third bite on an opponent in the game of football has not negatively impacted his apparent worth to major football clubs.
The football playing countries would soon come to the realization that they are individually less important to the players they produce with their own resources than the professional clubs that employ them, much like we are witnessing with the West Indian cricketers.
While the World Cup continues to be FIFA’s biggest payday the shadows continue to lengthen over the sport as it engulfs the leadership.