THE FALL OF FIFA
There were stories of corruption in the football federation
Bribery and payoffs were a constant allegation.
The rumors kept on coming but they didn’t seem to matter
‘Til the companies that paid the bills had had enough of Blatter.
Back in July of last year I blogged about the award by the International Football Federation (FIFA) assigning the 2022 Football World Cup competition to Qatar, which has a total indigenous population of 300,000 (plus 1.7 million foreign migrant workers), intolerable summer heat, and no professional football clubs. I summed it up as follows:
The story is long, I’ll make it much briefer:
The claim is they paid off officials of FIFA.
And yet I am sure that they made their decision
Strictly on Qatar’s great football tradition.
Allegations quickly appeared that the fix was in for the 2018 choice of Russia as well as the Qatar decision, though Russia at least made sense as a football power. But all the protests were brushed aside by the federation’s executives and their president, Sepp Blatter.
Until in June 2015 the U.S., alleging bribery and corruption taking place on U.S. soil, and Switzerland, FIFA’s home base, brought criminal charges against fourteen top FIFA officials. Initially Blatter was not included. In fact, he stood successfully for re-election as the federation’s president.
Outrage erupted and satirists poured on the ridicule. John Oliver devoted his weekly show to the issue. He had been raging against FIFA ever since the previous World Cup in Brazil. Now, as a football loving Brit, he complimented the U.S. for taking the initiative: “It took the country that cares least about football to bring down the people who have been ruining it.” But he would not be satisfied as long as Blatter was still there, and he even offered, shudderingly, to drink an ice-cold bottle of Bud Lite Lime as though it were champagne, if only the World Cup’s corporate sponsors would apply pressure to get rid of Blatter. Two days later Blatter resigned, and Oliver posted a one-word tweet, “champagne”, with a picture of an ice- cold bucket of Bud Lite.
It’s unlikely, of course, that Oliver alone brought Blatter down. But two other satirists could claim direct hits.
Onion, after several digs at Qatar, such as: “Migrant laborers working 18 hours a day on FIFA legal defense”, fooled an indicted former FIFA vice-president, Jack Warner, with its headline: “FIFA Frantically Announces 2015 Summer World Cup in the United States. Global Soccer Tournament To Kick Off Later This Afternoon.” Warner’s video response before it was edited out: “If the FIFA is so bad, why is it that the US wants to keep the World Cup?”
And when The New Yorker’s Andy Borowitz invented a quote by Senator John McCain: “We must make FIFA taste the vengeful might and fury of the United States military,” an opinion piece in the Russians state newspaper Rossiiskaya Gazeta declared indignantly that McCain‘s statements made it clear that the U.S. was ready to bomb “any place on the planet,” and that American politicians had lost touch with reality.
Which again raises the question: Which is the satire, and which the reality?