3 June 2011
Widespread corruption, gross wealth and a deeply unpopular leader whose behaviour has provoked a fierce reaction from his own people – so called rebels on a mission to bring him down. A building wrath from the international community and a fraught electoral system.
No this isn't Libya under the dictatorial regime of Colonel Gaddafi, it is FIFA under Sepp Blatter.
For every football lover, this should be a damning comparison.
Blatter, the self-appointed captain of the ship, has been reinstated unopposed as football governing body's president and with it injected a fresh booster of venom into the veins of the sport.
For FIFA is a poisoned body, or as the man himself has described it, a “ship in troubled waters”.
Whichever way you want to put it, instead of setting it “back on course”, it is time for Blatter to walk the plank.
From the day he took over the role from João Havelange, Blatter has acted with an irrational, inflated sense of self and promoted the basest of cultures. His very first days were scandal-ridden and blighted by controversy. Not much has changed since.
The entire principle of leading FIFA should be about football, not politics, not personalities, and Blatter has proven not to be someone who follows that guideline.
Like Colonel Gaddafi – he continues to rule in state of delusion, somehow believing that despite widespread criticism and signs the organisation is broken, all is well. “My people love me” is the catch cry of the North African dictator; Blatter would be wise not to make the same public assumption.
The “sweeping” changes he announced during his presidential inauguration were token measures designed to create an impression of a new openness and a departure from back-room dealings and dirty cash. All nations will now vote for future locations of World Cups – cynics and Marxists alike might call that “spreading the wealth”.
The 17 votes against Blatter in the election were a mild sting; bees brave enough to make the bear angry. British officials making a stand were courageous; the nature of the beast means they will likely fall steeply down through FIFA's deep hierarchy. Equally, the FFA's silence over the issue typifies Australia's unstable and timid role on the world football stage. It is difficult to imagine many other scenarios where we wouldn't protest, or at least investigate, widespread claims of corruption.
Now, football has never been a pure pastime – just take a look at your average English High Street punter (not pretty). But, the months following the shock selection of Qatar as the 2022 World Cup hosts have been unprecedented in their dubiousness.
Qatar was always an odd choice to host one of the world's largest events. An emirate state scorched by encroaching desert and a crippling summer. A nation with little football history, let alone success and laws that heavily restrict alcohol, ban homosexuality and do little to protect human rights.
Much of the required infrastructure (there are no stadiums, railways etc) will be performed by immigrant labourers, and Ramadan will fall around the months the World Cup is normally held. Sure, these large sporting organisations have fallen in love with the idea of taking their respective games to new frontiers, but Blatter's commentary about many of these issues epitomised his ignorance of significant issues central to the World Game.
What may have swung influence Qatar's way is a result of massive investment worth hundreds of millions of dollars to develop lucrative oil and natural gas reserves in the country – from all accounts, that money has been dripped into the open pockets of FIFA executives.
Blatter continues to deny any complicity with the notion Qatar “bought” the World Cup, yet there is mounting evidence that corruption is endemic within FIFA – the place he has an all-seeing eye over, his baby. And, while the winds of change have blown through the Arab world, most of FIFA's congress seems disturbingly content with their lavish status quo.
Of course, they are comfortable; a FIFA executive role is akin to a golden ticket to Willy Wonka's factory, only for adults.
As the days pass and the scandals stack up, FIFA will continue to lose credibility and legitimacy, which is a situation that can only hurt the game's development throughout the world. Unlike Libya, FIFA is too powerful to become a pariah – making the potential for collapse all the more dangerous. Clearly, there can be no justified argument that the loss of human life in a war-torn country can compare with corruption with sport, but football is very important for millions of people, for a countless number of reasons.
The first step should be a simple one. No, it's not a NATO-led strike force, but it involves the same type of fight. Overhaul the leader and let the cleansing begin.
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