If you are a longtime reader of this blog you may notice that I generally try to avoid swearing. My rule of thumb is that if you can’t say something cleanly, you probably shouldn’t say it at all. But today, I am going to break my own rule because all hell broke loose at FIFA today and the shit has hit the fan.
If you’ve been following FIFA politics over the last several months (and really why would you), you would have known that there is an election for President of that corrupt, wretched organization coming up on June 1. The two candidates, incumbent Sepp Blatter and AFC head Mohammed bin Hammam of Qatar, have been campaigning for the top spot. By campaigning, I mean debasing world football by making ridiculous promises and cozying up to dictators (like the Burmese junta.)
To lovers of the game, this is probably the worst of all choices. The problems with FIFA go back decades, but it has gotten really bad in the past few months. For years world football fans have basically tolerated the vileness of FIFA as a fact of life. This past December though, FIFA chose the hosts for the 2018 and 2022. The process was so fraught with barely-concealed corruption that the stench became impossible to ignore. The vote left the English humiliated in their failed 2018 attempt. Worse, FIFA gave Qatar the 2022 tournament. Qatar, a nation that cannot possibly hold the largest sporting event in the world both for climate and size reasons. Not to mention the extreme religious intolerance of the oil-wealthy emirate. Any of the other four candidates (US, Australia, Japan, and South Korea) would have been better. FIFA’s own technical committee said as much. Yet in a secret ballot, FIFA’s bribe-susceptible Executive Committee chose Qatar. And bin Hammam’s hands were all over it.
Since the vote, FIFA has had nothing but trouble. FIFA’s ethics have constantly been called into question and the issue of corruption has not gone away. No one was excited about the Presidential race because it was widely assumed that regardless of who won (and it was assumed to be Sepp Blatter), FIFA would remain the horribly corrupt entity it is.
This month, two things happened in England to renewed the strength of the maelstrom. The Sunday Times published a whistleblower’s account of how Qatar bribed its way to be the World Cup host, and the runner had (shock of shocks) ties to bin Hammam. Then Lord Treisman, the disgraced former head of the English FA named names before a Parliamentary committee (where he has immunity from England’s draconian libel laws.) In particular, he named the heads of CONMEBOL, Brazil, and Thailand. He also named Jack Warner, the head of CONCACAF and a pantomime villain if ever there was one. But Warner was a close buddy of Blatter’s, and probably FIFA’s most effective power-broker. It seemed unlikely that anything would be done.
Today though there was an earthquake. Chuck Blazer, the general secretary of CONCACAF, and America’s ExCo member brought bribery charges against Warner and bin Hammam. That a fellow insider brought charges is completely without precedent in FIFA. That it was Chuck Blazer makes it downright shocking. First, he has been the man behind Warner’s throne for over two decades. Warner has been accused of many horrible (and probably true) things, and Blazer never turned on him before. Second, Blazer is possibly the smartest man in FIFA. If he brought these charges, they are real, and there will be consequences.
Here’s what happened. The FIFA presidential campaign has not been going well for either Blatter or bin Hammam. The continental confederation heads (most of whom cannot vote) favor Blatter. Many of the actual national FA heads are less enthralled with him. But they don’t particularly like bin Hammam either. England’s FA is refusing to vote for either man. Most likely there will be others.
CONCACAF is an extremely important region in this vote, and historically it votes as a bloc. Which means everyone votes the way Jack Warner tells them to vote. Blatter got to address the confederation in Miami when CONCACAF shamefully reelected Jack Warner. Bin Hammam was denied as visa, so Jack Warner–remember Blatter’s “good friend”–set up a special conference for him and the CFU, the heads of the Caribbean nations of FIFA (25 of CONCACAF’s votes). No other CONCACAF nation was invited (i.e. the US, Mexico, Canada, etc.)
Thus far has been undisputed fact. Allegedly at this meeting, Warner on behalf of bin Hammam offered $40,000 to each CFU head. This is a major violation of FIFA law. Some CFU heads complained to Blazer and he went to John Collins, a member of FIFA’s legal committee. Supposedly there are multiple affidavits from witnesses. Bin Hammam and Warner are going down.
The good news is that Warner, FIFA’s greatest crook, will be gone. The bad news is that Blatter will win. (Both Warner and bin Hammam noted the unusual timing of the accusations, and implied that Blatter was behind it. Truthfully, he may have been just a tiny bit worried.)
The big question now is what will happen with the 2022 World Cup. It has been fairly obvious for some time that Qatar should not be allowed to keep it. I imagine that Blatter would be only too happy to strip the Qataris and bin Hammam of the World Cup. But whether that happens or not is a completely different story. This is not going away soon.
Get the popcorn, the soap opera has just begun.
In other news, Jose Mourinho won his fight against Jorge Valdano. Valdano has been sacked from Real Madrid. It was pretty well-known that one of them would be gone by the end of the season. Madrid made its choice. It may be the right one, but expect the football world to turn on Madrid next season. Mourinho is a virus, and he has infected Madrid with his bile.