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FIFA is "corrupt and engaged in bribery", this should matter to all of us

Flickr: A C Moraes

The United States has launched federal charges against 14 people involved in FIFA. The international football (or soccer) organization has seen countless scandals over the years, and allegations of bribery and corruption have danced around FIFA’s name, but have never stuck. That ends today as seven FIFA officials were arrested in Zurich and will be sent to the US for trial.

If you’re a huge soccer fan (like myself) it might be tempting to ignore any headlines involving FIFA. I’m with you, I don’t want to feel guilty for enjoying the game that has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. I even have the chance to attend the Women’s World Cup in Canada this summer, and I sure don’t want to feel guilty for giving money to a corrupt organization. I just want to enjoy some good soccer.  

But please don’t ignore this story. The investigation doesn’t mean that FIFA is going anywhere or that World Cups will stop- it is hopefully just a step in the right direction to make sure that everyone is playing by the rules, on AND off the field.

So what’s so sketchy about an organization based on soccer? Well for starters, the reason the individuals are being taken into custody is because they are accused of being a part of a systematic scheme of bribes and kickbacks of more than $150 million USD over the past twenty years.

The investigation stemmed out of an extremely sketchy decision to announce the location of the next two World Cups at once. This practice is questionable, because having two locations decided at once opens up the ability for different parties to cooperate and make back room deals (as in "if you support me getting World Cup in this year, I'll support you getting the other one"), rather than compete openly and fairly against each other. This isn’t the best method of practice to say the least. But then again, if bribes were involved maybe that was the point.

But what really got people scratching their heads was that the 2022 World Cup bid was given to Qatar. It doesn’t make much sense considering the fact that on any normal summer day in Qatar, it can reach a balmy 124 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s almost physically impossible to stand in that kind of heat, let alone play a soccer game.

I might be exaggerating slightly but not that much. In the last World Cup in Brazil, the first-ever water break was called on account of severe heat, and the temperature was only 80 degrees. I’d say 2022 should expect more than a few more of those water breaks with temperatures over 100 degrees.

The FIFA officials were warned of these awful conditions, however, the vote still went Qatar’s way. The obvious question then would be “Why?” and the answer many have come up with is, well, money. So investigations into bribing schemes were launched by the US, the bruised and confused runner up to the 2022 Cup.

It might seem like the US is looking for justice just because it lost out, but this investigation has been a long time coming. The World Cup might have worldwide support, but the process to actually get to the games has never been quite right.

One of the other reasons Qatar is not a good idea for a World Cup is because of the horrendous working conditions. Playing a soccer game in 100 degree heat might be rough, but trying to build the stadium for little to no pay sounds like a gross mistreatment of human rights. That’s because it is.

Migrants come in from countries like India and Nepal looking for any type of work. More than one worker per day dies in Qatar conditions and it is estimated that at least 4,000 workers from India and Nepal will die before the first match is kicked off in 2022.

And yet, FIFA seems to gloss over these facts when bidding for the World Cup.

The president, Sepp Blatter, is not among any of the arrested officials, and meanwhile will look to be re-elected for a fifth term on Friday. A FIFA spokesman said the scandal should not affect Blatter’s candidacy since he was not involved in any of the alleged wrongdoing.

Blatter has been in office for four terms, but it’s a sports organization that is making billions of dollars, so why change what works right? Except for the fact that it is technically a non profit, which means their multibillion dollar standing doesn’t make much sense.

Jon Oliver did a great explainer last year of these facts and more to show just how horrific FIFA actually is.  I highly recommend giving the video below a look, but I’ll just highlight one more of FIFA’s offenses in case it’s not obvious how corrupt this organization is yet.

Last year’s World Cup was held in Brazil, a country with a law against drinking in sports stadiums. There was a high number of deaths accounted to drinking at sports events so it seems like a pretty logical law. Instead of honoring this fact, FIFA pressured Brazil to allow beer sales in soccer stadiums during the World Cup because Budweiser is a major sponsor.

More and more it seems that the only thing good about FIFA is soccer. The game is great, but instead of focusing on the sport like the rest of us, they’re focusing on money, and people are getting hurt because of it.

An organization like FIFA has a lot of international power considering the fact that its main purpose is a sport. But this is a multibillion dollar organization that makes its money off of a country’s identity, and doesn’t give much back. It doesn’t have to do any of the dirty work (i.e. build the stadiums) and the financial burden is on the the host country.

So this investigation into FIFA is an important step and I say the pressure needs to stay on the organization to make sure it is held to the same international standard that any one country is. I can’t say that I will stop watching the World Cup in protest, but I invite you to join me in keeping an eye on FIFA’s activities from here on out.