FIFA was back in the news this week, which almost always means a good hearty laugh followed by a sustained period of crying.
This week, we found out that the report conducted by American investigator Michael Garcia into the awarding of the 2018 World Cup to Russia and the 2022 World Cup to Qatar was, in fact, a practical joke.
Instead of releasing Garcia’s real report, FIFA instead published a 42 page document put together by German judge Hans-Joachim Eckert that cleared Qatar and Russia of any wrongdoing, and instead lampooned – get this – England, a country that wasn’t even being investigated.
It didn’t take long for Garcia to publicly claim that the report contained “numerous materially incomplete and erroneous representations”.
Garcia then said that he intends to appeal the findings of his own report to FIFA, the organization that he was reporting on.
There are a few questions here, and all of them are worth asking. For one, did FIFA think that Garcia wouldn’t notice, or wouldn’t remember his original report when they published a document – supposedly of his work – that seems to be at least partially fabricated?
Even if that process went through without a hitch, did FIFA really think the world would accept a report that lauded Russia and Qatar’s innocence while launching a vendetta against England and Australia as the document of record on the 2018 and 2022 World Cups?
It’s probably also worth mentioning here that Russia barred Garcia from entering the country and withheld most of the documents Garcia requested from review.
You only see FIFA’s level of delusion in movies. Speaking of movies, remember United Passions, FIFA’s movie about the history of FIFA?
It ended up being a poor attempt at propaganda. The film cost a whopping $27 million to make, and has at this point in time grossed almost… $200,000. At least know we know where all the bribe money is being used.
Garcia is not the only handpicked FIFA expert who has come to the fore recently. FIFA may have problems with their men’s World Cups, but they also have a major issue surrounding the Women’s World Cup, which is scheduled to take place this summer in Canada.
A group of prospective participants in the tournament have sued FIFA to play the World Cup on grass instead of turf.
Not only is it inherently sexist to mandate that women play their World Cup on turf when the men’s tournament would obviously never have to do something similar, but it’s the sexism is not surprising coming from an organization with an Executive Committee that had never had a women member when the World Cup was awarded to Canada.
A female journalist once asked FIFA President Sepp Blatter how she could get on the Executive Committee, to which Blatter replied, “Well, I’m single right now.”
This is the same guy who once wrote in the official FIFA magazine that, ““Football is a simple game that only becomes complicated once you attempt to explain the active and passive offside rules to your wife.”
FIFA trotted out their own “independent” turf expert last week who dutifully reported that turf is the only way to carry on with the tournament in Canada, and any protest is simply unreasonable.
FIFA’s various PR campaigns seem to be grounded in the idea that if you distort the truth enough, there won’t be any truth left.
The amazing thing is, after running unopposed for reelection as President in 2007 and 2011, Blatter is set to win a fifth term as FIFA boss next year. His few challengers this time around have been about as threatening as the actual team that Qatar will field in 2022.
FIFA is, perhaps, the biggest good old boys club in sports. Smaller nations are beholden to Blatter because FIFA controls their money supply, while larger nations need to work with Blatter to ensure that their high-stakes interests are met.
As long as Blatter or his eventual chosen replacement is in charge and no one of consequence dares challenge authority, FIFA will stay the same – a caricature of an excuse for football’s governing body.
And if no one raises a finger against FIFA, Qatar will keep the World Cup.
It’s really not so much that Qatar is a tiny country that is smaller than Uruguay was when they hosted the first World Cup in 1930, or that a World Cup in Qatar could cost more than $200 billion dollars, or that Qatar is anti-gays, anti-Israel, and even anti-alcohol.
It’s not that is physically unsafe to play or even spectate on soccer in the summer, when the World Cup is played, has always been played, and should always be played, and will almost certainly be moved to the crowded winter sports calendar.
It’s not that in their official bid – which, Qatar officials claim they cannot view because the computers that stored it have been destroyed – Qatar said that if they hosted the World Cup, it would be played in the summer, no questions asked.
It’s not that Qatar has zero football history or football hope, and it’s not even that multiple reputable news agencies including The Guardian have detailed the alleged bribes that won the World Cup vote.
It’s that Qatar is a slave state for its migrant workers. Nepal ambassador to Qatar Maya Kumari Sharma has called Qatar, “an open jail” for her people. The Guardian reported that those Nepalese workers have faced a level of exploitation that amounts to modern day slavery.
To hold the world’s greatest sporting event in a country with no regard for human rights would be one of the great atrocities in the history of modern international sports.
Changing FIFA is going to take guts and courage, because even though the current system is laughable and lamentable, it works enough for the majority of the soccer world.
In the end, it might take a major boycott from international tournaments or FIFA itself, and those kinds of actions always entail major risk.
But we’re reaching a tipping point with FIFA now. No one should be laughing anymore, they should be scared stiff.
Because to the people really affected, nothing FIFA is doing right now is a joke.