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U.S Soccer president Sunil Gulati needs to take a stand against Sepp Blatter and FIFA

sunil-gulati

On April 19th, 2013, Sunil Gulati – at least in theory – became one of the most powerful men in soccer.

No one remembers the razor-thin margin of his victory – an 18-17 vote victory over Mexican Federation President Justino Compean elected U.S Soccer President Gulati to FIFA’s Executive Committee, football’s foremost ruling body.

Gulati, who has been President of U.S Soccer since March 2006, and overseen incredible growth in the American domestic game, as well as unprecedented success for the U.S men’s and women’s national teams, jumped into the FIFA fray at a crucial time.

The outcry over the selection of Qatar to host the 2022 World Cup, and the ramifications of that allegedly corrupt decision were beginning to explode into bribery charges against powerful FIFA bosses, and real questions about the direction of the reviled organization.

No real change happened then, but now, the stakes are being raised.

Important corporate sponsors like Emirates, Sony, Johnson & Johnson, Castrol, and Continental Tires have all cut ties with FIFA, and for the first time, the organization has financial incentive to reform.

Also, crucially, the irretrievably sexist, delusional 78-year-old Sepp Blatter is seeking a fifth term as FIFA President, and despite the fact that Blatter has run FIFA’s reputation into the ground over his first four terms, he’s likely to win.

Why?

It’s simple. Money.

There are financial considerations and subsidies that go to all footballing nations, but, the feeling is, much more so to the countries that stand with Blatter.

Confederations like to vote together, and in the name in unity, Africa, Asia, and Oceania have all voted to support Blatter.

Blatter has led a FIFA that has given more attention and contributions to smaller footballing nations outside of Europe and South America, and thus, those smaller footballing countries in Africa, Asia, and Oceania, are partially or completely dependent on FIFA handouts.

Some of those countries are fighting for survival, not worrying about reform.

South America’s ten countries are also expected to vote with Blatter.

It could be a clean sweep, if Europe was on board too. However, Michel Platini, head of UEFA, fell out with Blatter years ago. Europe is the only federation that has the financial muscle to risk challenging Blatter, and its leading countries have been most aggrieved in recent years.

Many European nations, at Platini’s direction, are expected to back a challenger: Portugal legend Luis Figo, former Dutch President Michael van Praag, and Prince Ali Bin Al-Hussein are the three candidates that have passed the first hurdle to formally enter the race.

It’s going to be an uphill fight to unseat Blatter, but the battle lines are being drawn. This should be the most serious FIFA Presidential race in some two decades.

So where does this leave Gulati and the U.S?

It’s not totally clear.

Historically, CONCACAF has been loyal Blatter country. The smaller Caribbean and Central American nations are not well set up to support an insurgency. Jeffrey Webb, the President of the federation, has also been cozy with the current regime.

Even if the U.S itself votes against Blatter, it will need to accrue some federation-wide support to do any real good.

In 2011, when Blatter ended up running unopposed after a corruption scandal took down his only competitor, Mohammad Bin Hammam, the U.S bit the bullet and voted for Blatter too.

If there’s one thing that’s for sure, there are few moral stands in FIFA. Abstaining from voting, as England did, wouldn’t have done the U.S any good.

But things have changed since 2011. The U.S is deeply bitter about the 2022 World Cup bid process that saw Qatar selected over the American bid – to the point that Gulati himself has said that the U.S will not bid again for the World Cup until the bidding process is overhauled.

And now, there’s a real challenger. The charismatic, well-connected, and well-liked Figo, along with the Prince Ali, both could topple Blatter with a little momentum and a few countries around the world taking a risk.

In his two years on the Executive Committee, Gulati has stayed on the straight and narrow.

MORE — Can Luis Figo and co smash the Blatter system?

When all 25 FIFA ExCo members were illegally gifted watches worth some $25,000, Gulati was one of only three members to refuse the gift – Prince Ali, for the record, was one of the others.

Gulati has talked publicly about wanting reform at FIFA. But in reality, he’s made little real impact.

Standing against Blatter would be the first step. The long-shot hope of defeating Blatter is with a number of large, influential countries gathering behind one of the other candidates right before the election. The U.S has to be involved in that process.

Gulati is gaining more and more power – he’s talented, and appears to be in the international soccer game for the long haul.

This is a fight worth having. Blatter has made it increasingly hard to challenge him, changing the qualifications for candidates so no true FIFA outsiders can run.

Blatter is asking for a fifth term – despite the fact that he said he wouldn’t run for a fifth term after being elected to his fourth. He covered up his own investigation into the bidding process for the next two World Cups and crushed any potential political rivals.

Blatter has been dismissive at best and degrading at worst to the women’s game, and for that matter, women in general. His leadership has been nothing short of disastrous. He deserves to be defeated.

Casting his lot against Blatter would require a type of boldness and focus Gulati has only ever shown in pursuing Jurgen Klinsmann to coach his men’s national team, but it’s the next step for him on the world stage. After two years, Gulati has established himself enough to make an impact.

The U.S doesn’t need FIFA’s money. They’re not, if 2022 is any indications, getting any favors from FIFA either. Major reform is the US’ interests. Gulati needs to take a stand. If he doesn’t, what is he really in power to do?

 

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9 Comments

9 Comments

  1. JOE VENUTI

    May 25, 2015 at 2:08 pm

    PROPOSED RULES CHANGES TO SOCCER.

    I am an American who was first introduced to soccer at age 15. I played in high school and college, and I refereed for 20 years in central Connecticut.

    Throughout the 62 years I have been a player, referee, And fan of soccer, two complaints have never stopped being uttered: (1) not enough scoring, and (2) referees failing to call obvious penalty kick offenses.

    My proposed changes address both of those perennial complaints. Why they do will be obvious to anyone who understands the game.

    A. Move the “off-sides” from the midway line, to 40 yards from each goal.
    B. Eliminate the virtually useless goal area (goalie box). Take goal kicks from the goal line.
    C. Reduce the width of the penalty area from 44 yards to 36 yards. This will reduce the area in which to call (or fail to call) penalty kick offenses.
    D. Penalty kicks are now a 90+ sure thing for a score. I propose that the penalty kick spot be moved from 12 yards to 15 yards, reducing the odds of scoring. This would allow referees to actually call all offenses whenever and wherever they occur. Players would soon recognize that these fouls are now all being called and they would get back to playing the game instead of intentionally fouling and getting away with it. It would greatly reduce the holding and pushing that goes on during set plays. A 10-yard restraining arc would naturally be drawn from the 15-yard penalty spot.
    E. Indirect free kicks against the defense in the penalty area would also be taken from the penalty kick spot.

  2. HydraHamster

    March 22, 2015 at 4:55 pm

    What is Gulati going to do? The people that run the USSF divisons are MLS management. Gulati has been a puppet boy since the day he took the USSF office. There is nothing about the USSF that show they care about anything, but the MLS and the USMNT. He showed the lack of caring for the USWNT, lower divisions and player development. The USSF soccer pyramid is a mess. It’s very embarrassing to look at because this supposed to be one of the top sport’s countries in the world. The last great soccer league we every had was the American Soccer League (ASL). They reason why they failed because of the great depression.

    I’m saying this as a person that DON’T support European clubs.

  3. CTBlues

    February 3, 2015 at 1:07 pm

    According to NBC Sports US Soccer is backing Prince Ali as they were one of the 6 national associations that nominated him.

  4. Ben

    February 3, 2015 at 10:02 am

    I’m not usually one to nitpick, but if you’re any kind of writer; blogger, journalist, or otherwise, you should know the difference between using their, they’re, and there.

    “Their not, if 2022 is any indications, getting any favors from FIFA either.”

    Good article, though.

  5. StellaWasAlwaysDown

    February 3, 2015 at 10:00 am

    Qatar was a farce, and Blatter needs to go. Let’s see if Gulati has some balls, or if he’s just riding the good ‘ol boys train.

  6. Flyvanescence

    February 2, 2015 at 11:36 pm

    Gulati has no leg to stand on when it comes to confronting corruption. He is a puppet of MLS, and was at one time being paid by an MLS owner to run USSF(if he is still not).

    We have the most useless FA in the world, who doesnt do anything but run national team affairs, while our professional leagues do whatever they like for the sake of $$$ (paying only lip service to the growth of the game here), our youth development system is backwards and just downright pitiful, and the US Open Cup is poorly promoted and almost ignored.

    As corrupt as FIFA is, at least it DOES ITS JOB, governing the game. All Gulati and USSF do is collect money and release PR statements that say they are trying.

    But keep spitting out the rah rah USA rah rah MLS diarrhoea, Abe. Its almost amusing.

    • Tim

      February 3, 2015 at 7:18 am

      You’re a puppet of all eurosnobs…You dont have a clue whats going on and cant prove it.

      • HydraHamster

        March 22, 2015 at 4:46 pm

        A puppet of Eurosnobs? Really. You’re a puppet of MLS snobs. Only a blind deaf person can’t see and hear the bull crap coming out of the USSF. Flyvanescence said nothing about Europe for you to call him a Eurosnob. His opinion is of a person that cares about all the divisions and not just MLS like you.

    • CTBlues

      February 3, 2015 at 1:08 pm

      Sad but true. =/

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