Mutko, one of the highest-ranking officials in the government of Vladimir Putin, was clearly in violation of that rule. But considering Russia’s power and status as the next World Cup host, Maduro’s decision was still a strong one. He paid the price.
The faces have changed, but FIFA’s modus operandi has not. The rules do not matter. No one is allowed to cross those at the top, no matter how corrupt they may be.
FIFA is not an appreciably different organization from what it was when Blatter and his cronies were running the show.
Infantino hasn’t yet – so far as we know – bought elections or sold World Cups, and he doesn’t suffer from Blatter’s senility, but he does not appear at all interested in cleaning FIFA up. The actions of the last week would suggest that he wants to do business as it has always been done.
For Sunil Gulati and US Soccer, whose support of Infantino in the second round of last year’s FIFA Presidential Election was integral in helping the European score an upset victory, that should sting.
Of course, FIFA handing the 2026 World Cup to the US, Mexico, and Canada should help keep Gulati in line.
It’s not just in the ethical arena where FIFA has failed to progress in the Infantino era. Important and long-overdue reforms to increase the power and visibility of women in FIFA have also, as Grant Wahl put it on Wednesday, have become a farce.
As of last year, FIFA requires that each continent have a woman fill a council seat. But the elections for those council seats are decided by federation presidents, and all but two of those presidents are men.
That’s how you get the results Australia’s Moya Dodd, who Wahl called “the most influential woman in FIFA in recent years” losing her seat to a Bangladeshi candidate who didn’t know which country won the last World Cup.
That candidate, who first guessed that Japan had won the tournament, defeated Dodd by a 27-17 margin. Strong women appear as unwelcome at FIFA as they ever have been.
To date, Infantino’s landmark accomplishment was expanding the men’s World Cup from 32 to 48 teams – a lucrative move designed to boost the non-European federations that, as a bloc, hold considerable power within FIFA.
Those countries will have more bids, more money, and more reason to support the existing power structure. Problem is, World Cup expansion will destroy the tournament as we know it.