The beautiful game has been sullied by FIFA for decades. Sepp Blatter, the chief of FIFA, an enormously wealthy non-profit organization, has lead the desecration of international football since 1998, when he took over by winning a shady election to become the leader of FIFA.
Perhaps all that needs to be known about Sepp Blatter can be explained by his relationship with Helmut Kaser, who used to be the Secretary General of FIFA. He became furious when Sepp made passes at his daughter Barbara, who was half Blatter’s age. Eventually, when Blatter wed Barbara, it was reported that Helmut openly wept and refused to attend the wedding.
During Sepp Blatter’s leadership, countless indiscretions have taken place for decades under the banner of FIFA football, ranging from corruption and bribery to sexism and homophobia. Blatter appears to have the knack for doing the wrong thing at the wrong time while escaping any consequence.
The same cannot be said for the people who have suffered the consequences of the behaviour and policies of FIFA as a whole. The underprivileged and oppressed suffer through numerous abuses as a result of corrupt FIFA officials who have accepted millions in bribes to host the World Cup in the worst possible places for competitive international football.
15. Destroying the Homes of the Poor
Less than a year after the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, most of the stadiums created to host international competition are already in disrepair and underused. The Brazilian government spent over $3 billion on the 12 facilities for World Cup use.
One of the most notorious boondoggles is The Estadio Nacional in Brasilia, which hosted seven World Cup matches and nothing else, before transforming into a $550 million bus depot.
Many of these facilities were built by removing people out of the slums in which they lived, in some cases making them homeless. A pair of French architects, Sylvain Macaux and Axel De Stampa, have proposed “Casa Futebol”, a project designed to turn the unused stadiums into housing for the poor.
14. Hundreds of Millions in Bribes Over Decades
FIFA is home to one of the biggest scandals in sports history; five corporate executives and nine high-ranking FIFA officials were arrested by U.S. and Swiss authorities for charges of bribery, racketeering and corruption.
Costas Takkas, Julio Rocha, Eduardo Li, Jeffrey Webb, Jack Warner, Nicolas Leoz, Jose Maria Marin, Rafael Esquivel and Eugenio Figueredo, all of whom are FIFA officials of closely linked to the international federation, were accused of crimes worth at least $150 million over the span of 24 years.
Five sports marketing executives – Aaron Davidson, Jose Margulies, Alejandro Burzaco Hugo Jinkis and Mariano Jinkis – were also indicted on charges.
13. Sepp Blatter Claims Ignorance of Malfeasance
In 2002, more than a decade before the $150 million scandal surfaced, secretary general of FIFA Michel Zen-Ruffinen alleged that Blatter’s 1998 election was bought with bribes, making accusing that FIFA was being financially mismanaged by those at the top of the organization. Sepp Blatter denied these statements.
Assuming the current bribery allegations hold up in court, Zen-Ruffinen’s statements will have been proven accurate, adding to evidence that implies Blatter’s continual denials of wrongdoing have been completely inaccurate for his entire reign as the leader of FIFA.
At best, Blatter’s ignorance of wrongdoing by his closest compatriots is pure incompetence. At worst, the public may soon discover that his resignation was hastened by his involvement in one of the biggest sporting scandals in the world instead of the threat of fleeing corporate sponsors.
12. FIFA Forces Women to Play On Artificial Grass
A group of top international women footballers threatened FIFA with legal proceedings based on discrimination for the organization’s decision to play the women’s world cup on astroturf instead of a natural field. Hampton Dellinger, a lawyer representing the group, stated that “there’s no doubt that the men would not be asked to play on a second-class surface.”
This issue received greater attention when Kobe Bryant tweeted a picture of Sydney Leroux, an American player who snapped an image of her legs bleeding and bruised after playing on artificial turf.
In addition to the increased risk of injury while playing on an artificial surface, the ball bounces higher and moves faster, making it more difficult for the women to showcase the skills they’ve earned through decades of practice and competition.
Bonnie Ford from ESPN tweeted a sentiment that perfectly sums up the entire situation: “Restating obvious, WWC to be played on artificial turf when grass could have been installed for fraction of one defendant’s slush fund.”
11. Sepp Blatter’s Comments About Women Footballers
When speaking about the promotion of women’s football around the world, instead of mentioning the creation of programs to get more girls and women to play the sport, Sepp Blatter said, “Let the women play in more feminine clothes like they do in volleyball.”
As if that wasn’t a damning indictment of FIFA’s treatment of women’s football, he decided to elaborate:
“They could, for example, have tighter shorts… female players are pretty, if you excuse me for saying so, and they already have some different rules to men – such as playing with a lighter ball… that decision was taken to create a more female aesthetic, so why not do it in fashion?”
In addition to being ridiculously sexist, Sepp Blatter revealed that he has no clue what he’s talking about as women don’t use a lighter ball. The leader of the biggest international football association simply makes things up on the spot, influenced by nothing but his own stereotypical prejudices.
10. Qatar’s Dire Lack of Infrastructure
Incredibly, despite having not a single football facility able to host a World Cup game, Qatar was awarded the 2022 tournament. Their biggest football stadium, the Khalifa International Stadium, has a capacity of approximately 40,000 and is in the process of upgrading to hold 68,030 by the year 2022.
In order to build the hotels, stadiums and other required infrastructure for the World Cup, this tiny nation will spend a minimum of $220 billion to host the event, more than 60 times the amount it cost South Africa to welcome the football world.
The amount of money going into the World Cup amounts to over $780,000 per Qatari citizen.
9. Building Unsustainability in the Desert
The city that will host the finals of the 2022 World Cup does not exist. Lusail City, slated to be the site where international football will climax, will be built north of Doha at a cost of $45 billion.
This master-planned city will be able to house 450,000 people, a huge amount of new real estate considering that there are only about 280,000 Qatari citizens. Along with conjuring a new city in the desert, where nothing grows naturally, Lusail Iconic Stadium will welcome more than 80,000 people.
This huge investment in developments that appears doomed in the long term mirrors the considerable costs that burdened the Brazilian government for empty, billion-dollar stadiums that only hosted a few games – money better spent on education, healthcare, poverty reduction and sustainable development.
8. Playing During the Deadly Qatari Summer
During the bidding process, Qatar maintained throughout their pitch that the 2022 World Cup would take place during summer. Anyone remotely familiar with Qatar or the Middle East as a whole knows that these lands are among the hottest and driest on Earth, particularly during the summer.
Ignoring these facts, and the 120-degree temperatures that peak during the Qatari summer, FIFA decided to award the World Cup to Qatar.
When they realized that playing competitive football in sweltering, desert heat was impossible, FIFA started looking at playing during the winter, which will cause numerous problems for the tournament as it intersects with club football and other major international sports leagues, including the need to renegotiate with major media networks.
Although rumors of FIFA bribery and corruption have long been whispered throughout football, the world became particularly suspicious when Qatar was awarded the tournament over Japan, South Korea, Australia and the U.S.
7. FIFA Forces Brazilian Law to Bend for Anheuser-Busch
Brazilian fans are among the most passionate in the world. To all intents and purposes, football is an official religion in Brazil, whipping up ferocious emotions among fans. After a history of violent incidents involving clashing fans, the Brazilian government banned alcohol sales in an effort to reduce the number of deaths and serious injuries that took place during and after the match.
This ban on alcohol sales during the game, despite increasing the safety and health of the public, spurred FIFA to pressure Brazil to change laws for the World Cup. After the Brazilian parliament delayed the new measures, tensions became strained between FIFA and the host country. Coincidentally or not, this was around the same time that Anheuser-Busch extended its sponsorship until 2022.
Health officials worry that the new laws allowing consumption of alcohol during games will be extended past the World Cup, as the Sports Minister supports the extension of the new FIFA beer law.
6. Qatar Might Screen World Cup Visitors for Homosexuality
While Qatar has started to respond to international pressure urging the country to start protecting worker rights, it’s very unlikely that the nation, which features a legal system inspired by Sharia law, will change its mind when it comes to the LGBT community. Instead, Qatar and other Gulf Cooperation Countries might introduce medical screenings in order to detect and ban homosexuals from the entire region.
Sepp Blatter said that gay men “should refrain from any sexual activity” if they attend the World Cup – apparently making the statement in a joking manner. The Qatar Minister of Sports, Salah bin Ghanem bin Nasser al-Ali, said the issue is “exactly like the alcohol question” and that his nation should be able to honor their own culture while allowing for some leeway for World Cup attendees.
LGBT groups are one of a long list of organizations opposed to the World Cup taking place in Qatar.
5. United States and Swiss Responsible for Blowing the Whistle
Despite the relative lack of popularity and exposure that football experiences in the United States, the charges laid against top FIFA officials for the $150 million bribery scandal originated within the American and Swiss justice systems. Ironically, the rest of the world, uniformly zealous about anything football, didn’t have the will or the ability to hold corrupt FIFA members accountable for their crimes.
Considering the decades of scandal and corruption boiling through the organization, the biggest, most powerful nations of the most popular sport in the world either refused to or were unable to confront the massive scandals that continually denigrated football on an international level.
The fact that an outsider nation, the United States, stepped in to initiate bribery proceedings against FIFA suggests a deeply-rooted corruption within the most well-established and influential football nations in the world.
4. The Suffering of Migrant Workers
Qatar is experiencing a wave of new construction similar to the UAE, with numerous projects of enormous scope rising in the desert. After being awarded the 2022 World Cup, the commissioning of large stadiums and other infrastructure added to the construction boom.
Migrant workers have been brought in from the surrounding areas to keep up with the demand for labor, entering into the kafala labor system. This gives employers near-unlimited power over their workers, who toil under terrible conditions, receiving little to no pay for their efforts while living in reprehensible housing.
In many cases, employers hold on to passports and other vital documentation that migrant workers require to legally stay in the country.
3. FIFA 2022 World Cup: Deadliest Sporting Event in History?
While the exact numbers are impossible to establish, the 2022 World Cup in Qatar appears to be on track to become one of the deadliest sporting events ever to take place on Earth.
According to estimates released by the International Trade Union Confederation, around 1,200 workers have died in Qatar since the country was awarded the World Cup in 2010. By the time the World Cup begins, the ITUC estimates that another 4,000 workers will have passed away. To compare, approximately 10 people passed away preparing for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and two people died when the World Cup took place in South Africa in 2010.
The report doesn’t reveal the number of workers who have died specifically on World Cup projects, but the horrific conditions that these laborers face ensure that an unprecedented amount of suffering has already taken place for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
2. Most Sponsors Don’t Seem to Care
Most of the corporate sponsors of FIFA football do not appear to care about any of the despicable scandals that have plagued FIFA over the years. Typically, when corporate sponsors witness their money associated with organizations that could tarnish the image of their brand, sponsors respond by pulling their funding and support while releasing a statement against the behavior in question.
So far, despite the thousands of deaths and the billions in misspent funds, the only major, international sponsors to detach from FIFA are Sony and Emirates Airline.
Sponsors such as Visa, Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, Budweiser, Adidas and Hyundai have only recently started to vocalize their opinions about FIFA’s corruption, focusing mostly on bribery scandals while avoiding problems more easily ignored, like the plight of migrant workers in Qatar.
1. Perpetual Re-Election of Sepp Blatter
Despite the mountains of evidence that the biggest scandals in sports history have taken place under the leadership of Sepp Blatter, he won the 2015 election without difficulty, earning 133 votes over the only other candidate, Prince Ali bin al-Hussein from Jordan, who received only 73 votes.
FIFA voters refused to back the promises Prince Ali, who ran against Blatter on the premise that he would cease the constant stream of scandal that has represented the modus operandi of FIFA, an international football non-profit organization that generates billions in annual revenue. Even more damning is the fact that Putin threw his weight behind Blatter, heavily criticising the United States for taking legal action.
Instead, the majority of FIFA officials voted to maintain the status quo, backing up Blatter for another four-year campaign of turning the beautiful game into an international disaster.
Mercifully, Blatter finally caved in to the pressure and announced his resignation on June 2nd, which will hopefully be the first step in changing the culture of FIFA or at least a harbinger of additional public revelations of corruption.
The Guardian, CBC News, Daily Mail, Gawker, International Business Times