Football is a game for gossips. Entire columns are gleefully devoted to the rumours and scandals that seem to so regularly envelop the sport. Mourinho, claws out, called the Man City boss Mr. Pellegrino? Fantastic! Magath has been seen lurking suspiciously close to the cheese counter again? Superb! It isn’t so unbelievable to think that a joyous national holiday might be declared if some poor soul forgets Yaya’s birthday again.
Yet the latest offering to the veritable smorgasbord of scandals that have hit FIFA recently hasn’t piqued the taste buds of those hungry for drama. In fact, its left many depressed and without appetite, wondering quite where it all went so drastically wrong.
At best, FIFA Executive Committee member Theo Zwanziger’s admission that he doubted that Qatar would host the 2022 World Cup embodies the critically poor decision making that football’s international governing body seems to be making a habit of exhibiting. A very, very small child could have predicted that hosting a football tournament in a country which has an average temperature of 37 degrees between May and September may cause some difficulties. At worst, however, this news highlights severe misjudgments at the very top of FIFA which beggars belief.
The very essence of sport lies in fair play. Back in 2006, when football’s International Federation found itself mired in allegations of bribery corruption the expectation was that FIFA would react quickly to quell fears. Six years later, after two BBC Panorama documentaries, the threat of an International Olympic Committee (IOC) investigation and a sting from The Sunday Times, FIFA set up the bicameral FIFA ethics committee to replace the woefully inadequate single chamber version. The second generation body was conceived to investigate the allegations of bribery and vote rigging on a colossal scale during the disorderly simultaneous bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.
In March, FIFA Chief Investigator Michael Garcia (formerly of the FBI) was the target of an attempted coup half way through the investigation which intended to oust him and disband the committee. Following the recent completion of the report, Garcia was told by FIFA that his findings would not be made public. Despite UEFA president Michel Platini’s appeal for the report to be released and, if necessary, the 2022 World Cup vote to be repeated, Sepp Blatter has so far ignored calls for both greater transparency and a re-vote.
With this in mind perhaps the reason Qatar won the bidding process is actually much simpler.
Maybe it simply offered to provide enough material to allow for Blatter’s heads to remain forever buried in the sand.
Discussion of the ethics of FIFA’s sorry situation is miserable enough. It’s the sanctioning of morally reprehensible action through FIFA’s silence illustrates that FIFA’s judgment is fatally flawed. Given the limited rights of women in the Gulf State and the treatment of homosexuals in both Russia and Qatar FIFA’s dedication to tolerance and equality must be questioned.
To allow the suffering and deaths of so many employed in the name of the traditional sport of the working classes is also shameful. Workers on the sites of the World Cup stadiums talk of their passports being confiscated, leaving them stateless. Stranded and facing horrors if they attempt to escape, the migrant workers are forced to sleep in cramped and overcrowded living accommodation. That is if they survive the abominable safety standards of their workplace.
It is estimated that a staggering four thousand workers will lose their life working in Qatar before a single ball is kicked. Even more concerning, two British human rights investigators have disappeared in the past month while investigating Qatari construction sites.
If you take the decision to allow Russia and Qatar to hold their respective tournaments at face value it’s easy to dismiss FIFA as woefully ignorant, bumbling even. But to do so is a very ill-judged idea indeed.
The reality is far darker and Sepp Blatter’s inaction on issues of corruption and human rights abuses speaks volumes. This is the ugly side to the beautiful game and, frankly, nobody want to see it.