Last week a surprise FBI raid on a five-star Swiss hotel led to the arrest of six high-level officials of Fifa, the world governing body for football. A number of further, coordinated arrests took place around the world. Let me make up for absence of a sports column in Salient this year by sharing my top eleven favourite Fifa moments. TL;DR: this has been a looooong time coming.
11. “Maximised socioeconomic benefits”
Fifa promised that Brazil would reap “maximised socioeconomic benefits” from the 2014 World Cup. Meanwhile, a 2013 report by the South African government into the 2010 tournament showed that the event had cost the country US$3bn in return for “unquantifiable” and “intangible” benefits. Fifa enjoyed a tax-free profit of US$631m.
10. Public Eye
- SPONSORED -
Fifa placed third in the 2014 Public Eye Awards, given out annually to the company with the worst corporate social responsibility record. The winner was Russian state-owned oil giant Gazprom, which has been linked to over 200 oil spills. By that point, Gazprom was already an official Fifa partner for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
9. Machiavellian cruelty
In the wake of the UK’s unsuccessful World Cup hosting bid in 2010, a member of the bid accused a number of Fifa Executive Committee members, including ex-Brazil FA head Ricardo Teixeira, of demanding favours for a World Cup hosting vote. Responding to the allegations in July 2011, Teixeira promised to “make [the English FA’s] lives hell”. That month, Teixeira also branded the press “a bunch of corrupt pirates”. “I don’t care. In fact, fuck you lot,” he said. “In 2014 [at the World Cup], I can do what I want to the press. The most slippery, unthinkable, Machiavellian cruelty—they cannot touch me.”
8. That’s just a shitload of money
Teixeira’s father-in-law is João Havelange, Sepp Blatter’s predecessor as Fifa President. Teixeira and Havelange were found to have taken at least US$46m in bribes between 1992 and 2000, most relating to World Cup television contracts. After the revelations, Teixeira applied unsuccessfully for residence in Andorra, a tax haven with no extradition treaty.
7. Wait, there’s more
In 2012, The Telegraph reported that FC Barcelona President Sandro Rosell had paid £2 million into a bank account in the name of Teixeira’s 10-year-old daughter Antonia. The payment was allegedly a kickback from marketing profits from a Brazil-Argentina friendly played in Qatar. Teixeira was Brazil FA head at the time, and FC Barcelona were and still are sponsored by the Qatar Foundation.
6. Sarkozy is involved too!
Then-French President Nicolas Sarkozy engineered a meeting between himself, European football president Michel Platini, and Qatari emir Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani. Sarkozy is a noted fan of club Paris Saint-Germain, which at the time had just been bought out by al-Thani’s company QSI. After the meeting, Platini switched his World Cup vote from the USA to Qatar, and his son, Laurent, was appointed chief executive of Burrda, a Qatar-owned sports kit manufacturer.
5. The slush fund
Early last year the Sunday Times revealed that Mohammed Bin Hammam—a disgraced former Fifa executive—had been responsible for distributing a $5 million slush fund to buy votes for Qatar’s successful World Cup bid. The revelations were ruled “out of scope” of an official Fifa enquiry into the bidding process.
4. Speaking of that enquiry
Fifa never released the report, which was completed toward the end of last year, and instead released a highly abridged executive summary. The lawyer in charge of the enquiry, Michael Garcia, took the extraordinary step of disowning the executive summary, saying it had completely mischaracterised his report. Garcia resigned his position as Fifa ethics investigator soon after.
3. Dispossessing favela residents
In the leadup to the Brazil World Cup, infrastructural projects carried out by the Brazilian government at Fifa’s behest resulted in around 20,000 forced evictions of favela residents in Rio de Janeiro, and up to 250,000 displacements across Brazil. When Pope Francis called on Fifa to respect the favelas, Sepp Blatter met him personally. “He asked me to give hope to the poor through football,” Sepp reported. “We cannot do everything, but we will do what we can.”
2. Modern slavery
Nepalese manual labourers have been dying on Qatari World Cup construction sites at a rate of over one a day, with the total death toll expected to reach 4000. They have been working under a neo-feudal employment system that involves the confiscation of passports and has frequently been compared to slavery. Franz Beckenbauer, a former Fifa executive, said he had “not seen a single slave in Qatar… I’ve been to Qatar and have a completely different picture of it. I think mine is more realistic.”
1. This quote
“The work Fifa do is noble. Unlike many other associations that proclaim nice, well-intentioned goals, they actually work to realise them. This has no precedent in humanitarian spheres.”—Vladimir Putin
Finally, good luck for your exams everyone! Remember to look after yourselves. Eat lots of fruit. De-stress with weed and casual sex. I’ll see you in a couple of months. xoxo