No question that Fifa was the story that kept on giving in 2015
Who knows where we – and Sepp Blatter – will be this time next year
It’s inventory time here in the toy department. Once a year the world of sports looks back to designate the stories and athletes who were most noteworthy over the previous 365 days. But no matter how amazing or disappointing some of the performers and teams were on the field of play, there was one story that dominated all others last year and there was not a single athlete involved. One year ago the people who ran Fifa seemed beyond reproach.
While holding the keys to the world’s most popular sport and its most popular event, the World Cup, they did whatever they wanted however illogical or illegal. Despite overwhelming proof of their brazen larceny, one year ago there was little hope that anything would ever change.
Such was their institutional hubris that Fifa president Sepp Blatter nominated himself for re-election after repeatedly saying he would not run. On January 1, 2015, no one doubted he would win either and he did. Now one scant year later the impenetrable fortress has crumbled, Fifa is in disarray and Blatter is now officially finished after receiving an eight year ban this week from Fifa’s ethics committee.
He already had announced his resignation effective March 2016. But now he is not allowed anywhere near the extraordinary congress that will elect his successor. He may even be behind bars himself at that point like a number of his fellow Fifa executives already are. Nobody really knows. Nobody.
If the previous 365 days have taught us anything it is that we know absolutely nothing about what will transpire in the next 365 days. In spite of the wide ranging animosity and open bloodlust towards Fifa in virtually every corner of the globe, not even the most optimistic commentators predicted the extent to which the criminally corrupt organisation has been pounded by law enforcement officials. To think we know what Fifa will look like and the fate of its members on January 1, 2017 is speculative folly of the highest order. Ever since US and Swiss authorities began arresting Fifa executives in May, over what they referred to as “The World Cup of fraud,” a number of extraordinary and shocking revelations have unfolded.
The demonisation of Fifa is no longer limited to the op-ed pages; it is in the hands of the law while sympathy is in short supply. Everybody hates Fifa. But at some point they will have to elect another president for all of us to hate. Perhaps he or she will be a professional apologist, who knows. But one thing is certain, that person will have zero credibility until meaningful and deep-rooted reform takes place.
However in order to enact and devise reforms we need to know how we got here. At some point you have to flip the script just to see what is on the other side, otherwise you cannot understand it and if you cannot understand the problem, you most certainly cannot fix it. This is not splitting the atom here; there is no need for something as complex as quantum mechanics precision. It is fairly straightforward.
So what if Blatter is actually the most misunderstood man in the history of mankind and what if Russian President Vladimir Putin was actually correct that Blatter deserves a Nobel Prize?
And what if the Asian Football Confederation was correct in supporting Blatter for President in May, one day after a number of Fifa executives were arrested by the Swiss authorities on behalf of the US Department of Justice, because he empowered the disenfranchised by bringing the World Cup to places it never had been or could have expected to be, like Asia, Africa, Russia and Qatar?
And what if Blatter clearly understood that in order to bring the World Cup to those places you need to do business like they do in those places and that is basically corruption, corruption and more corruption? I mean, the World Cup is for sale? Shocking, huh.
You cannot be enslaved to traditional dogmas here because we are dealing with the illogical and remorseless. The fact that Blatter and his one time heir apparent Michel Platini were taken down in-house is surreal in itself because a Fifa ethics committee is as much an oxymoron as pro-communist supporters protesting their right to basically not be allowed to protest.
At this stage, all we know is what we don’t know and right now that is basically everything. Let’s compare notes in one year’s time because the great unknown is still the great unknown. However one thing is certain; this will be a fascinating year to watch how the worlds most popular game’s governing body is governed.