Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise
Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise

Not Even A Pandemic Can Hide The Stench of FIFA

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Illustration for article titled Not Even A Pandemic Can Hide The Stench of FIFA
Illustration: Eric Barrow (Sutterstock)

While the Coronavirus outbreak has stalled or greatly slowed almost every facet of everyday life, there are some things that simply can’t be stopped, even by a global pandemic: Our government’s incompetence and greed, the endless charm of Paul Rudd, humanity’s hobby of unwittingly sewing its own demise, etc (is Paul Rudd’s charm part of that? Is it the anesthesia that blinds us to the rest? THESE ARE THE QUESTIONS, PEOPLE).

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And another one is that the stench of FIFA can never be truly cleared from the air.

While there haven’t been any truly new developments in the yearslong quest of U.S. authorities to arrest soccer, there are always new details that somehow keep exposing the even greater depths of perhaps the most evil organization in sports. And it would be in the running for overall heavyweight champ in that category as well.

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This week, the Department of Justice indicted three top FIFA officials for accepting bribes to vote for Qatar as host nation of the 2022 World Cup. Those indicted include the then-president of COMNEBOL, the South American soccer federation, Nicolás Leoz, who died last September, as well as the federation presidents of the two biggest nations in South America, Brazil and Argentina. The indictment also, for the first time in writing, accuses Russia of paying off members to win the rights to host the 2018 World Cup. We know, the country that hosted by far the most expensive Winter Olympics in a warm-weather city being crooked? Led by this guy? We’ll give you a moment to scrape your jaw off your downstairs neighbor’s floor.

It’s been a banner week for corruption in soccer, as that same investigation brought indictments of two Fox executives, charged with bribing FIFA officials for broadcast rights to the 2018 and 2022 World Cups (which have given us the joy of Alexi Lalas word vomiting on our screens). Once again, it was South American officials on the receiving end of big bags with an “$” on them that they claimed were laundry. What information Fox got hasn’t been stated, but you can imagine it was basically how much NBC and ESPN, their main competitors, were bidding to attain the rights themselves. Neither of the execs work at Fox anymore, and certainly FIFA isn’t going to pull the rights from Fox now. Even if they were inclined, clearly Disney could find enough change in the cushions of a couple office couches to pay this one off as well. So you’ll get more sludge escaping Lalas’ lips a couple summers from now.

All healthy here.

Former COMNEBOL president Nicolás Leoz died In September of 2019, yet was Indicted for accepting bribes in return for voting for Qatar as the host nation of World Cup 2022.
Former COMNEBOL president Nicolás Leoz died In September of 2019, yet was Indicted for accepting bribes in return for voting for Qatar as the host nation of World Cup 2022.
Photo: Getty
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While this is hardly news, as the DOJ has been doing and investigating this for years, the scale coming into clearer view is still sort of surprising. And of course, the absolute non-reaction that it will cause in anything that matters.

From the moment Qatar was picked it stank, and it’s only gotten worse. There’s no way any organization with a heart, soul, or brain would pick a desert country with an appalling human rights record that’s the size of Connecticut to host the world’s biggest sporting event. But as FIFA only has a gaping maw, here we are. It took them years to even decide to move the tournament to winter, because the idea of floating, football field-sized AC units didn’t pan out to be workable. Who knew? Not that moving the World Cup to the winter fucks up pretty much every domestic season around the globe or anything.

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Qatar’s problems with hosting the World Cup are only getting deeper as well, with their shoddy handling of the epidemic endangering their slave-workers even more than usual, not that any official in FIFA will care. They’ll have two years to make the city look just clean enough that FIFA can justify keeping it there, even though anyone in their right mind would immediately use that as an excuse to move the fucking thing.

However, that winter window the tournament is scheduled for might help Qatar in this case. With both EURO 2020 and Copa America delayed until 2021 to accommodate late finishes for domestic seasons, the whole calendar might get shifted. It’s quite possible the start of the ‘20-’21 seasons may come later than normal, whether this current one is finished or not, and that shift might even run into the ‘21-’22 season. Having no summer tournament in 2022 would give leagues that need them more room to slide the season back on the end. Which is probably exactly how FIFA will justify keeping the World Cup in a place that has killed thousands for the right to host it.

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