Millennium Post

Rot in the beautiful game

The Shawshank Redemption is a 1994 American drama film written and directed by Frank Darabont,  starring Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman. One of Shawshank Redemption’s memorable character turns was Warden Samuel Norton, played by Bob Gunton. Although Warden Norton is well versed in the Bible and presents himself as a pious, devout Christian and reform-minded administrator, his actions reveal him to be corrupt, ruthless, and remorseless. There are many parallels between Warden Norton’s character and FIFA’s (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) President Sepp Blatter. Blatter has been painted by the European media as a part James Bond bald headed baddie, part modern day reincarnation of Cesare Borgia. 

There may be some grain of truth to this portrayal. In <g data-gr-id="34">fact</g> it’s safe to say that if Sepp Blatter had lived during the heydays of the papacy, Niccolo` Machiavelli would have probably written a lengthy tome on the machinations of Messrs Blatter and his underbosses. To say that Blatter runs FIFA like a mafia organisation is an understatement. The US Justice Department recently unsealed a damning indictment on Wednesday that charges 47 individuals, including FIFA officials, with bribery, racketeering, money laundering, fraud and other related crimes. While many of the details are still unclear, it appears that many of these alleged crimes were neither committed in the United States nor by U.S. citizens. Be that as it may, this may be the final nail in the proverbial coffin for Blatter.

For one, key sponsors are threatening to quit en masse. Visa, one of FIFA’s biggest sponsors, has threatened to withdraw its funding and described its “profound disappointment” with football’s governing body. Big ticket sponsors like Nike, Adidas and Coca-Cola also find themselves unwillingly embroiled in a scandal which is sure to hit their stock prices hard. While FIFA and Sepp Blatter itself lie at the epicentre of the scourge that is football related corruption, it is not the only culpable party here. In the ultimate analysis, votes for the FIFA president are cast by national football associations. 

These national associations and the fiefdoms they govern are, in many places, every bit as non-transparent, unaccountable and cliquish as FIFA. Take the Indian football scene as a prominent example. When English coach Bob Houghton presented a fair analysis of the ills which plague Indian football, charges of racism were promptly levelled against him by the All India Football Federation and he was forced to resign in ignominy. This pertinent example illustrates how the rot starts from the bottom and culminates at the top with Blatter serving as the patron saint for the corrupt. Most extraordinary and interesting in the 164-page indictment by the US Justice Department is an alleged $10m payment transferred by FIFA to Caribbean Football Union (CFU) accounts that Jack Warner- a former FIFA kingpin-controlled. 

The quid pro quo, in this case, was that Warner, Chuck Blazer and an unnamed third FIFA “conspirator” allegedly voted for South Africa to host the 2010 World Cup. The indictment alleges the South African government initially offered to make this payment to the CFU, with a stated purpose to “support the African diaspora”. If this is indeed true then one wonders how deep set the disease of corruption is in FIFA. It’s very likely that this Friday, delegates from the roughly 200 plus associated countries which make up FIFA would reinstall Blatter on his throne. It will be a sad day for the beautiful game.
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