A Global Game Run By Money

In weird soccer news, 13 Senators wrote a letter to FIFA urging them to take World Cup 2018 away from Russia because of their invasion of Ukraine. These senators decided to take a victory lap with this letter after the wildly successful letter to the Ayatollah because the world loves being told what to do by Americans. If you didn’t remember, two senators also sent a letter to FIFA before the World Cup in 2014 asking Blatter to suspend Russia from Brazil. It seems the final result will be FIFA 2-0 Senate. According to the letter’s logic, FIFA would then have to award the World Cup to another country (one would assume Portugal/Spain which came in second in the host selection but also Belgium/Netherlands 3rd or England 4th).

First of all, one does not get a World Cup without wielding significant political influence in FIFA, so the idea that these senators could somehow overcome that is quite silly. Secondly, Russia was given the World Cup only 2 years after invading another neighbor, Georgia. If you think FIFA is concerned about corruption, invading other countries, or political suppression, then frankly you haven’t been paying attention. In fact if we have an Evil-off between Russia, Qatar, Iran, and FIFA, FIFA is winning that hands down. We complain about college football playoffs and underinflated footballs in the US while FIFA is setting up extrajudicial, kangaroo courts in World Cup host countries and throwing people in jail for years. Two men had literally robbed some journalists on Wednesday, were arrested on Thursday, and sentenced to 15 years in jail on Friday. I’m no lawyer but that isn’t due process.

The rest of the soccer world pretty much agrees that Russia and Qatar winning their bids were terrible decisions based on internal FIFA politics and money rather than considerations of the fans (human rights issues with travelling fans including racism, homophobia, sexism, and political suppression), players & clubs(again racism, moving WC2022 to winter), workers in the winning countries(again human rights abuses) or soccer as whole(how does this improve the sport?). If you have not read this article, you should.

I wouldn’t want anyone to take this as an argument for the US having the World Cup in 2018 or 2022 (although I suspect that would be a partial motive for the senators’ letter). While I do think we have a lot of things going for us (current stadium infrastructure, transportation, established popularity of our domestic league, ‘94 has the highest attendance of any world cup), we also invaded some countries lately so let’s climb down off of our high horse. I would love to have it here and be able to attend some matches but I don’t know that that is in the best interest of the entire footballing world.

I believe in the global game. Opening up the World Cup to non Latin American and European regions is the right thing to do and arguably one of the few positives of Blatter’s overlong reign. Although the South African WC didn’t go off without a hitch and had a lot of empty stadiums, I think it was the right plan. If I’m being honest I think Spain/Portugal (only European countries were allowed for this one) and Australia should have won their bids(I am confident in us winning 2026 though).

There are FIFA presidential elections coming up so it is possible, if completely unlikely (like seriously, it’s not going to happen) that Blatter could lose and the new president could reform the association. Realistically, any person who wins would, at best, be able to make modest improvements. I think we need to move to a post-FIFA world. Let’s not forget that it was started as an alternative to the Olympic games and could be replaced. The answer is not in the fans. FIFA doesn’t care about fans. The answer is money. Sponsors have yet to be so appalled by the Guardian’s projection that 4,000 workers will die in the run up to Qatar 2022 to have leveraged any change.

Unless the FAs of the most powerful footballing nations take some bold actions (which is only going to happen with serious sponsor support), I think we all have to accept that the 2018 World Cup is going to be Russian and 2022 is going to be in Qatar in the freaking winter.