FOUL! FIFA: Rule Makers or Rule Breakers?

There are two basic laws, they say, that governs the existence of mankind: the rules of God and the rules of man; if you want to survive, don’t break them!

I will not attempt to embark on the onerous task of elucidating the former as it can prove to be daunting and obscure—I will, however, spotlight a little bit on the rules of man.

For example, part of the rules of man is the constitution that governs every sovereign state—one that each citizen within that sovereignty is bound by no matter how powerful or lowly they may be. It should also be in the context of good reasoning to suggest that in the category of the rules of man – are the rules of organizations—one that governs the ethics and conducts of its operations and operators. For example, organizations like The Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA).

Let’s state the obvious so that we don’t err as a function of assumption, that FIFA is the world’s governing football body. It is saddled with the responsibility of managing football affairs in the world and within its member countries. It publishes the 17 fundamental rules that govern football and it regulates the code and conduct of member countries and her word is lord as far as football is concerned on this planet. Having said this however, a wave of consternation and befuddlement assails one when you learn that those who make the law are the ones breaking the law—or aptly, the rule makers have become the rule breakers!

Over the years there have always been allegations of gross misconduct among the ranks of FIFA officials and we’ve read about how FIFA itself would set up investigative committees to look into these charges of corrupt practices and some have been axed for shady deals, the magnitude of the monumental corruption didn’t dawn on many, except folks like the investigative journalist Andrew Jennings who blew the lid off and exposed FIFA misdemeanors , which includes taking bribes to allocate hosting rights to nations, money racketeering, ticketing frauds and secret seven-figure perks for the executives.

Recently, FIFA itself started making more headlines than the stars and football action as the season wounded to an end—the show organizers have become the show men! On May 27, 2015, Swiss authorities closed in on some top FIFA executives who have been under investigation by U.S. officials and they were nabbed from their plush 5-star hotels into the confines of the authorities, now awaiting an extradition to the United States for further trial. It was reported that the U.S. have substantial evidence to prosecute the FIFA helmsmen for a racket totaling about $150 million over a period of 24 years.

When I first heard the news of the FIFA scandal, especially as the flame is being fanned by U.S. authorities, I had reservations stemmed from the notion that this could just be another way the World power is using to get their pound of flesh from FIFA executives for their failed bid to host the world cup in 2022. But that impression gave way when FIFA president Sepp Blatter, the controversial figure at the helm of football governance for almost two decades now, relinquished his mandate just four days after being reelected, citing that “while I have a mandate from the membership of FIFA, I do not feel that I have a mandate from the entire world of football—fans, the players, the clubs, the people who live, breathe and love football as much as we all do at FIFA.” Now when Blatter resigns, it only tells you that the heat is getting more intense!

While trying to find out more what’s going on, I read about the works of an investigative journalist, Andrew Jennings. who first gave the U.S officials a tipoff about the underhanded dealings going on in FIFA in 2006 when he published his book,“FOUL! The Secret World of FIFA: Bribes, Vote Rigging and Ticket Scandals.” This unrelenting old reporter also released a BBC film panorama that same year titled, “The Beautiful Bung: Corruption and the World Cup.” In 2014, Jennings released another book, “Omerta: Sepp Blatter’s FIFA Organized Crime Family”

Jennings Who has the instinct for sniffing shady business is famed for his works as he had worked on stories relating to organized crime. In the 1980s, he dug into bad cops, the Thai heroin trade and the Italian mob. In the 1990s, the 71 year old reporter brought the corruption in the International Olympic committee to full glare. It was his works that unraveled the FIFA machinations and soon enough the gentlemen of the FBI contacted him and proper investigations began. As soon as he started on FIFA’s case, he had become a thorn in their flesh as he would go to press conferences and rather than limit himself to the clichéd queries of your average Joe sports writer—FIFA president got questions like, “‘Herr Blatter, have you ever taken a bribe?’”

South African football association has also come out to deny that they paid $10million in bribes for the hosting of the 2010 World cup but the authorities believe that not everything has been heard about the way FIFA has been awarding hosting rights to nations. In recent times, the controversy surrounding the awarding of hosting rights to Russia in 2018 – a country that doesn’t attempt to hide its homophobia for example, and Qatar in 2022, where the heat is so much that the World cup calendar had to be shifted to the winter, something that is still stirring controversy in its wake as the rest of the football world are agitating that it would upset the football calendar. All these have fallen to the deaf ears of the FIFA bosses—we can now speculate why.

While Sepp Blatter has not been indicted yet, Andrew Jennings believes it’s only a matter of time. Now there’s a likelihood that the FIFA bosses will be going for a playoffin the United States and Jennings have no pity for them, “It’s nice to know that Herr Blatter won’t be able to sleep tonight. And that he’ll finally get to sleep around half past five. And at six o’clock someone will slam a car door outside and he’ll be shooting out of bed and under the bed. Serves him right. He’s not a nice man.” And he hopes to be out there in the United States when the Play offs begin, “I just hope I can afford the airfare to New York and that someone will let me sleep on their couch so that I can be there in the [courthouse] press box to say, ‘Hi guys! It’s been a long run, hasn’t it?’”

As FIFA tries to sanitize its house by a total overhaul of leadership and operation, we lovers of football would only hope that sanity will be brought to the game we love so much and the stigma of these criminal acts of the men who made the rules obliterated from our sport. Let those who break the rules pay the price, and for those guys in FIFA, it’s time up—after all, they should know better that when the referee blows the final whistle, there’s no going back.

O.P. Philips is a freelance writer/entrepreneur. He is the author of The “OBAMA” in You! His new book, “What Football Teaches About Life” will be released soon.

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