We have witnessed a farce, a piece of theatre, a comic soap opera, without intelligence, without morality from an organization without credibility.
Now according to FIFA and its President Sepp Blatter, we are supposed to believe that there is no crisis at FIFA. This despite 10 of the 24 FIFA Executive Committee, who made the world’s biggest sporting business decision giving the World Cup tournament to Qatar and Russia, being linked to corruption. This despite their presidential election crumbling into a coronation on allegations of corruption and envelopes stuffed with cash for votes. Hmmm, if this is not a crisis, it makes you wonder what FIFA would consider a crisis.
It is difficult to keep a straight face to all this nonsense. I suggest we do not. What is coming out of FIFA now is beyond scorn, it is beyond righteous anger, it is simply beyond any credibility. All press conferences. All FIFA outside communication should be laughed at. Comedy is the one thing that pompous bureaucrats care about – fans, if they care about the game, should also write to FIFA’s corporate sponsors and tell them they will drink Pepsi, use Mastercard/Puma and drive non-Korean cars, until those companies stop supporting the farce.
Here is the problem. While all this goes on, the international sporting world is facing a much larger challenge. It is a challenge that no one has spoken about in a serious way. It is the problem of match-fixing because of the globalization of the gambling market. This morning, amidst the charade of the FIFA conference, the story emerged of a young Korean player who committed suicide because of match-fixing.
I was interviewed last year by Korean journalists when their lower leagues were shown to be infested with fixers. They were, as usual, puzzled by it happening in the lower division, but they were certain that no one else was involved. No native-born Korean, they declared, would ever be so unethical as to sell a match for profit. I tried to tell them that I hear this nonsense all the time, from Germans, from Finns, from Belgians, from all different nationalities around the world. The simple and sad truth is that if you underpay and exploit players anywhere in the world, they will generally all do the same things, regardless of their nationality or ethnicity.
Then came news of more suspected fixing in the Italian leagues. A former captain of Lazio has been arrested under suspicion of arranging matches. Where were the alleged fixers placing their bets? On the Asian gambling markets – and no ‘early-warning system’ had picked up on it. (Sometimes, it can be depressing to be right all the time about a particular subject. I have been saying for years that early warning systems of the gambling markets will not work. I am right about this subject because no gambling company or sporting association pays me to pretend that everything is alright, when it clearly is not).
So the situation is that we have fixing stories following the same general pattern in two different countries, in two different leagues, thousands of miles apart. They are typical of many different football leagues and sports around the world. This is the real challenge facing international sport, it will destroy the current sporting world if nothing is done about it. And no one in Zurich or anyone connected with FIFA is dealing with it in a serious way. This is the tragedy within the farce at FIFA.