FIFA’s corrupt grip on world soccer must be ended

Qatar WCup Soccer
People pose for a photograph with a sign reading in English” Fifa World Cup, Qatar 2022″ at the corniche in Doha, Qatar, Friday, Nov. 11, 2022. Final preparations are being made for the soccer World Cup which starts on Nov. 20 when Qatar face Ecuador. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar) Hassan Ammar/AP

FIFA’s corrupt grip on world soccer must be ended

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Canceling the sale of alcohol should not, by itself, prompt international outrage. But the timing of Qatar’s announcement that it would ban the sale of booze at this year’s World Cup games was not an isolated irritation. It was the latest insult inflicted on soccer fans by the host nation and the latest example of the Gulf state’s contemptuous indifference to its own promises. Qatar’s behavior in securing and holding the biggest sports event in the world has been indefensible behavior, as has that of FIFA, the Fédération Internationale de Football Association, the sport’s governing body.

For Americans unfamiliar with international “football,” the World Cup is normally played in June and July after the world’s major club leagues (England’s Premier League, France’s Ligue 1, Germany’s Bundesliga, Italy’s Serie A, and Spain’s La Liga) have ended their seasons. Every World Cup before this one was played at that time.

FIFA PRESIDENT GIANNI INFANTINO’S EXTRAORDINARY OWN GOAL

When Qatar bid to host the year’s World Cup, its officials claimed the tournament would be played as usual in this window. When FIFA asked how that was possible, given that the mercury reaches 125 degrees in Qatari summers, the Qataris promised they would build new stadiums with air conditioning for players and fans.

Qatar did build seven stadiums for the tournament, having previously had none capable of hosting a World Cup game. But none had the promised cooling. Heat stroke for players and fans became a real threat, so, for the first time, FIFA had to move the tournament to the winter, November and December, bang in the middle of the club league schedules. This is the equivalent of the NBA eliminating games throughout July so the U.S. basketball team could play in the Summer Olympics.

As bad as the Qatari World Cup has been for fans, it has been far far worse for the foreign migrant workers Qatar needed to build the seven stadiums and surrounding infrastructure. An estimated 6,500 men died working in the sweltering heat.

Why did Qatar, a soccer nonentity, get the World Cup? Because FIFA is irredeemably corrupt.

The Department of Justice has indicted more than 50 FIFA and related officials for bribery and secured 27 convicts. Bribery was also involved in the award of the 2018 World Cup to Russia.

FIFA has changed leadership since Qatar got the World Cup. President Sepp Blatter, who oversaw the corrupt decisions, was forced out in 2015 and has been banned from all FIFA events through 2027. But his replacement, Gianni Infantino, is no improvement. FIFA’s decision-making and finances are as opaque as ever, and Infantino even accepted a Order of Friendship medal from Russian President Vladimir Putin last year.

Soccer fans should not have to put up with FIFA, and nor should the great soccer nations of the world. The growing United States soccer fan base can lead the way. As soon as the 2022 World Cup is over, national soccer associations of the U.S. and Europe should announce their intention to withdraw from FIFA and invite other nations to join them. Soccer is by far the most popular sport in the world. It is run shamefully. It desperately needs a new governing body.

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