Red Card

I was set out to write about something entirely different. I followed my typical blogging routine: did my research about the topic I intended to discuss, wrote a draft, threw the draft out of the window and wondered, probably for the hundredth time, how a talentless hack like me could be a digital ambassador, then went to bed. All set for a session of fervent blogging the next morning.

The next morning was no ordinary morning, though. I woke up to the incessant squeaking of my very own harbinger of doom; the BBC’s ‘breaking news’ alert. With one eye shut, I reluctantly glanced at the screen expecting to feast my eyes on yet another ire-inducing chapter of ‘this day in our tragedy-ridden world’. But it wasn’t like that, not by a long shot. It was the best news I’ve read in a really long time.

In what was clearly a failed attempt from the reporter who wrote the teaser to hide his or her elation, the title reads “A FIFA shakedown” and then it goes into detail about how seven high-ranking FIFA officials were arrested only a few hours ago from a swanky 5-star hotel in Zurich, and – that’s the part that got me brimming with vengeful joy – they were being readied for extradition to the United States to face corruption and racketeering charges.

Politico’s Tunku Varadarjan eloquently and whimsically summarized how football fans around the world received the good news. “There can’t be a single soccer fan anywhere in the world who didn’t have the sports-lover’s equivalent of a righteous orgasm”, he wrote. And, despite his erroneous use of the word “soccer” in reference to football, he couldn’t be more right.

FIFA represents an egregiously grotesque side of the beautiful game. I don’t think there has ever been a human activity so loved by billions, run by an organization so loathsome. The indictment revealed horrifying details about the inner workings of football’s governing body. It was difficult sometimes not to re-check the title of the U.S Attorney General’s web page just to make sure one is not mistakenly reading the script of an episode from ‘The Sopranos’.

Behind the glittering façade of our chanting and cheering for our national teams, our ecstasy over winning and heartbreak over losing and our true and unadulterated love of our beautiful sport, lies what was described in the indictment as a “racketeering conspiracy”. It was saddening, nauseating and infuriating. I couldn’t help but remember what comedian John Oliver said in his widely circulated video about FIFA “telling someone about the inner workings of FIFA for the first time is a bit like showing someone two girls one cup”, he said, interrupted by the crowd’s raucous laughter “you do it mainly so you can watch the horrified expressions on people’s faces”.

The nightmare is not over, though. FIFA’s tyrannical president is still there, and, believe it or not, seeking a fifth term despite all the scandals that tarnished the very face of the sport and the resounding condemnation of his leadership. When Luis Figo, one of football’s all-time greats, described Sepp Blatter as a ‘dictator’, the internet bustled with criticism of Figo, as ‘dictator’ was deemed “too soft a word” to describe the 79-year-old Swiss, who – during his tenure as FIFA president – entrenched his monarch-like status with intricate back-channel power plays and quid-pro-quo deals with equally-questionable leaders of national and continental football associations; a man who was dubbed “The dark prince of football” by the press, an accurate moniker if there ever was one.

Football fans all around the world have shown FIFA the red card. No more shady deals, kick-backs and under-the-table transactions. Long gone are the days where people stand idly by while FIFA executives give away the rights to organize major football tournaments to those who have deeper pockets. After the much-anticipated dethroning of Blatter and his cronies and the subsequent overhaul of the entire organization, transparency will be the name of the game. I think all of us football fans long for the day where football no longer embodies the ‘sausage principle’: “if you love something, never find out how it’s made”.


Written by Ayman

28 May 2015