– Warner conveniently becomes the anchor tenant for the investigation-
We awoke yesterday morning to news of a different kind, the arrests of FIFA officials in Zurich who had gathered to elect its next president. This news overshadowed all news as we get a minute for minute account of this FBI investigation that is claimed to have been in the coming for the last 4 years though encompassing a period of time exceeding two decades.
Then came the official news briefing from the USA Attorney General supported by all relevant officials that define the legal framework for jurisdiction for this USA initiated case against six to seven but really fourteen FIFA including officials.
The press briefing was filled with detail in introductory sense yet not fully explanatory as it relates to the actual charges except for clustering these as fraud, money laundering and corruption. The press briefing made it emphatic that there has already been some who had confessed to their involvement in corrupt activities as it relates to bidding, tickets etc.
Then we heard of some names yet we never heard all the names until this morning as covered in the TNA publication. We finally can put face to some of the officials. It is right here that I seek to raise my first of a litany of troubling questions.
Firstly let us commend the fact that finally an investigation with possible concrete evidence is seeing the light, it is a given that FIFA as body and organisation has a presence of great if not enlarged significance in our sport and economic context. For years the debates have been raging about the undemocratic functioning and operations of this entity that prides itself in being a family as Diego Maradona puts a mafia group. The problem has always been how an organisation as critical and definitive as FIFA could have functionality in an epoch when we strive for democracy. Hence there is no sincere football / soccer lover who has followed the game that would not welcome an investigation in arguably an entity that contends with a UN presence and its salience in this season.
However, it is interesting that Jack Warner former Vice President of FIFA, from the Caribbean Region really a small player in FIFA context becomes an anchor tenant for the FBI investigation. When we say anchor tenant we referring to the stated names from the press briefing. Anybody who knows something about media announcement knows that whatever is said first sticks, it becomes immaterial later who else is mentioned because when we have been exposed to one critical name Jack Warner the investigation is defined and shaded with him as the highest official.
Furthermore, on the Warner case we hear of amounts of U$10million bribes for SA 2010, we hear that FIFA paid this. The question becomes who in FIFA sanctioned this payment, how was the payment legitimized and affected? Regardless how financially strong (U$1,5bn) a FIFA may be, how does U$10 million get paid out to one of its 209 representative members with such ease?
Secondly, it is also interesting that that both the 2006 and 2010 SA bids feature in the FBI investigation confirmed as influenced by some thus the subject of questioning. However, the official press briefing proves consistently and very silent on the USA World-Cup bid as to how this was secured or even if it was also investigated as part of the claim of 24 years of activities of corrupt nature. It is interesting that clear reference is made to the SA 2010 bid, and nuanced on the 2014 Brazil bid yet absolute silence on the USA bid.
How, does one arrive at an almost exemption of the powerful European block of the FIFA family in this claim of corruption over an elongated period as specified by the very press briefing. EUFA remains the controlling block and has a presence second to none in the FIFA Family. It is almost natural to ask are we seeing the sacrificing of the weak less tangible even insignificant because FIFA can afford to do so.
We all know soccer is not about playing on the pitch it is a huge economy, undemocratically run by FIFA when it interacts with democratic states and nations.
That FIFA must be subjected to severe scrutiny for obvious and tangible reasons is not the subject for that is a given but FIFA does not have the luxury of choosing who it wants to sacrifice and for whatever selfish reasons.
The FBI investigation as extensive it portends cannot be merely to look at what I choose to call the small players.
On the other hand is the USA finally waking up to how big football – (in the USA – soccer) is as an economy and seeks a way to find a presence through this investigation? The local MLS has grown in leaps and bounds in the USA and though not fully as big to threaten the National Basket-Ball Association it will in the next two decades surpass the NBA is my assessment.
Another question is how is the former FIFA Vice – President the subject of enquiry, arrested and this has no bearing on the serving FIFA President, who has been serving for almost two decades. If I understand the FBI press briefing correctly the period in scrutiny constitutes twenty-four years this means for the length of this Blatter Presidency we have had this corruption however defined.
Perhaps the longer I look at this investigation the more I see a bigger agenda of BRICS as targeted (SA, 2010, Brazil 2014, Russia 2018) football clearly is much more than a game played by two teams however defined. Soccer is more than scoring goals on a pitch it is in our world serious business and an acceptable economy by itself.
Than again, are we to question all the bids that FIFA ever awarded, is the choice of a few bids the luxury that can be afforded.
Is the separate enquiry by FIFA itself, as it pertains to the respective 2018 and 2022 bids, which were won by Russia and Qatar, not a veiled claim for an insistence that the next World – Cup be a European one? How does finding the awarding of the Russian bid for 2018, feed into the current global politics of an ostracized Russian in claims of a new cold war setting?
Finally, is FIFA officials not implicated as led by its president extended a privilege and chance to clean itself (duly in smoke and mirrors sense) by choosing who and what they can sacrifice in this season? If it is given this chance who decided on it and by what power?
As you can see we only have questions at this stage, because it is early days in this simultaneous investigations of initiated by the FBI and FIFA respectively, yet these cannot be seen as mutually exclusive of one another. I am afraid Blatter simply cannot claim any moral high ground as he is attempting to do with this his first response to these occurrences.
Clyde N. S. Ramalaine
A football lover !