Off The Post has finally had a chance to view Jeremy Schaap’s ESPN E:60 documentary on FIFA and its president, Sepp Blatter. For anyone who’s ever wondered just who the hell the most powerful man in soccer -- not to mention sports -- is, and how he keeps that power, it’s highly recommended viewing.
Among other things, the documentary attempts to shine a light on the corrupt bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, awarded to Russia and Qatar, respectively, in 2010, as well as the upcoming FIFA Presidential election, which will be held on May 29. As opposed to four years ago, when Blatter was reelected unopposed, this time around, the 79-year-old faces three different challengers: Prince Ali bin Al-Hussein of Jordan, Michael van Praag, head of the Dutch soccer federation, and former Portuguese soccer star Luis Figo.
Unfortunately for everyone, none of them stands a chance of defeating the incumbent.
Here’s why: the FIFA Congress, which is comprised of 209 member nations, each gets one vote on the matter. That means the likes of San Marino (pop. 31,000) and Montserrat (pop. 5,900) get the same number of votes (one) as Brazil or the USA.
According to the documentary, the delegates of small and/or poor nations see Blatter as a kind of Santa Claus, because he lavishes all kinds of free money on them.
Bloomberg News claims that FIFA has equally doled out $1.56 billion to its member countries over the last four years. Their soccer associations also each receive annual grants of $250,000. Blatter is also particularly generous in giving handouts to small countries. For example, per Bloomberg, FIFA has sent $2 million to the Cayman Islands over the past 13 years, yet the small island nation has never participated in a World Cup.
You can imagine that smaller and/or poorer nations couldn’t care less about FIFA’s image problem, gladly accepting the money in exchange for loyalty to Blatter.
Now, Off The Post isn’t saying that FIFA’s President overtly pays for votes (he would never do that!), rather, he inadvertently pays for the votes by having fostered a system that empowers and enriches the scores of politically vulnerable and/or poorer nations across the world so that he can essentially do what he wants without paying any consequences.
No wonder Blatter is so often compared to a mafia boss.
Read this way, it might seem that FIFA will never change, but the silver lining in Schaap’s story is that the walls may one day cave in on Blatter & Company after all. The FBI, for one, would like to see that happen.
Indeed, the big news item to come out of the E:60 documentary is that Blatter is scared to visit the U.S. since it emerged that Chuck Blazer, a former FIFA Executive Committee member and the former head of CONCACAF, has been helping the FBI. Blazer was charged with tax evasion in 2011 and has since been working with the federal agency as an informant. However, according to the New York Daily News, his health is flagging, rendering him unable to actively cooperate in the investigation.
Presumably, the FBI is trying to convict Blatter of money laundering and vote-rigging during the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. It could be that the Swiss fears arriving on U.S. soil might prompt his arrest. According to the documentary, Blatter hasn’t been here since 2011. Blatter said on Friday he isn't ducking the FBI.
In that case, let’s all hope he tries to make it out for next summer’s Copa America.