Commentary

Canada and the FIFA scandals

By Paul Kennedy
(@pkedit)

It took three days, but Monday's doubleheader in Winnipeg finally put the Women's World Cup front and center where it should be.

On the field, for good and for bad.

Woso supporters were feeling just a little aggrieved that the tournament had been hijacked by external events.

First, there were the FIFA indictments handed down in Brooklyn Federal Court, the same day as U.S. Soccer's Media Day in New York. Bad luck.

Both the USA and Canada teams arrived at their destinations -- Winnipeg and Edmonton, respectively -- to the news that FIFA president had resigned. More FIFA questions.

Things reached a low at the opening press conference in Vancouver. Jerome Valcke, the FIFA general secretary caught up in the scandal, had bailed on the event. That did not prevent the scandal from being topic No. 1.

The FIFA p.r. woman asked that questions concern the tournament in Canada, not the scandal on Zurich, so what happened? The first five questions were about the scandal.

Quizzed, in French, on whether the Canadian Soccer Association paid bribes to win the right to host the Women's World Cup, its president, Victor Montagliani, translated the question into English at the request of another reporter.

“His question,” Montagliani said, “was when we bid for the World Cup was there any … comment dit-on? -- how do you say?"

The reporter answered his own question: "Bribes."

It was not Montagliani's shining moment. Asked about his friend and colleague, suspended Concacaf president Jeffrey Webb, sitting in a Zurich jail on charges of taking millions in bribes, Montagliani said that until the indictments, it was hard for anyone -- him or the media -- to say anything bad about a man who had worked hard to rid soccer of racism and initiate reforms at the FIFA and Concacaf levels.

And he then took a jab at the media: "You need to maybe look in the mirror a little bit and, maybe not put people on the pedestal so you can whack the hell out of them after."

Day after day of FIFA coverage started to subside by Sunday as the sellout in Edmonton and opening win (barely) by Canada had shined some light on the tournament. Then the USA was rocked by an ESPN Outside the Lines report that presented new and not so flattering details of Hope Solo's arrest. The story broke just before FIFA was scheduled to conduct the USA's pregame press conference.

The reaction of Coach Jill Ellis: "It's standard for me not to read anything."

Where these stories fair game?

Solo is a huge star, beyond soccer, and she had proclaimed her innocence, telling Good Morning America in February she was a victim of domestic violence. No one believes for a second the CSA bribed FIFA -- the only other bidder was Zimbabwe -- but it's a question that had to be asked.

But the question that no one asked Montagliani was whether the CSA was afraid to rock the boat and press big, bad FIFA about the issue of artificial turf. No one doubts that Canada's big football stadiums might need turf in the late fall when the CFL wraps up, but is it such a wise idea to play on artificial turf in June when temperatures on the field hit 130 degrees Sunday in Ottawa and 120 degrees Saturday in Edmonton?

It's just a tad ironic that FIFA has been blasted for ignoring safety concerns about the heat in Qatar when the heat could be a determining issue in Canada. (The team most used to playing in the extreme heat will be the USA. Temperatures on the field for last year's FC Kansas City-Portland NWSL playoff game hit almost 160 degrees.)

The lawsuit players filed against FIFA and the CSA before an Ontario tribunal had no chance because it was filed too late. If the players were unhappy with what the organizers were proposing, they should have sued a couple of years ago. But the bigger point is that FIFA and the CSA are to blame for not vetting their plans to players in 2012 or 2013.

The toll the FIFA scandals have taken on soccer extend far beyond the millions of dollars in misappropriated money. The image that has been spoiled. The mistrust that has been created. (FIFA can pay off the Football Association of Ireland $7 million to keep it quiet about a disputed handball, but it can't pay to install six grass fields. Huh?)

It isn't easy to nail Blatter or his No. 2 Jerome Valcke on the FIFA scandals. But there's one thing for which they are entirely to blame.

They've perpetuated a culture of crisis management, booting the ball out of bounds when they needed to get it right on the Women's World Cup.

2 comments about "Canada and the FIFA scandals".
  1. uffe gustafsson, June 9, 2015 at 6:57 p.m.

    No surprise there, if Blatter can't remember the name of the top 3 women at the FIFA best player of the year, and recommending short shorts to make woman soccer be more popular.
    I'm just shaking my head in disbelief of such ignorence of women's soccer.
    Time for a woman to step up and take charge of the old men's club that FIFA represent.
    My vote is for Pia sundhagen to step up and clean up that awful group of selfish old guys that just looking out for them self.
    And get back to promote youth soccer instead of lining their pockets.
    The youth is the next generation to play WC both men and women.

  2. Valerie Metzler, June 9, 2015 at 9:25 p.m.

    Great idea!

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