Early last year I unveiled the FIFA Language Analysis Machine (FLAM), a device that was able to decode FIFA President Gianni Infantino's 2022 New Year's Speech. FIFA is already cooking up a storm of chronic Big Sensationalism (BS) way ahead of the 2026 World Cup, so I fired it up again this week during the launch of something called the "FIFA World Cup 26™ Official Brand." Yes, it seems that soccer's world governing body is claiming copyright on the number 26. Expect to see an extra charge on your bill every time you order the Shrimp Lo Mein.
Let's dive into the sink tank of balderdash that's just sullied my inbox and see what my special analysis machine can tell us about Jonny's latest plans for selling soccer all the way down the Mississippi:
FIFA: "The FIFA World Cup™ Trophy, the most widely recognized and prized sporting asset globally, was unveiled at the forefront of the FIFA World Cup 26™ Official Brand on Wednesday, 17 May 2023.”
FLAM: Is that the World Cup in your trouser pocket, Mr. Infantino, or are you just pleased to see me?
FIFA: "For the first time in history, an image of the actual trophy and the tournament hosting year is being depicted, forming an innovative design language that anchors the FIFA World Cup™ emblem for 2026 and beyond."
FLAM: We have designed a logo for the 2026 World Cup.
FIFA: "The image of the trophy and the year allow for customization to reflect the uniqueness of each host, while building an identifiable brand structure for years to come."
FLAM: Because the next World Cup takes place in 2026, we have decided to use the number 26 in the logo.
FIFA: "The Official Brand of the FIFA World Cup 26™ was launched in Los Angeles, USA, in an event that saw FIFA, host countries Canada, Mexico, and the USA, football legends and special guests come together to celebrate the first milestone of an exciting journey to the greatest sporting event ever. Attendees at the iconic Griffith Observatory witnessed sporting history made as the emblem was presented by FIFA President Gianni Infantino and Ronaldo, two-time FIFA World Cup winner with Brazil."
FLAM: We threw a big party. You weren't invited.
FIFA: "The launch also introduced WE ARE 26, a campaign that empowers people, places and communities to play an integral role in launching the FIFA World Cup 26™ Official Brand. The campaign has captured portraits of faces and places that tell their own unique FIFA World Cup stories, featuring individuals and experiences that await fans in 2026 and inviting everyone to be a part of it."
FLAM: Up until and during the next World Cup, we will continue to pretend that we care about something besides flogging our main asset. Message: The World Cup belongs to the fans! Reality: The World Cup belongs to us (™, time and time again), and we're battering it for every last cent.
FIFA President Jonny I: “WE ARE 26 is a rallying cry. It’s a moment when three countries and an entire continent collectively say: ‘We are united as one to welcome the world and deliver the biggest, best and most inclusive FIFA World Cup ever.’ The tournament will enable each host country and participating team to write their own page in the history books of FIFA World Cups, and this unique brand is a major step on that road to 2026.”
FLAM: I always say that the latest World Cup was/is/will be "the best ever." I'm sorry, I can't help myself. Just like some people always grab the biggest slice of cake without asking, or can’t help telling you their golf handicap, even though you didn’t ask. I have a slogan too, WE ARE 26. It doesn't mean anything (unless you and some friends all just turned 26), but that's not the point of a slogan. The point of a slogan is to hammer you with the same phrase until you cede to our will and weep in defeat.
FIFA President Jonny I: “In just a few hours, the 16 amazing Host Cities will make all of this even more colorful and exciting as they launch the individual brands developed by FIFA. These unique city identities embody the fun and fantastic people and places that will offer fans an experience like no other in 2026. While we celebrate here in LA together tonight, an entire continent celebrates that the whole world will unite in North America for the greatest show on Earth in just three years’ time.”
FLAM: Everyone in, like, the whole world will have the greatest time for ever and ever and ever, all thanks to fantastic, fun-totin' FIFA!
FIFA: "Guests also followed a Q&A led by Fox Sports analyst and 1994 FIFA World Cup™ star Alexi Lalas and Telemundo’s host Ana Jurka with FIFA Legends from the three host countries – Carli Lloyd, Craig Forrest and Jorge Campos. The evening ended in style with a drone show over the Hollywood Hills."
FLAM: We paid some semi-famous people to smile and wave for the camera like they give a shit. Are we nearly done here?
FIFA Vice-President and Concacaf President Victor Montagliani: “The FIFA World Cup 2026 will be a festival of football that will take the sport to new heights in the Concacaf region and beyond. With 104 matches to be played across 16 cities ..."
FLAM: Stop! Enough already. I'm over-heating. We still have three years of this. Please, please, stop.
FIFA Vice President and Concacaf President Victor Montagliani: "... in Canada, Mexico and the USA, it provides a tremendous opportunity to engage people and bring new fans to the beautiful game. This innovative brand, and the inclusive ‘WE ARE 26’ campaign, are major milestones that bring that opportunity a step closer, and they send a clear signal that this incredible competition is now truly on the horizon.”
FLAM: Soccer is 'the beautiful game'? That's so poetic, Victor, and has never been said before. Thank you for that. And wait, why has no one mentioned the stakeholders yet? Will nobody think of the stakeholders?
FIFA Vice-President and Concacaf President Victor Montagliani: “I look forward with great anticipation to continuing to work with all of the Host Cities, the team at FIFA and the many important stakeholders involved in delivering what will be the biggest and most inclusive and diverse World Cup ever.”
FLAM: Well, with 48 teams it will certainly be fucking inclusive. May all those holding their stakes have a spare hand to salute the bestest, greatest, most fabulous, ginormous, spectacular, world-healing Event evaaah! Do I get the job? Will you pay me more than Alexi?
Photo by Harold Cunningham/FIFA Media Hub