Friday, FIFA held their Presidential election. Just a few days earlier, the world of football had their doors blown off the hinges with the arrest of 14 current and former members of FIFA. Swiss officials, operating on behalf of the US Justice system, arrested 14 men in the early morning earlier this week at the hotel where they were staying. That is only the beginning, and the next few weeks should be an extremely interesting time. For now, we can review the whirlwind of events that have happened the past couple days.
Let us start with the first event that gathered the most media attention this week.
It has been somewhat known that the United States had been investigating FIFA through its various intelligence collecting agencies. This happens all the time, and wasn’t anything to make a big fuss over, until they dropped the proverbial hammer. Through cooperation and teamwork with the Swiss, they devised a strategy to arrest and extradite multiple FIFA executives for bribery and corruption. Because Switzerland is known as a financial safe haven, it was a bit groundbreaking that the Swiss would allow extradition for a financial matter. That might be the most surprising detail of this whole ordeal. But let’s get down to the alleged criminals.
Jeffrey Webb: Current CONCACAF President, FIFA vice president, and executive committee member.
Jack Warner: Former FIFA VP, CONCACAF president, and current Trinidad and Tobago special advisor.
Aaron Davidson: President of Traffic Sports USA Inc, a sponsorship and media mogul
Nicholas Leoz: Former FIFA executive committee member and president of CONMEBOL
Eduardo Li: Member-elect to FIFA executive committee and CONCACAF executive committee. Costa Rica federation president
Alejandro Burzaco: Controlling principal of Torneos y Competencias SA, a sports marketing firm.
Eugenio Figueredo: Current FIFA VP and ExCo member. Former CONMEBOL president, former Uruguay federation president.
Jose Maria Marin: FIFA organizing committee member for Olympics, Former Brazil federation president.
Julio Rocha: Nicaragua federation president
Rafael Esquivel: CONMEBOL ExCo member and Venezuela federation president
Costas Takkas: attaché to CONCACAF president Webb and former CIFA general secretary
Hugo Jinkis: Controlling principal of Full Play Group SA, sports marketing firm
Mariano Jinkis: Controlling principal of Full Play Group SA, sports marketing firm
Jose Margulies: Controlling principal of Valente Corp and Somerton Ltd. Broadcast intermediary
These 14 arrested are probably only the beginning, but it is a large group to start with. Who knows which charges will stick, but I am just glad that some sort of process has begun.
As for the bigger picture, FIFA held their presidential election on Friday as scheduled. The field had narrowed to just two candidates, Sepp Blatter and Prince Ali of Jordan. Michael van Praag and Luis Figo dropped out and had put their support behind Prince Ali. Supporters knew that it would be a miracle to get the votes to unseat Blatter, but got renewed hope with the arrests this week.
The world watched as each country cast their ballot, with either candidate needing a 2/3rds majority to win on the first ballot. Blatter received 133, while Prince Ali got 73. Seeing this margin, Prince Ali decided to concede and allow Blatter to take his throne for a 5th term. The 79-year-old Swiss will continue to rule for another 4 years, assuming he lives and escapes legal judgment that long.
While it is not confirmed, Blatter most likely got his votes from Africa, Asia, and Oceania. Africa and Asia have long been Blatter’s support base, and have gained the most from his presidency. The voting is technically a secret ballot, but most federations had pledged support publicly for the candidate that they were going to vote for.
The immediate aftermath was somber, especially in the United States and Europe. People hoping for real change will be disappointed. Blatter’s speech after his victory was chock full of arrogance and smug happiness. It actually sort of sounded like he was a dictator, while also saying some of the most hypocritical things that I had ever heard. He stated that he is ultimately responsible for FIFA, but he couldn’t police FIFA, and wouldn’t be responsible for those arrested over bribery and corruption charges. Protesters even made him temporarily pause one speech and call for security, yet it rolled off his tongue like a king. His willful ignorance is truly astonishing, and I hope that others can see it as well.
If these events have proved anything, they have proved that we will continue to get more of the same from Sepp Blatter and FIFA. This, for those who don’t know, has been a history of corruption, rampant criminal activity, and ignorance over the state of the game. Tighten those boots, because it will be a rough four years again.