Watch that video and tell me what you see.
Sepp Blatter is in Haiti on a much publicized CONCACAF tour, and the Blatter Experience was in full swing. Swaying through rutted dirt streets, shanties leaning over the crowded thoroughfares, Sepp swaggers through with a besuited entourage en route to a ribbon cutting. Stepping over and around the issue but never in it. The FIFA way.
Sepp Blatter daintily picking his way through a place in which he very clearly does not fit should be commonplace by now. Blatter and his flanking FIFA officials seem as disconnected with their non-monied base as ever, which echoed loudly in Blatter’s latest comments on the Qatar World Cup bid process. They are shocking but only in the way atrocities pouring from a war-torn area are shocking. The jolt to the system is heavy despite the ever-present lingering caress of expectation.
We expect Sepp Blatter to be a party to corruption. But when it hits, it still smarts the same.
Blatter’s comments to Die Zeit: “Yes, definitely there was direct political influences. European leaders recommended to their voting members to vote for Qatar, because they have great economic interests with this country.”
To which Sepp responds in all his egalitarian aplomb that they’ve now set up an “independent ethics commission” to “examine” the awarding of the World Cup to Qatar. Where and how this shadow commission will come to its incredibly unanticipated conclusions seems more moot than a Chivas USA game in October.
The ramifications of this are terrible, and the vultures are hungrily swishing their wings around the carrion of FIFA’s integrity. As they should. This story will eventually be smashed open by journalists with 20-ton bricks so the world can see FIFA’s corrupt lungs heaving and wheezing through this whole process.
UEFA’s membership base has quickly rallied to Sepp’s side, saying that its membership backs Qatar’s move to the winter. Meanwhile, in the real word, 32 Nepalese expatriate workers died on work sites in Qatar in the month of July alone. While not wholly connected to World Cup work sites, the country’s human rights record when it comes to worker exploitation and forced labor conditions is an eyelash short of deplorable. The amount of work it will take to get Qatar ready for 2022 is staggering, which, again, seems to be an afterthought FIFA did not weigh against the reality of the area’s conditions.
As we know now, all of these things took a momentary backseat to the blind political and economic interests of UEFA, the game’s most powerful continental governing body. As Sepp and his cronies continue to dance around issues like so many ballerinas – a few human rights violations never hurt anyone, right? – we’ll continue to be fed outright lies in place of humble truths that would kneecap these plans.
The hue and cry on this issue isn’t fading. But it seems as though the impetus from the higher-ups to listen is. On a systemic level, we’ll all cross our fingers that in the same way South Africa wrapped itself in duct tape and welcomed the world to a largely successful World Cup in 2010, Qatar will overcome FIFA’s executive incompetence to make 2022 a similarly impressive red carpet.
If not, the vultures are waiting. And they are hungry.