As a huge fan of international soccer, the beautiful game is fun to watch when tournaments like the Confederations Cup is taking place. The world’s best players to participate in this tournament, despite being open to teams like Tahiti (who allowed twenty-four goals in three games) and only 8 total participating. Brazil is always an amazing squad, Spain’s international dominance continues, and Italy has shown a resurgence in recent years. That is what makes the stories of protests in Brazil so disappointing to read about.
The FIFA organization can only blame itself for these type of problems. The organization is rife with corruption, and has been decrepit for years in this regard. Prior to the award of the 2018 World Cup to Russia and 2022 to Qatar, reports of those countries highlighted risky endeavors and rated them very low when compared to countries like England, Japan, and the United States. Admittedly, accusing the organization of corruption based on that instance alone is begging the question. However, prior to the voting, the Sunday Times caught two Executive Committee members selling votes against England’s rivals in the bidding. Sepp Blatter has been dogged by allegations that he bought votes in his first campaign for FIFA President in 1998. Blatter acknowledges that votes were bought, but denies his involvement.
FIFA is not a worldwide empire, at least not in the sense of Exxon Mobil or Coca-Cola. It does govern the worldwide administration of football, though, and manages the most watched sporting event on the planet. That creates rife conditions for small-minded bureaucrats to control wide influence, and largely explains why Blatter essentially guided the World Cup to Brazil. In 2006, Blatter wanted the World Cup in South Africa, but eventually lost out to Germany’s bid. 2010 was awarded to South Africa, though, and highlighted many of the negative impacts of placing the World Cup in a country politically and economically unready to host the event on the scale it requires. However, Blatter’s insistence that “underserved” nations have a chance to host the world’s greatest international soccer competition created the condition that essentially forced the World Cup on Brazil.
Now comes Brazil, and the problems of 2010 are rearing their ugly head again. It also highlights why the corruption of FIFA and bureaucratic ineptitude created the perfect storm that resulted in the protests were seeing in Brazil today. It’s hard for a governing structure to rail against corruption when it is corrupt in its own dealings. In other words, FIFA can hardly hold Brazil’s governing structures to account on corruption relating to stadium construction and other support services. Just as importantly, FIFA cannot even begin to refuse placing the World Cup in a nation which wastes public dollars on other services when it has no legitimate foundation to make that decision. So, FIFA’s own ridiculous rotation policy that invited corrupt governments to host this competition. Brazil only exemplifies the worst possible outcome of this organization’s plans. And make no mistake, corruption in government is what these protests are coming to correctly highlight:
Many protesters were not appeased by a prime-time television address Friday night by President Dilma Rousseff, who said that peaceful protests were welcome and emphasized that she would not condone corruption. She also said she would meet with movement leaders and create a plan to improve urban transportation and use oil royalties for investments in education.
“Dilma is underestimating the resolve of the people on the corruption issue,” said Mayara Fernandes, a medical student who took part in a march in Sao Paulo. “She talked and talked and said nothing. Nobody can take the corruption of this country anymore.”
On Saturday, protesters denounced congressional legislation, known as PEC 37, that would limit the power of federal prosecutors to investigate crimes – which many fear would hinder attempts to jail corrupt politicians.
Federal prosecutors were behind the investigation into the biggest corruption case in Brazil’s history, the so-called “mensalao” cash-for-votes scheme that came to light in 2005 and involved top aides of former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva buying off members of congress to vote for their legislation.
Last year, the supreme court condemned two dozen people in connection to the case, which was hailed as a watershed moment in Brazil’s fight against corruption. However, those condemned have yet to be jailed because of appeals, a delay that has enraged Brazilians.
The beautiful game now has a black eye, and it’s something that could be avoided with real reform in FIFA and Brazil. Most importantly, we that will be watching from the serenity of our own couches could be mindful of corruption in our own backyard and the impact it has on our lives. After all, there might be a day soon when the World Cup comes back to the United States. To hell with the World Cup, the Atlanta Falcons needed a new stadium…and will get one.