FIFA UNCOVERED…Sort of?!

By December 25, 2022 Articles

A week after the 2022 FIFA World Cup final between Argentina and France, many are still getting to grips about what they saw. A likely contender for ‘game of the century’, Argentina won out in the most dramatic fashion to see Lionel Messi lift the one accolade that had alluded his stellar career. The awarding of the World Cup to Qatar has been controversial since the decision was made back in 2010. Many critics highlighted human rights abuses at the hands of events organisers, as well as drawing attention to social and cultural issues in Qatar. Gianni Infantino, FIFA’s incumbent president, held a bizarre and arguably tone-deaf press conference where he defended Qatar’s values and reaffirmed that the tournament was continuing to be a huge success.

Many journalists and news outlets did their best to address the swathe of issues surrounding the Middle East’s first world cup, but as the tournament went on, the decade long inquisition into FIFA’s decision to award Qatar the world cup faded. FIFA were granted their wish: football was the headline. However, FIFA is still under fire as many continue to scrutinise the ugly running of the beautiful game.

In November, Netflix did their best to once again highlight the longstanding corruption that has plagued FIFA since its inception in 1904. In the four-part exposè documentary, FIFA Uncovered, Netflix capture the darker history of corruption within FIFA. Moody opening shots of anonymous European streets adequately set the tone; seedy backstreets symbolise the backhand dealings that FIFA has become synonymous with. Not that the documentary lacks evidence, secret wire-taps do more than enough to paint a very grim picture of FIFA’s unshakeable corruption.

Keenly highlighted as a turning point in the FIFA story is the tenure of João Havelange in 1974, the man who brought cash into a game on a scale like no other. It is worth noting that FIFA had spent seven decades as a smaller committal outfit, primarily tasked with the organisation of international tournaments, worlds away from its present multi-million pound HQ in Zurich. Under Havelange, FIFA became official partners of global brands such as Adidas, Coca-Cola and McDonalds, injecting cash into the organisation and making him a personal fortune in the process.

Havelange is exposed for his awarding of the tournament to Argentina in 1978 during its time as a military dictatorship from which he personally profited royally. Although not explicitly expressed, the documentary strikes parallels between this offence and Qatar being awarded the World Cup in 2022. Interviewees express that perhaps FIFA might have learnt the first time but instead this type of racketeering and corruption would come to embody the organisation over the following decades.

Cue public enemy number one: Sepp Blatter. Perhaps not the forefather of FIFA’s dark history but no doubt its most unpleasant protagonist. President from 1998-2015, Blatter is presented as the architect of institutional corruption spanning every arm of FIFA’s increasingly bureaucratic set-up. He is not alone; FIFA is shown to be a magnet for the greedy and the untrustworthy. Jack Warner the president of CONCACAF and the prominent American sports chief, Chuck Blazer are also highlighted. However, the documentary places Blatter under microscopic scrutiny.

Try as they might, Netflix perhaps falls short of any particularly ground-breaking insights. Much of the content could have been found in a 2010 BBC panorama Typical of their true-crime genre the documentary is glossy with fast-paced evidence. Unlike many similar style documentaries, Netflix secure the perpetrator of their own story. Blatter appears on camera but dodges them with the fleet of foot and a nous that got him off from more serious prosecution, a smooth criminal undeterred by room-temperature questioning.

There is something quite dystopian about Blatter, a curl of a smile in tow, redressing the accusations that the documentary levels at him. He repeats that he regrets what happened regarding Russia and Qatar’s successful world cup bids but steadfastly shirks responsibility as one might expect. The story of Sepp Blatter is a known one. After all, he and French legend Michel Platini came unstuck in December 2015, being given an eight-year ban from FIFA on several accounts of misconduct. One might prefer a greater look at the future (beyond Qatar), where is FIFA heading? Can it become the moral pillar of football it was intended to be? If corruption was the prequel, the clean-up must be its sequel.

Many journalists and news outlets did their best to address the swathe of issues surrounding the Middle East’s first world cup, but as the tournament went on, the decade long inquisition into FIFA’s decision to award Qatar the world cup faded. FIFA were granted their wish: football was the headline. However, FIFA is still under fire as many continue to scrutinise the ugly running of the beautiful game.

Don’t hold your breath, it doesn’t look likely. The new man at the helm, Gianni Infantino, ran is his presidential campaign on being clean, trustworthy, and moral. His comfort on the coattails of Vladimir Putin and Qatari Emir, Tamim bin Hamad, might suggest otherwise. The documentary leaves a bitter taste, but not a new one. Corruption within FIFA is an epidemic without a cure. Promises are made and then they are broken. FIFA Uncovered tells of a one-time story that is becoming a painful fable.

This article will be followed by a podcast episode to discuss some of the key areas raised, and there are many. So look out for this via our podcast, and update on this article.

What did you learn about the FIFA documentary? As with our podcast – like, comment, share and subscribe/follow. We’ll posting as usual vía social media keeping up with the stories as they unfold in the coming weeks. As always if you have any questions or queries. Email us at teamghanaeu@gmail.com or tweet or DM us at @teamghanaeu on IG or Twitter.

Written by Josh Thomas

 

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