Making a list of corrupt organizations that exploit their workers and the countries in which they operate seems like something that should not be easy in 2015. Yet, it is, and FIFA is at the top of that list. FIFA President Sepp Blatter’s list of cover-ups and scandals goes on and on, and just this week, former Brazilian footballer and global soccer icon Pelé told Blatter to “come clean,” according to skysports.com.
While FIFA has always operated under shady pretenses, this latest corruption crisis involved the FBI, which leveled corruption charges against nine FIFA officials. The Swiss Department of Justice also opened up criminal inquiries into FIFA’s awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar, respectively.
Now, Pelé has called for both Blatter and all of FIFA to come clean. The tragedy of this whole situation is not the fact that FIFA is corrupt; in all honesty, what major sports organization is not at least a little shady? The tragedy lies in the fact that FIFA exploits its fans and the people who treat soccer as their religion.
In the FIFA World Cup in 2014, hosted in Brazil, nearly 5 million children were exposed to some form of sexual abuse, especially in the form of sexual tourism. Boys and girls as young as 10 and 11 were put on street corners and told to offer themselves to tourists and fans for as little as 10 Brazilian reals, the equivalent of $2.39. While FIFA had no direct relation to the exploitation of children, it did nothing to stop it and instead profited from the World Cup as a whole, giving little to none of the profits back to Brazil. Instead of condemning the Brazilian government and taking actions to reduce the number of victimized children, it turned a blind eye and focused solely on marketing.
What the public saw were the highlight tapes, the music videos and the ads from Coca-Cola, McDonalds, Visa and essentially any major company wanting to cash in on the hype of the World Cup. Who would pass up an opportunity that profitable? The World Cup is the most watched television event in the entire world, routinely breaking all sorts of viewership records. However, in those companies’ defense, they really did have no idea that FIFA’s corruption ran so deep.
Ignoring a laundry list of human rights violations is not the only offense that FIFA has committed. The international community has recently cracked down on the conditions under which FIFA placed the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, allegedly only awarding it the hosting duties because of massive bribes. While the investigation remains pending, and it does remain to be seen if Russia and Qatar will lose their World Cup hosting privileges, one thing is for sure: the eyes of the world are on FIFA, and rightfully so.
Several prominent international soccer teams have supported the idea of boycotting the 2018 and 2022 World Cups if FIFA does not either change the locations or reveal its illicit activities. Several fans have begun to look down on everything FIFA stands for, but they sound like a hollow voice in the crowd of complaints. It appears that FIFA is corrupt beyond belief, but the real problem is that people will only willingly protest if FIFA threatens the very notion that it uses to exploit millions and millions of people: the love of the game.
Soccer is the world’s most popular sport. As long as nearly two billion people follow a sport arguably more popular and more followed than any major religion, FIFA will always be able to exploit the game so many love and worship. The solution is far from easy, but as long as people love the game of soccer more than they hate the exploitation and abuse of underprivileged peoples and countries, FIFA will continue getting away with murder. And, if anyone has paid attention to the conditions workers are subject to while building stadiums in Qatar, that is not merely a figure of speech.
Paolo Santamaria is a sophomore in the College. Saxa Synergy appears every Friday.
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