The man dithers and prattles. In any multinational corporation, he would have been long gone, not because of right and wrong but because he was bad for business, bad for image, bad for selling lethal cars or whatever the company was doing.
But Sepp Blatter, the head of FIFA, the world soccer body, goes on and on. Now he is threatening to run for another term, even before the World Cup takes place in Brazil under very dicey circumstances next month.
Blatter’s latest foolishness was saying the other day that choosing Qatar for the 2022 World Cup was a “mistake.” You make mistakes in life, he said, talking about awarding a World Cup to a nation without a football heritage but lots of oil money to grease FIFA delegates.
Some of the people who voted for Qatar have since been banned for improprieties. Yet Blatter insists the 2022 World Cup was not bought and sold. Just a “mistake.” The executive voters did not notice that it gets hot in Qatar in summer.
Blatter’s handlers have since chimed in, as they often must, to note that he never said Qatar would be replaced.
Blatter used to be known for merely sexist and inane comments. FIFA should hold the World Cup every year or two. Female players should wear tight uniforms. Now he is about to preside over the most political protests ever seen in a World Cup – and he has insured a scandalous World Cup in Qatar, a nation that allows mistreatment of migrant workers.
Fortunately, Andrew Jennings is still raking the muck.
Jeremy Schaap did a great report on the deaths of migrant workers, on ESPN a few days ago.
Dave Zirin of The Nation has been all over FIFA.
And Wright Thompson of ESPN has been in Brazil, producing prose and videos about a nation where a major swath of citizens has identified FIFA and futebol – and the government -- as a problem, not just a big quadrennial party.
Blatter has been found out. Yet he keeps talking – and getting re-elected. Speaking of mistakes.
Welcome to World Cup 2022, the most absurd thing that the routinely absurd world of sports has ever produced.
Those extreme descriptions were what virtually the entire world, save for those who had walked off with bags of cash from Qatar, called the awarding of soccer’s greatest event to the incredibly tiny, incredibly wealthy country back in 2010.
Twelve years ago, many were convinced this event couldn’t possibly happen: staging the world’s biggest sporting event in a country the size of Connecticut, one with zero soccer culture and even less soccer infrastructure? The tournament couldn’t possibly take place in 120-degree heat, and FIFA, the governing body of soccer, most certainly wouldn’t upend football leagues around the world to change the traditional summer schedule, could it?
And, for God’s sake, what about the beer?
Those were just the logistical concerns. The moral concerns are far more distressing. FIFA, so busy paying lip service to equality, couldn’t possibly expect the world to embrace a country where you could go to prison for being gay, where women’s rights are severely curtailed and female victims of sexual assault could go to prison, charged with engaging in extramarital sex. And all those questions came before the global realization that the World Cup was being built on the backs of migrant labor: modern-day slaves held in Qatar with virtually no rights, low wages and no ability to leave. Migrants make up 90% of Qatar’s stated population of 3 million. The country’s native-born equal about 300,000, or roughly the size of Anaheim.
---Ann Killion, columnist for The San Francisco Chronicle.