Beautiful game being ruined by ugly people
(July 15, 2014)

Germany’s victory celebration may have died down, but the Luis Suárez issue will likely be a major topic of World Cup discussion for some time. During the Uruguay–Italy match, as the whole football-watching world knows, Suárez’s teeth found the shoulder of Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini. For this act of dental dementia, the Uruguayan striker was fined more than 100,000 Swiss francs and banned for nine international matches as well four months of league games for Barcelona, now his new team, including all football-related activities.

General reaction seemed to be that the penalty was just, especially since this was Suárez’s third such offence, yet a record punishment for an act that did no actual harm is conspicuously excessive. Even Chiellini was among those who appealed to FIFA, the world football governing body, to reduce it. FIFA refused.

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Because the severity of Suarez’s punishment is so incommensurate with the severity of the infraction, no matter how distasteful it might be, it invites speculation about why FIFA adopoted such an uncompromising posture.

First, the incident gave FIFA a perfect opportunity to assert its rule while breathing life into its moribund claim to stand for integrity and human decency. In this context, the Suárez incident helped FIFA deflect attention from the scandals and rank hypocrisy that habitually follow President Sepp Blatter and other FIFA executives, like so much toilet paper stuck to the bottom of their shoes.

But the tactic is risky. Going overboard on Suárez invites questions into FIFA’s own moral standing: how can Blatter or any other FIFA executive pass such a harsh judgment when FIFA has committed breaches of far greater consequence, and routinely resorts to bribery, collusion and coercion to compel obedience from players and teams. As I wrote last time, Tibor Mezei, a senior adviser in the Hungarian government’s department of communication described FIFA as a dictatorship:

“FIFA is an absolute power like Louis XIV in France. You can’t appeal to an international court if you don’t like what FIFA has done. It’s a voluntary organization, so its members are completely at the mercy of FIFA…and if you oppose FIFA’s interpretation you risk being excluded.”

Justice might require FIFA to mitigate Suárez’s punishment, but its disciplinary board cannot risk diluting its propaganda tool, so the punishment has more to do with FIFA’s self-interest than with anything Suárez did.

To show the questionable moral authority of FIFA, let’s consider the punishment that has so far not been meted out to Blatter, whose venality and hypocrisy have left behind real victims.

Israeli racism? No problem!

The same FIFA executives who flog the “anti-racism” campaign go out of their way to tolerate and ignore Zionist racism, as it did when it awarded Israel the 2013 under-21 championship. To this, we can now add FIFA’s refusal to act on undeniable proof of Israeli sadism, which is the more accurate term. Here is an excerpt from Dave Zirin’s report in The Nation:

“Their names are Jawhar Nasser Jawhar, 19, and Adam Abd al-Raouf Halabiya, 17. They were once soccer players in the West Bank. Now they are never going to play sports again. Jawhar and Adam were on their way home from a training session in the Faisal al-Husseini Stadium on January 31 when Israeli forces fired upon them as they approached a checkpoint. After being shot repeatedly, they were mauled by checkpoint dogs and then beaten. Ten bullets were put into Jawhar’s feet. Adam took one bullet in each foot. After being transferred from a hospital in Ramallah to King Hussein Medical Center in Amman, they received the news that soccer would no longer be a part of their futures. (Israel’s border patrol maintains that the two young men were about to throw a bomb.)

“This is only the latest instance of the targeting of Palestinian soccer players by the Israeli army and security forces. Death, injury or imprisonment has been a reality for several members of the Palestinian national team over the last five years. Just imagine if members of Spain’s top-flight World Cup team had been jailed, shot or killed by another country and imagine the international media outrage that would ensue. Imagine if prospective youth players for Brazil were shot in the feet by the military of another nation. But, tragically, these events along the checkpoints have received little attention on the sports page or beyond.”

The standard FIFA response to this another other such accusations is that because the crime was not committed by the Israeli Football Association nothing can be done, but only an idiot would accept such a cowardly excuse for inaction. (How can an “anti-racism” campaign be so neatly compartmentalized without excusing “racism” in some form?)

A group of sociopathic Israeli football fans called “La Familia” openly endorses Arab genocide, and six of its members took part in the murder of a Palestinian teenager, 16-year-old Muhammed Abu Khudair. Gang member and football fan Moshe Aviram praised the murderers, declaring: “We will carry out other actions, God willing; this is just the beginning. We aren’t afraid to do what is needed.”

Is not the IFA responsible for the conduct of its fans? Hungary was severely punished merely because its fans displayed a Palestinian flag during a match, and FIFA holds teams responsible for the conduct of its fans. How is displaying a flag cause for Swift actiob from FIFA but murder merits nothing?

Second, FIFA recently suspended the Nigerian Football Federation from international competition because the Nigerian government sacked the team leadership, violating, Article 17 of FIFA’s statutes concerning interference in football activities. FIFA hsa demanded Nigeria reverse itself so that NFF officials can work without third-party interference.

The same protection clearly does not apply to Palestine. Israel blocked Mohammad Ammassi, deputy general-secretary of the Palestine Football Association, from visiting Brazil before the start of the World Cup. Why does Article 17 not apply here? Blatter knows full well what is going on, and if he didn’t the vociferous and growing “Red Card Israeli Racism” campaign is hard to miss. Yet, he refuses do do anything, proving yet again that FIFA’s pretentious “anti-racism” campaign contributes to human suffering, and that Blatter is a stooge of Israel.

The Palestinian Football Association has rightly demanded FIFA sanction Israel but Blatter wants to negotiate a resolution, which is a fancy way of saying he tolerates the very “racism” he proports to abhor. Blatter went so far as to spew self-serving drivel about his being a “self-declared ambassador of the Palestinian people,” all the while refusing even to speak out for crippled and murdered Palestinians.

Choking on Qatar

No rational explanation exists for awarding the 2022 World Cup to Qatar. This tiny, overly wealthy desert despotism has summer temperatures in excess of 50 degrees Celsius and needs to spend US$106 billion of its petrochemical revenue to build, from scratch, infrastructure, hotels, stadiums and other facilities just for the World Cup.

A host country should at least have a domestic league and the semblance of a football culture before being allowed to make a bid. Brazil, for example, has a rich football culture, yet the purpose-built, US$300 million stadium in Manaus, Amazonia, is a monument to conspicuous waste and vanity since the city has neither the football team nor the population to justify it. Multiply that waste by 300 in a country of no more than 2 million, and you get a sense of the perversity of the Qatari bid, which makes Roman emperors look parsimonious.

Of course, bribery and collusion were involved. The Sunday Times has acquired mountains of documents and e-mails describing payments and wire transfers to football figures and officials from accounts controlled by Mohamed bin Hammam, the Qatari head of FIFA’s Asian Football Confederation: “Qatar has faced calls to be stripped of the 2022 World Cup in the wake of fresh allegations that Bin Hammam used a $5m (£3m) slush fund to not only buy goodwill for his tilt at the FIFA presidency but to aid the 2022 bid.”

(Bin Hammam resigned from FIFA in 2011 amid accusations he doled out US$1 million in bribes to 25 members of the Caribbean Football Union to buy support for his presidential bid. The resignation came three days before the vote, when bin Hammam declared himself to be a reformist candidate who would blow away the pall of corruption associated with Blatter. The relentess campaign to oust bin Hammam followed immediately thereafter.)

More seriously, the Qatari bid implicates the Blatter Gang in another human rights atrocity—modern slavery. Migrant workers in Qatar are being worked to death in the name of the great vanity project. According to the Guardian:

Workers described forced labour in 50C heat, employers who retain salaries for several months and passports making it impossible for them to leave and being denied free drinking water. The investigation found sickness is endemic among workers living in overcrowded and insanitary conditions and hunger has been reported. Thirty Nepalese construction workers took refuge in the their country's embassy and subsequently left the country, after they claimed they received no pay.

Last September, the International Trade Union Confederation estimated that 4,000 migrant workers would die from health or work-related injuries. It has been argued that the World Cup will force Qatar, per capita the world’s richest country, to treat foreign workers better, but this is a post-hoc rationalization; Blatter had to know of Qatar’s “racist” attitude toward migrants, just as he knows of Israel’s creeping genocide of Palestine and violence toward the Palestinian football team.

The fate of the Qatari bid is due to be revisited in September, and a revote will take place if recommended by FIFA’s ethics committee—yes, one exists!—but chairman Michael Garcia, isn’t even interested in examining The Sunday Times evidence! The fear is that the bid will stand as a foregone conclusion. Too many reputations would be destroyed if something as arcane and trivial as honesty were allowed to negate the Qatari bid. Yet, it just might happen because of the sheer magnitude of the corruption and stupidity involved. British FIFA vice-president Jim Boyce, for one, would endorse a revote.

Even if Suárez’s punishment seems fair to some, the absence of fair punishment for the Blatter Gang ensures that FIFA’s governing body of oleaginous gangsters will never be rid of the taint of moral illegitimacy. For a brilliant depiction of FIFA, I'll leave you with this routine by British Comedian John Oliver.

John Oliver