The sudden, dramatic arrest of nine high-ranking officials of the top worldwide soccer organization and five corporation executives on charges from the U.S. Department of Justice threw up some big questions before the billions of fans of the world’s most popular sport. Here are two:
What is the role of the International Federation of Football Association, or FIFA by its French acronym, the private organization that is responsible for the organization of the World Cup of soccer, which started in 1930, and the Women’s World Cup, which began in 1991?
Why has the U.S. Department of Justice headed an international sting operation that involves mostly targets who are not U.S. citizens in a sport that is vastly popular outside the United States?
Now soccer’s appeal in the U.S. may be growing, especially for women’s sports. In fact the upcoming June 6 opening of the Women’s World Cup in Canada may leap it forward. But this doesn’t really affect our questions.
FIFA’s tournaments bring in billions of dollars. Their host countries attract hundreds of thousands of tourists. The soccer World Cup is even bigger than the Olympics and the National Football League’s Super Bowl.
We have no “inside” information about FIFA. But Workers World has a clear view of how large private corporations function in a world dominated by imperialism. Their goal is to maximize profits. That means constantly increasing the exploitation of their workers and of whole oppressed nations.
It also means using all measures, including bribes and intimidation — in the case of the U.S. this includes threatening war — to pin down new markets at profitable prices. It means risking all sorts of illegal activity — from banks laundering illicit drug cash to gun running — that will keep the profits pouring in. That’s capitalism.
Oil giants, big pharma, the military-industrial complex and the giant imperialist banks all keep tight relations with governments to grease the profit machine. Why should it shock us that FIFA might do the same?
From what we have learned about FIFA and its top executives, we know the reelected top executive Sepp Blatter is a misogynist who has belittled the role of women players. His Islamophobe policy from 2007 until 2014 was to disallow hijabs on the field, thus banning Muslim women from the sport. We know FIFA allowed some questionable construction in Brazil and some deadly construction in Qatar — where 1,200 immigrant, low-paid, virtually slave workers have died on the job since 2010.
We have no sympathy for the FIFA execs. We save our solidarity for the exploited construction workers, who are paid pennies, and the exploited soccer players, few who achieve star salaries.
On the other hand, we are suspicious of the Justice Department’s decision to stick U.S. imperialism’s fist into another international arena. Why? Did the U.S. give a go-ahead to the DoJ when it lost out to Qatar for the 2022 games? Is it to punish Russia — which will host the 2018 games — as part of the Ukraine offensive?
Right at home there are even more serious gangs than FIFA. For example, the giant transnational banks whose speculation exacerbated the capitalist collapse of 2008, and whose executives have well-earned the new term “banksters.” Pharmaceutical companies that use skulduggery to extend their patents. Weapons manufacturers who employ retired generals to twist arms. Police departments all over the U.S. who arrest, kill and occupy based on racial bias.