Rabat - The FIFA World Cup is kicking off in tremendous worldwide celebration and anticipation. Amid much controversy and debate in Brazil, the organizer of this event, whose social activists outright reject their government’s massive investment. This is because there is no guaranteed return in lieu of much-needed social development in the country.
Rabat – The FIFA World Cup is kicking off in tremendous worldwide celebration and anticipation. Amid much controversy and debate in Brazil, the organizer of this event, whose social activists outright reject their government’s massive investment. This is because there is no guaranteed return in lieu of much-needed social development in the country.
Origins and mission of FIFA
The Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) is an international organization responsible for the administration and management of soccer, beach soccer, and futsal worldwide. It was created in Paris, France on May 21, 1904 with the motto, “For the Game. For the World.” Its first president was the Frenchman Robert Guérin, but in 1906 he was replaced by Daniel Burley Woolfall from England.
FIFA is headquartered in Geneva, Switzeland and is comprised of 6 regional federations, including CONCACAF, CONMEBOL, CAF, UEFA, AFC, and OFC ; as well as 209 national associations for men’s football and 129 for women’s.
Initially, FIFA stood for the love of soccer and the excitement of the game: this was the very recipe that allowed its spread worlwide. It was extensively appreciated among the world’s youth who wanted to show their best in such a healthy challenge as soccer. But soon, soccer competitions became a matter of national pride, and the youth proudly sported the colors of their countries and strived to defend their culture and identity in inernational tournaments on the world stage.
On June 8, 1990, during Italy’s 1990 World Cup opening game, the humble and relatively unknown team of the Cameroonian Indomitable Lions—described then by the Miami Herald as “a humble team with an insignificant past,”—beat the star-studded team of Argentina 1-0, which was led by miracle player Diego Maradona. For the international press, this unprecedented achievement came to be known as the “Miracle of Milan,” and it reverbated around the globe. In Argentina, the fans whimpered and cried and considered this unexpected defeat as a national affront. For Cameroon, it was the beginning of a Cindrella story: people around the world saluted the combativity of this small Sub-Saharan country and were able, as result, to locate it on the map. This “Milan Miracle” had also some economic influence on the country, as more foreign investement came to Cameroon.
But the soccer that brought so much joy and ecstasy to billions of people around the world also brought the human plagues of racism and rejection of the other to the surface. Black players were, on and off, insulted or literally booed in scorn and contempt of their colour while on the pitch. FIFA has adopted a campaign to fight racism with electronic messages in stadiums, but there is a fear that with the incredible rise of the extreme right in Europe, racism against African soccer players will increase. Sadly, most of these extreme political parties only see these players as economic migrants and not sportsmen with tremendous talent.
However, many peole believe that FIFA is more interested in making money than stemming racism once for all. Its soft public campaigns denouncng racism only encourage its propagation; in the end, as many people brainwashed by political forces believe that deep down black African players have come to snatch their bread, sow lawlesness, and encourage bad behaviour. As a result, they ignore that these players make a sizeable economic contribution to their local teams and countries.
Sam Lapresti, a columinst at Bleacher Report, forcefully argues that both FIFA and UEFA ought to implement stern action to eliminate the plight of racism from soccer:
Is it a fool’s hope to think that racism could be totally eliminated from the game? Until the human species as a whole takes a more enlightened approach, probably. But that doesn’t mean one should not try. UEFA and FIFA have long had prominent and well-promoted anti-racism campaigns, but their actions so far have done little to truly push back against the tide of racism in the beautiful game. It’s time for them to put their money where their mouth is, and implement measures that will truly hit clubs where it hurts to push against this ignorance as much as humanly possible.
FIFA’s foul play
Joseph “Sepp” Blatter, a Swiss citizen, was elected President of FIFA on June 8, 1998, succeding João Havelange, a Brazilian. Blatter was relected to the post in 2002, 2007 and 2012 through clever campaigning, astute manipulating, and artful “you scratch my back, I scratch yours” approach. He is more likely to run again for this position in the future if he can get rid of the French ex-national team player and President of UEFA, Michel Platini.
Armed with the Swiss “shop keeper” sense of business, Blatter has over the years developed FIFA into an international trade brand and soccer into a real bussiness. But by doing this, he has ignored certain primordial aspects of this planetary sport: brotherhood of men, dialogue of cultures, equality, and respect for the other.
Soccer is certainly thriving under Blatter, but the lofty goals it was created for in the first place have been put on the back burner and completely ignored and forgotten in the process. As result, racism is back on the pitch and it will be even more present in the future. The timid, hush-hush approach adopted by FIFA to fight this scourge will certainly not put an end to it in the near future.
With money flowing into FIFA’s coffers, foul practices follow suit. Many countries realize that organizing the World Cup is an excellent planetary comunication campaign, in spite of the excessive expenditure linked to it. They vow to win honor for the organization, and as a result, corruption ensues.
All in all, today’s FIFA, though it says it is a non-profit institution, is sitting on a billion dollar reserve. In principle, this money should have been reinvested in social causes and in bringing people together from around the globe; but Blatter prefers to put this fortune in the notorious Swiss banks and collect interest instead. So much for the motto, “For the Game, For the World.” Maybe it would be more appropriate to phrase, “For the Business.” Surely the presiding body will allow it wholeheartedly.
In The Economist of June 7, 2014, the newsmagazine questions many aspects of the management policies of FIFA in an excellent article entitled “Beautiful game, dirty business,”
Why on earth did anyone think holding the World Cup in the middle of the Arabian summer was a good idea? Why is football so far behind other sports like rugby, cricket and tennis in using technology to doublecheck refereeing decisions? And why is the world’s greatest game led by such a group of mediocrities, notably Sepp Blatter, FIFA’s boss since 1998? In any other organisation, the endless financial scandals would have led to his ouster years ago. But more than that, he seems hopelessly out of date; from sexist remarks about women to interrupting a minute’s silence for Nelson Mandela after only 11 seconds, the 78-year-old is the sort of dinosaur that left corporate boardrooms in the 1970s. Nor is it exactly heartening that the attempts to stop Mr Blatter enjoying a fifth term are being led by Michel Platini, Europe’s leading soccercrat, who was once a wonderful midfielder but played a woeful role in supporting the Qatar bid.
But, that is not all, FIFA is also thought to manipulate soccer matches by instructing referees to go soft on host countries teams on the pitch so that they can have more chances to survive until the final match; this would secure maximum public attendance. A case in point is the inaugural match of this year, in which Brazil played Croatia. By far, the Croatian team was more combative on the field and played better than mythical Brazil, and the former would have won had the referee not interfered and granted their adversary an imaginary penalty and later refused them a legitimate goal. Blatter has always promised to make refereeing fair and just in his various election campaigns; maybe he just meant what happened in this match.
FIFA: an old, corrupt organization in need of renewal
FIFA is a mammoth organization that manages billions of dollars of profit,. It is a shame that players like Messi, Ronaldo, Riberi, Rooney, Payol, etc. make millions in salaries, publicity, and transfers and never think about sharing some of their colossal wealth with the poor teams and poor players in poor countries; or even just helping NGOs in the south to combat malaria, illiteracy, and endemic poverty. One quite rightly wonders, where is their sense of solidarity and sharing, if any?
With the mentality of Blatter’s FIFA, soccer is business and more business. This, sadly, is making this institution into a private club for the rich, forgetting that most skilled players come from favellas in Brazil and poor quarters in Africa and Latin America.
Soccer is a subliminal civilization, and rather than make it an elitist culture, FIFA ought to think about bringing new ideas and strategies into play for the sake of its much-needed rejuvenation.
It is a shame that millions of people around the world will not be able to share in the World Cup celebrations because they are poor and their countries cannot pay the ridiculous television fees to broadcast this soccer business. BeING Sport is demanding millions of dollars to poor Arab countries to air the matches. Does that entail that the third millennium’s soccer is meant to become an elitist culture? Maybe that is what Blatter wants with his business orientation and management philosophy of FIFA.
However, to make the whole world share in this planetary feast, FIFA ought to take into consideration some the following ideas:
– Strategy 1: Soccer for World Youth
Offer grants to students from all countries, especially poor ones, to attend the World Cup and take part in youth camp activities focusing on the ideals of respect, tolerance, and acceptance of the other.
– Strategy 2: Soccer for Tolerance
Organize workshops on the ideals of tolerance to fight the scourge of racism and xenophobia, to be attended by national delegations and the general public.
– Strategy 3: Soccer for Brotherhood of Men
Organize concerts open to the public, advocating fraternity and equality and love for the other in total skin-color blindness.
– Strategy 4: Soccer for Dialogue
Invite world intellectuals and men of religion to talk about their beliefs and ways to reach out to other religions and creeds in total respect and harmony.
– Strategy 5: Soccer for Respect
Organize workshops to train members of national delegations to include the values of respect and humility in their training philosophy.
Theses are only a few of many strategies that FIFA is invited to adopt in its renewal process in order to avoid becoming an elitist institution serving the interests of the rich and the privileged.
Like what the Canadian visionary communication guru Marshal MacLuhan predicted in the 1960’s, the world has become a planetary village, and institutions like FIFA must adopt a planetary humanist vision to succeed; otherwise, it must drop its non-profit identity. Its policies now are, unfortunately, going in the for-profit direction, so hard decisions will have to be made to salvage it before it is too late.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Morocco World News’ editorial policy
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