Blight on the Beautiful Game

Posted by on May 28th, 2015  •  0 Comments  • 

The World Cup is the epitome of global greatness in sports.
It has become a 6-week vacation for soccer fans worldwide.  It has become ‘must watch’ television for soccer fanatics, and now in the US, to the common man sports fan too.
It’s the time when the greats, who dot the rosters of the English Premiere League, the Italian, German and Spanish leagues, return home to play for their flag.  It’s a salute to the greatness of decades gone by, Pele, Beckenbauer, Maradonna, Voller  to the current icons, Lionel Messi, Ronaldo, Rooney.
Soccer has become a conversation piece here in the US too, thanks to Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey, and what Team USA has become over the last decade.
But in the shadows of the stadium, off the pitch, to the high rise headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland, there has always been controversy.  And now it has spilled out in the streets like sewage, pouring down from the top floor of the FIFA headquarters.
What was rumored has indeed become fact.  President Sepp Blatter and his Executive Committee, have robbed, stolen, pilfered the gold from the coffers.  In the middle of the night, the FBI and Justice Department raided a plush hotel in Zurich, just two days before their Summer meetings to vote on the president’s job.
They arrested 6-international delegates, have warrants out for 8-more, and have three that have plead guilty already to a massive money laundering scheme-scam.  More than $150M in international money has been recovered already.  The sum total could be up to 1B…
Whereas goals and assists and saves are important stats in World Cup games, the conversations this morning involve language like bribes, kickbacks, double-billing, money laundering, selling of votes when it came time to award venues.  FIFA negotiated billion dollar bids for the rights for countries to host the games; took in enormous television rights fees; brought in truckloads of marketing money.  And off the top, officials were taking their cut.
USA official Chuck Blazer was the first to go down.  Then officials from tiny countries like Oceania and Trinidad were caught.  The hundreds of pages of background read like the operation of Drug Cartels or the Mafia.  47-different indictments were handed down.  Fake contracts, shell companies, briefcases of cash, bank transfers into US accounts.
Like squeezing a pimple, after they got done with Blazer, the puss had spilled out onto their silk suits and 100-dollar neckties.  They testified to the house of cards arrangements, and the money bilking empire collapsed.  US officials say they are not done.  Supplemental probes are going on right now as to how bankrupt Russia and Quatar wound up with future World Cups.
Soccer’s elite, who rode around to the World Cup games in Brazil, in Bentleys and Mercedes, will be in prison the next time the games are played.  This may well be the tip of the iceberg, for other cheats are likely to be outed shortly.
Blatter was up for re-election for a 5th term.  You might find his body and career in a back alley too, before all this is done.  It was always a feeling that FIFA’s fifedome lived a life of opulence and arrogance, and now we know how they got there.  Hi atop the throne, looking down on the little people, they were pious right up till the 2am arrests on Wednesday.
In ironic fashion, Switzerland, a tiny country of neutrality, known for its World Banks, cooperated with the US.  The arrests were made in that country, because no one could flee.  The Swiss have an agreement to extradite criminals to the US, and you know who is coming here to stand trial.
It’s fitting, they were arrested at a plush 5-Star Hotel overlooking a lake.  Fitting too, when they get off the plane at the JFK International Terminal, they will be taken to jail cells dating back to the 1930’s in Brooklyn, held for detention.
The Beautiful Game will survive all this.  The not-so beautiful people, who stole millions, maybe billions, will not.  Outside of game-fixing, this is as horrific a scandal as possible, stealing from countries, fans, players, charities, and the youth programs globally.
The Justice Department and the FBI stood infront of those hotel doors, and gave Sepp Blatter and FIFA the ultimate ‘red card’.

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