Well, Sepp Blatter’s been reelected. I don’t think that anyone who knows football or FIFA was expecting a different result. Sepp Blatter is, it seems, as Deadspin described, Emperor-For-Life. I love football, but under Blatter’s reign, the international game has looked insular, stuck in its ways, corrupt, and in some cases, plain regressive.
On human rights, FIFA and Blatter seemingly just don’t care, with the next two World Cups to be hosted (unless this scandal changes anything) by Russia and Qatar, respectively. Russia has seen terrible anti-LGBT violence, racism, and anti-feminism. Then there’s Qatar. Aside from the fact that this tournament either takes place in summer, in sweltering Middle Eastern heat, or in winter, which will disturb Europe’s club football season as never before, there’s the plethora of questions raised by FIFA awarding the tournament to a country where human rights are essentially just words.
FIFA, under Sepp Blatter’s watch, gave one of the world’s biggest sporting events to a country where homosexuality is outlawed, where women are second-class citizens, and the workers who build the stadiums are virtually slaves. In December of last year, the Guardian reported that 964 workers from South Asia died in Qatar in 2012 and 2013. Nepalese workers were dying at a rate of one every two days, and there’s still seven years to go. Following the recent massive earthquake that struck Nepal, were the workers allowed to go home? Not quite. Relatives and funerals had to go without them in their hour of need.
Sepp Blatter responded to the question of just what LGBT fans should do in 2010.
“I would say they should refrain from any sexual activities,” Blatter joked, according to the Telegraph.
He blithely waved away the problem, going on to say, “We are definitely living in a world of freedom and I’m sure when the World Cup will be in Qatar in 2022, there will be no problems.”
On the subject of workers’ rights (at this point, many of them would take the simple right not to be worked to death), Blatter couldn’t care less. He described workers’ welfare as a problem for the companies they work for, not one for FIFA. The Guardian reports that he even said that the workers were working under “better conditions” thanks to Qatar hosting the World Cup. If that’s the case, you’ve got to wonder what the situation was like before. This was just one year after Blatter said that football couldn’t ignore the problems.
A satire on sponsor’s logos has emerged, critiquing sponsors for not taking a stand.
— Arsène’s Son (@hughwizzy) May 29, 2015
Blatter did apologize for his comment on LGBT people a few days later, but it illustrates a core problem with FIFA. Here we have a game, which, when done right, can unify people from the world over. However, when it’s controlled by FIFA and Sepp Blatter, it can never be that. Instead, it’ll stay what it appears to be now: a rich man’s club.
Gary Lineker, former England star and sports pundit, summed the mood up best following Blatter’s re-election.
As predictable as it is depressing. All those FIFA members that voted for Blatter have betrayed the game they are supposed to cherish.
— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) May 29, 2015
Comedians the Sklar Brothers also chipped in with a joke that, for fans of the game, is as depressing as it is funny.
— The Sklar Brothers (@SklarBrothers) May 29, 2015
The World Cup isn’t the only area where Blatter has acted regressively. In 2004, he revealed his plans to boost the profile of women’s football: more revealing clothes. The Guardian recorded his comments at the time.
“They could, for example, have tighter shorts. Female players are pretty, if you excuse me for saying so, and they already have some different rules to men – such as playing with a lighter ball. That decision was taken to create a more female aesthetic, so why not do it in fashion?”
On the subject of race, Blatter suggested to CNN that racism, a deep-rooted problem in football, could be solved with a handshake, denying that it was a problem on the field. Blatter later clarified his position in a statement, saying that his remarks had been misunderstood.
Now we have the corruption investigation. FIFA has been thought of as corrupt by many fans for years, and this year could perhaps see their redemption. Seven FIFA executives have been arrested on suspicion of corruption, including, BBC News reports, allegedly receiving bribes to influence where tournaments would be hosted. European teams could boycott the World Cup, according to Michel Platini, President of UEFA, the Guardian reports. Platini said that “enough is enough.”
“Too much is too much. In terms of our image it’s not good at all. I am the first one to be disgusted by this. I am saying this with sadness, with tears in my eyes. There have been too many scandals that have shaken the world of football.”
Without European teams, who have won the last three tournaments and many more throughout the history of the tournament, the FIFA World Cup would be a mockery, a shell of its true self. For football to progress further, Sepp Blatter needs to go, and FIFA needs to be reformed. It’s a beautiful game, and it deserves better.
[Images by Alexander Hassenstein/Bongarts/Getty Images and Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images]