For the past week, the soccer community has been discussing the FIFA investigations, indictments and arrests in a way that’s made me want to do the unthinkable and delete my Twitter account. The rhetoric from soccer journalists, commentators, and outside observers has come across like a public contest to decide who can most poetically (or angrily, if you like your takes hot n’ fresh) make painfully obvious points like “bribery is bad,” “Qatar is a weird place to play soccer,” and “women are people, too” sound like groundbreaking shit. Now that FIFA president Sepp Blatter has shocked the world and resigned, it’s only going to get worse.
I hate it, but at the same time, I understand the struggle. There’s a ton of information for all of us to wrap our minds around in the wake of the Swiss arrests and Blatter’s abdication, and the difficult transfer from thoughts to words leads me to consume more alcohol than I have in years. Now that we have an even clearer view of what we’ve always known about FIFA, it’s time to talk about the next phase of the organization’s unraveling.
Everyone is in a rush to anoint the next FIFA emperor, assuming that Sepp Blatter was the lord of all evil and any new face (hello, Prince Ali) will be an automatic improvement. But that idea is too hopeful and dreamy to possibly be accurate. Power and influence don’t work that way. What’s more likely is that FIFA is an inherently corrupt system which will structurally remain largely the same, regardless of which names fill the company directory, or who replaces Uncle Sepp at the top.
So, what I’m left with — as both a fan and someone who spews out daily blog posts — is a feeling of deep frustration. Frustration about FIFA, about soccer media, and about my own inability so say something worthwhile. The only cure for these feelings is to do something completely self-indulgent: commit to the blog equivalent of a useless step-over, or whatever it was that Neymar tried to do to Athletic Bilbao this weekend.
FIFA is screwed regardless of who’s put in charge next, so let’s spice it up and offer some interesting alternative candidates who offer more than “hope and change” or a vehicle through which we can express our American guilt over the Middle East. Let’s prop up some new faces as champions of the people, regardless of the fact that we know absolutely nothing about how they’ll function as heads of FIFA. Hello again, Prince Ali.
Some of FIFA’s biggest problems are inherent to its design. When [tiny African nation you resent] has the same voting power and slice of the World Cup cash pie as [European nation you hold up as the beacon of footballing brilliance], it’s easy to see why influence can be so easily bought and sold. So why not blow the whole system up and start over?
There are few people with whackier administrative ideas out there than Kentucky senator and U.S. presidential candidate Rand Paul. Under a Paul presidency, FIFA would be split into 209 individual chapters that form more of a loose confederation of semi-independent states than a singular global entity. The core tenet of Rand Paul’s FIFA would be freedom. Say Jamaica has a friendly against Finland and decides that its version of soccer has 19 players on the field at once and a sound system truck parked in front of goal. In Paul’s FIFA, liberty would demand that they have to right to express their national identity as they see fit.
We know the Mother of Dragons is staunchly anti-slavery, so all of that Qatari forced labor nonsense would go right out the window. Her deep internal struggle with reopening the fighting pits in Meereen shows that she’s not too big on people dying in the name of sport, so concussion awareness and prevention is sure to be on her agenda.
As far as the political optics go, Daenerys loves nothing more than showing up to foreign lands occupied by unruly brown people and guiding them down the path to civilization. People love that stuff. They’ll feel better about themselves by voting for her. And lastly, she has dragons. Dragons are dope. Shout out to dragons.
Shawn “Jay Z” Carter
I’ve been dreaming of a world where Hov and his Roc Nation Sports management and marketing firm got involved with Major League Soccer, in hopes that the cabal of professionally interesting people under his employ would steer the league away from the corny and undesirable image iceberg it seems determined to slam into. But maybe I wasn’t thinking big enough. Why limit Jay Z to America when the whole planet is at risk?
On the plus side, none of the obvious branding mistakes of FIFA would ever be repeated. But on the downside, we’d all be forced to spend $20 a month on a subscription to Tidal if we ever wanted to watch games again.
Amy Schumer for FIFA president, if for no other reason than I really want to see her treat international soccer like a bit on her Comedy Central show. For a full World Cup cycle, Schumer could take over FIFA and enact all the stupid changes Sepp Blatter suggested for women’s soccer, but with all the biting sarcasm and anger that the changes deserve. Tighter shorts, prettier players, maybe even a bake-off in the midfield kitchen at halftime. All of it done in a way that’s so ridiculous, Blatter would have no choice but to finally realize how out of touch he is with reality.
What the world needs is someone with the big-picture vision to to understand systematic corruption, dissect it, and identify its root causes and effects, but who still has the “common touch” to explain it all to the rest of us dopes. Why not The Atlantic’s Ta-Nehisi Coates?
There’s a strange parallel to much of the world’s sudden and dramatic outrage over the way FIFA has always done business for decades, and the “Wait…all of that complaining was true?” awakening taking place as renewed discussions on the realities of institutional racism in America have reignited over the past few years. Few, if any, have done a better job than Coates explaining that much of what we believe to be true about race relations are merely symptoms of an illness, not the disease itself. We spend all day talking about someone’s runny nose while they’re dying of pneumonia. The same is true for how we’ve been talking about FIFA. At least with Coates in charge, we’d have a more coherent response than “because it just is” as we wonder why FIFA is fucked up.
Yes, the men that have been indicted are crooks. Sepp Blatter almost certainly was too (allegedly, of course). But what’s to say that their removal guarantees real change? Think of it this way: When have you ever felt satisfied with the performance of your government? Every year new politicians are voted into and out of office, but your overall opinion of “the government” only fluctuates a degree or two in any direction. Why? Because the system is inherently broken and it really doesn’t mater who occupies the positions within it. Unfortunately, as the FIFA cleansing and purging continues, and it finds a new president, I think we are all about to learn the same is true in global soccer.