FIFA Uncovered rips the last shreds of righteousness from FIFA
Settling down to watch FIFA Uncovered, I wasn't sure what to expect. The timing of its release, which was barely a week before the FIFA World Cup in Qatar, further spiced things up.
Safe to say, Netflix didn't disappoint.
I remained glued to my screen for five hours as the documentary exposed the transformation of FIFA from an organisation working for the advancement of football to the toxic, political, and bureaucratic mess it is today.
The documentary details how all this unfolded, starting with the rise of Brazilian Joao Havelange as FIFA president in 1974. Defeating the then-incumbent Sir Stanley Rous with the promise of banning apartheid South Africa, he set on an unprecedented commercialisation of the institution.
Before long, FIFA roped in big sponsorships from major companies with the help of a certain Sepp Blatter. This planted the seeds of mass corruption which followed.
To secure future deals, companies, including Adidas, started bribing Havelange. Adidas' former owner Horst Dassler secured a monopoly by founding International Sports and Leisure, which exclusively bought the FIFA World Cup TV rights deals from FIFA and resold them at higher prices.
The 1978 World Cup was a watershed as it introduced sportswashing via football. The hosts, Argentina, were then under the fascist dictatorship of Lieutenant General Jorge Videla, who exploited the World Cup to spread propaganda. FIFA President Havelange, for obvious unethical reasons, turned a blind eye to it all. As FIFA's revenues ballooned, Havelange and FIFA Executive Committee's (ExCo) corruption sky-rocketed.
Against this backdrop, enter Sepp Blatter.
Knowing full well the misdeeds of the incumbent, he used it to commit his coup-de-grace, ousting Havelange peacefully in the 1998 FIFA Presidential elections.
As it turned out, Blatter was more power-hungry than his predecessor.
It was evident from the elections, where, according to Blatter's former adviser Guido Tognoni, votes were bought in exchange for money. Bribery, money laundering, and corruption among ExCo members were revealed to have become a theme of the Blatter era, a fact which Blatter vehemently dismissed and deflected his blame.
The documentary, to their credit, depicted the moral flaws of the-then ExCo members. They were proved to be 'power-hungry backstabbers.' The integrity of the Ethics Committee was questionable too. It also laid bare the blatant corruption of the then CONCACAF Chief Jack Warner and his sidekick Chuck Blazer among others, who embezzled the money. The welfare of football took a backseat as ExCo members' wealth skyrocketed.
FIFA Uncovered also exposed how FIFA really awarded the World Cup host rights for the 2010-22 World Cups. Blatter won his election with the ironclad promise of bringing the World Cup to South Africa, which he did with the politicking of Nelson Mandela.
According to the then UEFA Chief Executive Lars-Christer Olsson and Qatari whistle-blower Phaedra Al-Majid, FIFA 'sold' the host rights to keep their coffers intact after the collapse of ISL. Hence, FIFA turned a blind eye as Russia and Qatar bribed ExCo members, presidents of smaller football federations, and even secured geopolitical agreements with France, Brazil, Cameroon, Nigeria, and Argentina among others to secure their votes.
The subsequent FBI investigation, assisted by American soccer administrator Chuck Blazer, revealed how FIFA lost its focus, ignoring the human rights abuse and persecution of migrant workers and silencing of whistle-blowers. Guido Tognoni's words sum it up perfectly – "If we don't fight corruption in sport, we shouldn't fight corruption at all."
Inqiad is a passionate Bucks fan and a certified Giannis stan. Contact him at [email protected]