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The FIFA Conundrum

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From Copa 2014 - FIFA World Cup 2014 - Curitiba
Copa 2014 - FIFA World Cup 2014 - Curitiba
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"Conundrum" - a confusing and difficult problem or question.

That is what the Federation of International Football Association (FIFA) is today. Nowadays you cannot say FIFA and not segue into a screed of endemic corruption, nepotism, graft and thievery. Sadly, FIFA will never be remembered for its stewardship of the "beautiful game" but for how it has besmirched, tainted and smeared the game for generations to come. And at the center of the corruption trough is the gormandizer-in-chief former CONCACAF honcho, Jack Warner.

It's not that FIFA's gluttonous rampage and cash-addiction started with Warner's entry into the organization in 1983. No, FIFA's corruption started long before that and was an open secret to avid football fans. But the sheer scope of the corruption that morphed into a grotesque aberration deforming FIFA's image in the process was all Jack Warner's doing. He excelled at the thing.

Mind you, there is corruption and a culture of kickbacks in ALL international sports and big sporting organizations in countries like the United States and England. Even if it's simple betting (wagering) on games like the Super Bowl or on American Pharaoh there are many, many opportunities for illegal activities. So while we condemn FIFA's bottom feeders, let's not forget that in the United States Major League Baseball, the NBA, and the NFL have all had their share of hanky-panky, though not on the scale, scope and duration of FIFA's.

You see, Jack Warner is A Problem for FIFA, but he's not THE problem in FIFA -- he's the manifestation and symptom of what ails FIFA and how this rottenness was left to metastasize for so long. An examination of the allegations against him is also a ringing indictment of FIFA AND its cash-greedy, nepotistic leadership under Sepp Blatter.

If the charges and allegations against Warner are valid and proven in a court of law then he can possibly take down FIFA with him because it does not look as if he's going to go peacefully. And that is the conundrum for FIFA -- how to survive as an organization when its former vice president stands accused of theft, corruption, bribery, money laundering and other crimes going back 20 or so years.

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Warner is accused of perhaps the most scurrilous crime -- stealing over $500,000 in earthquake relief money meant for Haiti. He's also charged with taking $10 million in kickbacks from South Africa as payment for that country's winning bid to hold the World Cup in 2010 and another $2 million from Qatar for World Cup 2022.

The modus operandi of Warner and a slew of FIFA bigwigs read like the kind of narrative found in an old Mafia or gangster hoodlum tome like "Goodfellas". Greedy pay-to-play executives holding hush-hush meetings in swanky hotel rooms with football representatives, errand-boys sent on international flights to pick up briefcases stuffed with cash; shell companies set up in small countries whose governments looked the other way for wads of cash to relax and tinker with local tax free laws, and a converted FIFA crook-turned-whistleblower who used FIFA's money to rent a $6,000 apartment for his cats are all the content for a made for TV soap opera.

Then there are the FIFA election votes hustled and bargained off like the Wall Street Stock Market for millions of dollars laced with huge helpings of bribes, kickbacks, payoffs and intimidation of those who did not want to play ball.

But how and is it possible to fix FIFA?

Ah, that's big the conundrum, there's that word again. Sorting out the mess will take years -- if not decades. FIFA has lost the trust of soccer lovers the world over and millions of people who follow the game are aghast at the sordid melee that FIFA and its tiny cabal of grubby troglodytes have spawned. And no amount of disinfectant, bleaching, deodorant or scrubbing is going to make FIFA smell clean again.

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Again, Jack Warner's putrid arrogance and cynicism is indicative of the high and mighty attitude that has been nurtured and developed as a cultural norm within FIFA. He's threatening to tell all and fails to grasp the seriousness of the situation making asinine statements and bombastic posturing like a strutting peacock. Rarely has someone been in so dire a need of a comeuppance.

For me there is no recalibrating, re-engineering or restructuring of FIFA. The organization should be euthanized for the good of the game. There is a big question mark about exactly how did South Africa get to win the bid for the 2010 FIFA World Cup and there's talk about corruption and collusion by FIFA officials about the bidding process for the 2018 World Cup in Russia and the 2022 games in Qatar.

And saying goodbye to FIFA, I contend, is NOT a draconian or even far-fetched solution to the breach of trust, the lack of credibility, and the inability of the organization to effectively function as the organizers of the World Cup. You see, FIFA does NOT run world football nor is it the governing body internationally for the sport. FIFA organizes and runs the World Cup -- that's it - but international football is organized by the International Football Association Board. Across the world football is run by national organizations and regional groupings like CONCACAF and the European organization, UEFA.

FIFA can be disbanded and nobody will miss it.

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MICHAEL D. ROBERTS is a top Political Strategist and Business, Management and Communications Specialist in New York City's Black community. He is an experienced writer whose specialty is socio-political and economic analysis and local (more...)

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