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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Revolutionizing FIFA

These days to speak of revolution means to reclaim right to free speech, free assembly, democracy and to ending the avarice of the establishment. We also instantly imagine Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen, and the freedom of the Arab world. These sentiments can also be felt elsewhere in the world, away from oppressive governments. Just recently, Grant Wahl, soccer journalist for Sports Illustrated stated that he would run for president of FIFA.

How can this be? Is it legal? Does he have a shot? Should we care? Maybe not all of the above, but it certainly raises various questions. Wahl's main concern is the purported despise that world soccer fans have towards FIFA's current president, Sepp Blatter. And it isn't only the fans. Plenty of soccer journalists have displayed their discontent with the FIFA leadership.

In all fairness, this is bound to not come to fruition. Wahl, who also authored "The Beckham Experiment," requires the vote of at least 1 member nation (203 associations) to vote for him in order to be a viable candidate. Does anyone take the risk? Why shouldn't they? Why should they? All relevant questions.

They should if they feel the World Cup selection committee is mired by corruption. How does Qatar win the selection over the US or Australia? Is there soccer logic in this? Should there be? And what about the veto on high-altitude games (>2,500 meters)? That rules out Quito and La Paz. Who came up with this idea anyway? Perhaps the same people that thought "FIFA should suspend the World Cup if Brazil doesn't qualify."

But there should not be a vote for Wahl if your nation is trying to stay true to the game, true to the lack of video playback or additional referees, true to the continuation of World Cup rotation among conferences, true to the fact that all people, regardless of beliefs in their personal lives, have the right to attend matches anywhere in the world. There should also not be a vote if the Gold Cup is to remain in one place (USA) for every tournament and every 2 years (only 1 out of 2 in a World Cup cycle counts towards qualification for the Confederations Cup). There should not be a vote if Concacaf and Conmebol can't play together in a "Copa Americas" or a unified club tournament.

I believe in democracy. I believe in the choice of the people. If Blatter is the only candidate, then by all means he should be the president. He's an extremely intelligent, successful, and highly influential individual and he has helped FIFA reach out to Africa and Asia. Give him credit for that. Still, isn't it a bit odd that in my whole life there have only been two presidents of the world soccer governing body? Havelange was president for 24 years, Blatter has done so for 13.

Grant Wahl's candidacy is a hopeful dream, a mere pin drop at a construction site, but his idea and his action does show people out there care about the future of the game: the every-fan. And great candidates are out there. I, for one, would like to see Michel Platini get a chance to run FIFA. His message of solidarity and universality. He has worked to curtail the monopoly of big clubs in Europe and their perennial status as "champions" in the UEFA Champions League. Smaller nations have champions too, he argues. I must say I agree. Salary caps and limiting international players in club teams, as well as his fight against international transfer of minors are also major steps forward.

In the end, Wahl's candidacy and even his election is ultimately irrelevant to what he could achieve with his platform. It is the establishment, the committees in control of FIFA that are responsible for the rules of the game. Blatter is just a spokesperson. Still, the question remains about how much fans are willing to stand for. On the other hand, most American college football fans aren't keen on the BCS and/or bowl system, but the status quo remains in place. I merely suggest that we take the public's suggestions into account, regardless of the sport. I love the game and I only hope that it becomes more beautiful one goal at a time.

1 comment:

Alastair McCandless said...

Rumors of shady dealings, especially concerning the Qatar decision continue to swirl around Blatter. The game would be better served if he stepped aside.