FIFA’s credibility on the line

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    FIFA and the World Cup draw

    FIFA strongly deny accusations that the World Cup draw was fixed. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo)

    FIFA has a huge credibility problem. They are guilty until proven innocent. As much as they control the sport’s rules, calendar and players internationally, they can do nothing about turning the public’s image of their transparency. And now their judgment. Now, they are losing ground on two fronts. They have lost the battle to clean their image as institutionally corrupt; now they are being attacked on their efficiency.

    After the World Cup draw, where Jerome Valcke seemed to produce papers with country names from beyond the view of the cameras broadcasting to the world, and speculation pushes claims of a draw managed to favor Argentina or others.

    As a Brazilian friend says, you ever watch poker on TV? They have 10 cameras on the table, looking over the shoulders. Not that difficult.

    Ineptitude was never FIFA’s image before

    For FIFA to change the public perception they have, they must become a beacon of transparency. Not name emasculated “truth commissions.” I know. Not likely. Ask the Russian or Sicilian Mafia to reveal their list of enforcers and heroin routes. Accuse me of making a glib statement, but many people consider FIFA a mafia, which expels and anoints members, but does not change its ways. For God’s sake, Sepp, Grondona and Co., – you are running an international multi-billion dollar business, so you the administrators are allowed to make money, even if your events are subsidized by governments.

    Just tell us where the money comes from and where it goes. The constituents – the customers, if you will – are the people watching on TV, who buy the products the advertisers who pay the networks, who pay FIFA the broadcast rights fees. That’s me and you. Not the federations. Buying the tickets, watching the matches. With no voice nor representation.

    The draw is a harbinger

    If FIFA, which has the greatest interest and supposedly will look over “all details and eventualities” in a World Cup and its participants, cannot even foresee this glitch, I don’t want to extrapolate as to how they would deal with an organized demonstration or violent initiative of angry populace.

    As Brazilians move from the country to the cities, from the top of the list of countries with greatest differential between rich and poor (inequality measured by the GINI index of the World Bank) the middle class also will make new demands. Earlier in 2013, there were street demonstrations during the Confederations Cup, the stadium roof in Sao Paulo fell in, in Joinville Vasco da Gama and Vasco fans pummeled each other on the screen, and a ref was decapitated earlier in the year. The year 2014 could be the winter of their discontent.

    There are calls for a special criminal agency for “futebol” since neither the police nor the CBF, the Brazilian federation, have made significant inroads to the violence.

    Brazil had two periods of dictatorship in the 20th Century and a generation that feels that the priorities are wrong . In 2014, the real problem will be the anger of a population, not the protection of a World Cup cocoon.

    Swiss inflexibility will combine with Brazilian improvisation and laxity to amplify a problem. A big one. I’m not sure what it will be, but you will be affected. You have bought your tickets to the matches, are working on travel and accommodations, and will find that travel internally in the continent of Brazil will be a nightmare. And if you choose to stay in Rio or Bahia to enjoy the beaches, you may be gouged or mugged.

    There is a sense of triumphalism in Brazil after dispatching Spain in the 2013 Confederations Cup final. If they don’t win Brasil 2014, there may be something other than individual suicides. As Mark Twain said, “I would rather be an optimist who is sometimes wrong, than a pessimist who is always right.” I will take the Cassandra mask off and try to enjoy the games.

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