How They Stole the Game

David Yallop, 1999, Poetic Publishing

Due to current events I thought I add a book here, which was deeply hidden in my bookshelf, because it was published 15 years ago. At that time the era of Joao Havelange had just ended and therefore it was the right time to write about his corruption without hurting FIFA to much. Furthermore the election of the candidate of the European countries, the former UEFA president Sepp Blatter gave hope that things would change. But history repeats itself with the only difference that the current UEFA president combined family matters with his work already too often, that nobody seriously proposes him as a candidate for FIFA presidency. History also shows that the corruption system cannot be changed just by changing the head of the organization, especially when the successor comes out of the same ranks as the previous president. What one can find in Yallop’s book is, that the principle of FIFA corruption have not changed between Havelange and Blatter. Under the guise of egalitarism the votes of poor countries in Asia and Africa are bought with FIFA money to get personal favors like support in elections. Changing that system is difficult. First of all because Havelange as well as Blatter made the soccer game profitable, they made the World Cup global, so that every continent has a chance to see it. They also supported the smaller countries by creating the youth world cups which can be hosted also by countries which would never be able to get a big World Cup final. Furthermore women’s soccer is on the rise, too, and taken serious now and the whole organization stand now on solid financial ground and can compete with attractiveness and profitability even with the Olympic Games. Therefore the question is not easy to answer what needs to be changed. The democratic voting system will always favor the ones which promise more to the underdeveloped countries in Asia and Africa but changing it to favor the Europeans and South Americans might provide the same issues as in the European leagues that a few dominate the race and make sure that they stay ahead by chanelling most of the money to themselves. On top pointing with the finger on Asia and Africa when it comes to corruption is hard when the last UEFA presidents Blatter and Platini have shown that corruption and favoring family members is not necessarily a problem of Third World countries only. I am also very hesitant to ask for better transparency and compliance as in big corporations, because as the banks continuously show every year, a lot of money always corrupts people and increases the benefits of cheating no matter what rules the organization is supposed to apply to. Lacking any idea how the FIFA organisation could get honest I put the book aside some years ago, knowing that the corruption might be there but that I would ignore it as long as it doesn’t hurt the game itself. Similar to religions, you can believe in a god without supporting the church organization behind it, or you can live in a country without supporting the political elite in government. In the same way you can enjoy the game without caring about the FIFA organization, especially when the hypocrits in the governments around the western world now crying wolf although they would act the same way if they would be in a FIFA position.
With politics getting involved into the game one can find similarities with the doping situation in Cycling ten years ago. Cycling was booming based on silent acceptance of doping even in the highest ranks of the UCI and the knowledge of the fans that the game is probably rigged. That was the time when Cycling was most profitable, heros and losers were made and the competition was most challenging. At some point however investigative journalists found so much proof about doping and made it public until an avalanche was started leading from one confession to the next. Then politicians took it up thankfully, because it is rare that they are on the moral high side and with pressure from the public and politics sponsors started to stop their support. In the next ten years the first, second and probably the third tier of world class cyclists were eliminated and Cycling went back to obscurity, where it came from, because the winners now were either nobodies with no history or former dopers you could not trust anymore. Therefore, for years, there were simply no heroes to shout for and no legends to preserve for the future. The advantage of soccer is, that for the moment only the governmental head of soccer is deep in the scandal and the stars and clubs stay untouched but who knows what comes up when people start digging and digging deeper.
So in the end I have no problems that the investigations go on and the hydras’ heads are chopped off but I doubt that any future candidate for FIFA presidency is more respectable or can clean out the system without destroying the profitable foundation the FIFA is based on right now, whic is currently used to secure all countries over the world, senior man, as well as young and women players the maximum attention of the public.
Yallop’s book is not necessarily a great read, because he is in for the sensation but lacks thorough research and sometimes his accusations are so ridiculous, that one wants to side with the villains, even if one agrees that the corruption must be stopped. Andrew Jennings books might be the better choice to learn about FIFA. I didn’t read one of his books yet but from what I read about them Jennings is the better investigative journalist. However, the general story is the same and I am sure it will stay the same in at least the last one to two decades.

Biography: 1/3
History: 2/3
Background: 3/3
Tactics & Game philosophy: 0/3

Next book: Mythos niederländischer Nachwuchsfussball (German, June 17th)


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