‘Game of politics’: FIFA scandal has nothing to do with corruption or sports
RT:There was widespread condemnation and criticism from some state leaders and then large-corporations with regards to Sepp Blatter’s leadership, but he was still re-elected. Why do the voters prefer him?
Eric Draitser: Well I think there are a number of reasons, but I would just begin by saying that I don’t think any of these reasons have [anything] to do with his competency in running FIFA, nor do they really have to do with anything related to sports.
It is entirely a game of politics. And I think those sport federations, be they in the US, or Western Europe that spoke against Mr. Blatter, I think they mainly spoke against him because of the political line of the countries that they represent. Of course, I think, his grave sin in the eyes of Western players in this equation was a awarding World Cup to Russia, and also to a large extent not shielding Qatar from a lot of the criticism it has received. I think both of these things to a large extend really caused these problems.
Also the timing comes into question here. I mean, just on the eve of the vote to possibly ban Israel from FIFA, all of a sudden you have the United States, Israel's staunchest ally, coming out with indictments, coming out with public knowledge of this investigation into the corruption.
All of this is far too convenient for anybody who does not really believe in coincidences. So I think there is this element of Russia, because part of this of course is a propaganda campaign. We have seen the Western media going after Russia really since the beginning of conflict in Ukraine on all fronts. Just as we saw John McCain earlier this week making wild accusations about FIFA being in bed with Russia. Of course all of this is tied together with this Russia bashing. And I think that needs to be seen in that context, rather than in the context of sports.
RT:British police have opened their own probe into the FIFA corruption arrests. And the UK Prime Minister has said Sepp Blatter should go. Was this an attempt to swing the vote?
ED: Absolutely it is an attempt to swing it. It is an attempt to demonize Mr. Blatter. It is an attempt to demonize all of those forces that were supporting him. And it is interesting that Cameron would make such a statement when under Mr. Cameron’s watch all of those corrupt officials involved in the Libor scandal, all of the corrupt banking officials in the city of London, all of these really wealthy powerful oligarchs who have supported Cameron, all of them have gotten off scot free. None of them are sitting in jail. All of them are clearly guilty of corruption, and yet we don’t hear such words from Mr. Cameron on those issues.
Again this come back to the issue of being politically motivated. The agenda of the UK just as the agenda of the US is to demonize any individual or any country or any politician who dares to stand behind Vladimir Putin, who dares to stand behind Russia or China, or any of the non-Western world. And I think this is reflected in this vote. You see that there is a clear divide between East and West in terms of who voted for Blatter and who voted for Prince Ali.
And again I think it is also interesting that it is Jordanian Prince Ali who gets this backing from the West. Because of course he is well regarded as a western crony, somebody who represents the interests of the US, the UK and Western Europe. And I think this is clearly an unmistakably part of this.
And would also add that while they are talking about corruption, I have not heard any of these people talking about 4,000 workers dying in Qatar since the world cup was awarded to that country in preparation for 2022. That does not seem to be on the table. Qatar is still perfectly in line to have their World Cup in a few years’ time. And so if they really want to talk about cleaning out FIFA, perhaps they should look at the human cost of the cup in a place like Qatar, rather than demonizing Mr. Blatter because he might have the support of Putin or anybody else.
RT:What now then, if it is the case of West against East, well the West lost then, because as they say he is still in charge of FIFA? But what now? What more can be done, because as we know the probe is still ongoing for the people that have been arrested, and there is still questions about Moscow and Qatar as well. How else can Blatter or FIFA be targeted by the West, if we say that much? Sponsorship there are slightly at risk aren't they?
ED: Well to some extent. But look, at the end of the day those sponsorship and corporations they are only interested in one thing, and that is their bottom line. Speaking as an American in a country that is renowned in its lack of interest in international soccer, I can tell you that the world is very much addicted to this sport. The World Cup by far is still the biggest sporting event. Soccer is still internationally regarded as the premier sport. And I don't think that any corporations is really going to blink at being a sponsor for this major, major sport.
So I don't really buy into this notion that international football or soccer is somehow under threat. What I do think is interesting thought is the future of this sport needs to be cleaned up. The leadership certainly needs to be cleaned up. And I don’t think anyone would deny that there is obviously corruption issues involved in this bureaucracy. But that is true of all the sports. Here in the US, you look at the NFL, they had dozens of scandals involving their own corruption, involving cheating and many other things.
So again, they are trying to take a sports issue and a corruption issue and making it into a political and a geopolitical issue. And I think nothing makes it more clearer than John McCain’s statements just the other day about why the World Cup needs to be taken away from Russia. It is purely for propaganda and demagogy, not because it has anything to do with corruption.
So, moving forward, FIFA, sure they can clean themselves up. They need to have new people under Mr. Blatter. They need to have a transition once he decides to go. All these things needs to happen, but for right now the main issue is the way in which this has been politicized for geological and strategic reasons by the US and its allies in the West.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.