Why Was the U.S. Going After FIFA? Was it Absurd to Even Try?

So, in case you hadn’t heard, the Fédération Internationale de Football Association—a.k.a. FIFA—saw a bunch of its high-ranking officials arrested earlier this week on charges of racketeering, wire fraud, yada yada yada. The 47-count indictment was brought forth by the United States Justice Department, led by Attorney General Loretta Lynch, which led nearly everyone to wonder, why the hell would a country that cares so little about a sport that it refuses to call by its correct name decide to go after said sport on an international scale?

The short answer: Money was involved. Lots of money. And money that traveled through (a.k.a. was laundered) U.S. banks, which opened those individuals up to prosecution here. Vox laid it out nicely and in a little more detail here.

But that answer didn’t satisfy everyone. Because we live in a cynical world, there were myriad reasons thought up as to why the USofA would launch a full-scale attack on the world’s most beloved sport—some political, others because of greed, and still others that were somewhere between fantasy and downright stupidity.

Lionel Messi (L) and his teammate Neymar of FC Barcelona back in 2013 (Photo source: Pinterest)

Here are three that come off as legitimate but need to be addressed and thrown aside:

The U.S. hates Russia and doesn’t want to see it host the 2018 World Cup

This reason, of course, was launched by Russian madman Vladimir Putin. In a televised address, Vlad called the U.S. involvement “strange” and accused ‘Merica of overstepping its bounds. “This is a blatant violation of the principle of how international organizations function,” Putin said, via USA Today. “We are aware of the pressure that he was subjected to in relation to Russia holding the 2018 World Cup.”

One could see why the U.S. would be against a Russian World Cup—hell, we were against a Russian Winter Olympics, so this would only make sense, and behind the scenes is absolutely true. But it’s not the reason the U.S. is going after FIFA. The following few sentences can (and will) be copied and pasted in response to each of the remaining poor excuses: International soccer is a corrupt enterprise, and one that needed to be stopped eventually. Why it took this long, we may never know, but at least this country had the balls to step up and tell FIFA that the time was now to get its shit together.

This, to me, is Vlad trying to shit the attention onto his own situation and ignoring reality—nothing new there.

The U.S. is just mad that it lost to Qatar for the 2022 World Cup and wants to send a message.

Again, this could be seen as a valid argument—who isn’t mad that the U.S. was passed over for some country with no real international football history and summer weather that’s going to make the Manaus stadium seem like it was in Antarctica?—but is just complete BS. Qatar’s “successful World Cup bid” was just another example of the corrupt world that FIFA operates in and certainly played a part in the decision to bring charges, but this isn’t an attempt by the U.S. to get the country stripped of its World Cup so it can be moved here. (We already tried that, and failed.)

Again: International soccer is a corrupt enterprise, and one that needed to be stopped eventually. Why it took this long, we may never know, but at least this country had the balls to step up and tell FIFA that the time was now to get its shit together.

This is payback for FIFA allowing an anti-Israel vote to take place.

By far, my favorite conspiracy theory floating out there right now. Of course someone would find a way to throw the Israel-Palestine conflict out there as an explanation for this. And here we have a U.S.-based “reporter” perpetuating it. C’mon man. Really?

For those still playing catch up: Palestinian soccer officials presented a proposal that FIFA is/was expected to vote on during its annual meeting this week that would ban the Israeli soccer federation from FIFA because of rules violations related to racism, players’ free movement, and the location of a number of the country’s clubs (the good ol’ Gaza Strip debate extends to the football pitch.)

Basically, the theory here is that the U.S. is pissed off at FIFA for allowing this vote to go on and is getting back at the organization by bringing these charges against it.

I don’t mean to sound like I’m defending FIFA here, but if there’s one thing its president Sepp Blatter has done sort of right in his time at the helm, it was his decision to travel to both countries recently to talk to their leaders and try to use football talk as a way to bring about some sort of truce or peace or something. That failed, obviously, but you can’t fault him for trying. And while the Palestinians’ proposal is a bit extreme, they’re simply using the channels available to them to send a message—completely legal per FIFA law, so there’s nothing the organization can really do in terms of stopping the vote.

So, for the last time: International soccer is a corrupt enterprise, and one that needed to be stopped eventually. Why it took this long, we may never know, but at least this country had the balls to step up and tell FIFA that the time was now to get its shit together.