Tag Archives: South Africa

FIFA: masters of shadiness

25 Feb

I wrote this short paper for my Socio-Cultural Dimension in Sport class because we had to write about sports and politics.  After all the shizz that went down with the World Cup voting, I just had to write about FIFA (even though I had to refrain from ranting too much about the World Cup voting politics).  After the research I did for this paper, I realized FIFA was even shadier than I thought (which is quite a feat).  Enjoy and let me know what you think…

The Fédération Internationale de Football Association, known commonly as FIFA, is the world governing body for soccer. Article three of the organization’s own standards statutes state “FIFA is neutral in matters of politics and religion.”  When charged with running the world’s most popular game, that seems like a pipe dream and has proven as such. FIFA has long played a part in world politics, whether it wants to or not.  There are examples from history about FIFA’s involvement (or non-involvement) in political situations around the globe such as the role of Argentina’s military junta bribing its way to World Cup hosting duties in or the suspension of the Togo national team after a bus attack at the African Cup of Nations.

FIFA has power and authority over 207 member countries and the rules of the game; however the organization is not exactly renowned for its competence. If FIFA were the government of a nation-state and organization president Sepp Blatter was in charge, it would be like Sarah Palin had taken over – completely terrifying.  David Goldblatt, author of The Ball is Round states, “Many things in the world are badly governed. There are many elites who are incompetent, self-serving, self-important and arrogantly blasé about their evident limitations.  None of them can begin to compare with the circus masquerading as the global governance of football.”

Despite being in charge of the world’s most popular sport, FIFA is a notoriously secretive organization.  While it is easy as pie to go online and find the salary of the President of the United States, a Google search for ‘Sepp Blatter salary’ yields only estimated figures.  There is no accountability to the nations, clubs or players under the FIFA umbrella.  Earlier this decade, $60 million from Brazil’s Globo for TV rights was diverted to secret accounts and over $316 million in sponsorship money had simply gone missing.

Even the process of awarding the multi-million dollar crown jewel World Cup is carried out in extreme secrecy. FIFA’s 24 member executive committee votes in secret on the host country and what they say goes. Much like the process of securing Olympic hosting duties, this process has turned increasingly political.  Countries rely on prominent political figures to speak for their bid.  For example, when the U.S. was bidding to host the 2022 World Cup, former President Bill Clinton was highly involved.  England sent Prime Minister David Cameron to the official vote in a final attempt to sway voters to the England bid for 2018.

Prominent politicians play only a tiny role in the process though as there are alliances formed between voting members and promises (and quite possibly bribes) made behind closed doors that have nothing to do with soccer. Call me crazy, but that sounds kind of like Congress. 

After FIFA awarded the bids for the 2018 World Cup and the 2022 World Cup to Russia and Qatar, respectively, the rumours of bribes and oil money promises ran rampant (and still are too).  Despite the organization’s insistence on staying out of politics, after the hosts were announced, the secretary-general Jérôme Valcke told reporters, “It’s a political decision to open up onto the world. It was the same thing with hosts South Africa.”

Like I stated before, it is near impossible for FIFA to stay completely out of politics.  The line between soccer and politics is a blurry one and Valcke’s comment only verifies that.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter is trying to create and protect a legacy of expanding the game to new places around the ground, thus, the awarding of the World Cup to places like South Africa and Qatar.  Despite the appeal of sending the world’s biggest sporting event to the far corners of the globe, FIFA fails to recognize the economic implications of such a decision.  When the United States hosted the World Cup in 1994, all the stadiums used were already in place as either NFL or college fields.  There was not the need to build brand new stadiums which helped keep costs to a minimum. 

For the 2010 World Cup, South Africa spent over $1 billion to build and renovate 10 stadiums around the country.  Several of these stadiums now sit empty as they are not the correct size or dimensions for either cricket or rugby, two of the most popular sports in South Africa.  Green Point Stadium, for example, costs over $6 million just to maintain.  While some of the stadiums are able to be used for the South African soccer leagues, several are in areas such as Rustenburg, Polokwane and Nelspruit, where there are no major sports teams located nearby. There was a communication breakdown between the country’s soccer, rugby and cricket authorities as the needs of the cricket and rugby teams were not given much thought prior to the stadiums being built.  While there was an initial economic boom immediately after the World Cup, it has not been sustained.  FIFA’s priority was on bringing the World Cup to South Africa and the organization did not think that hosting the tournament could actually end up having a negative impact on the country.  There is no focus on the sustainability of the soccer culture and stadiums in South Africa; FIFA basically washed its hands of the issues once the World Cup final ended July 11.

FIFA is the “elite that faces no opposition, little scrutiny and is bound by no single legal jurisdiction” according to Goldblatt.  FIFA holds significant political influence, particularly when it comes to the World Cup, and in turn is influenced, whether rightly or wrongly, by the politics of the day.


US heads back to South Africa

17 Nov

The U.S. soccer team travels back to Africa for a friendly against South Africa today. The roster is dramatically different from the team that played in the World Cup; only five players remain from that squad.  Not that the decision is surprising. Bob Bradley’s got his work cut out for him looking ahead to 2014 and it’s good to get some new, young faces in the squad to see how they stack up and fit in.

Now, with a whole new group of guys out there, it’s important to be looking at the potential and not necessarily the result (I have to keep telling myself that).  It’s important to start building to a strong squad for 2014 and finding who can add a dynamic presence to the team.  Six players are looking for their first cap. 

GOALKEEPERS: Dominic Cervi (Celtic), Brad Guzan (Aston Villa)
DEFENDERS: Gale Agbossoumonde (Estoril Praia), Nat Borchers (Real Salt Lake), Jonathan Bornstein (Chivas USA), Clarence Goodson (Brondby), Eric Lichaj (Aston Villa), Tim Ream (New York Red Bulls), Jonathan Spector (West Ham United)
MIDFIELDERS: Alejandro Bedoya (Örebro), Brian Carroll (Columbus Crew), Mikkel Diskerud (Stabaek), Eddie Gaven (Columbus Crew), Logan Pause (Chicago Fire), Robbie Rogers (Columbus Crew)
FORWARDS: Juan Agudelo (New York Red Bulls), Teal Bunbury (Kansas City Wizards), Robbie Findley (Real Salt Lake)

Final thoughts on the 2010 World Cup

13 Jul

I am still slightly saddened by the fact that the most glorious month of football is over for another four years.  It all went by so fast.  I’m resigned to watching MLS and waiting on transfer rumours until the Premier League starts August 14.  Lame.  Anyways, I got the idea for this post from Sports Illustrated’s 50 observations story and figured it was a good way to do things since I have too many jumbled up thoughts in my head to actually write a coherent post.

My 27 thoughts on South Africa 2010 (in no particular order and which I’m sure to add to)

1. There was no better way to start the tournament than Siphiwe Tshabalala’s rocket shot.  An awesome start for the host nation.

2. I still can’t believe what a disaster the French team was.  Those players are going to be embarassed when they look back on this.

3. I lost track of the number of times I wished that Charlie Davies was healthy and able to play for the U.S. Robbie Findley’s inability to get a decent shot off was so damn frustrating.

4. The more replays I see of Nigel De Jong’s karate kick to Xabi Alonso’s chest, the more I’m amazed that he only ended up with a yellow card.

5. The emotion in this sport is phenomenal.  You can go from tears to cheers to outrage, all over the course of 90 minutes.  What a fantastic sport.

6. How awesome would it have been to be in Spain for the final on Sunday? 

7. Spain’s win emphasized the team over individual.  That team is full of all-stars, but they put their egos aside for their country.  Take note of that, England.

8. While entertaining, Diego Maradona is not fit for coaching.  Like I’ve said before, being a great player does not make you a good coach.

9. Germany was the most fun to watch (well, except against Spain).  The way they could move the ball up the pitch so quickly and finish so well was awesome. 

10. I still think refs needs to be held accountable for their decisions during a game.  There’s no real punishment if they screw up.

11. Landon Donovan’s stoppage time goal against Algeria was one of the highlights of my U.S. soccer watching career.  Absolutely amazing.  It made me cry.

12. Who would have thought Uruguay would make it to the semifinals?  Diego Forlan was a complete stud throughout the tournament and rightly won the Golden Ball as the tournament’s best player.

13. Italy’s failure to advance out of the group stage was all about cockiness. They thought they could cakewalk through the group and that wasn’t the case.

14. I think the vuvuzela will stay a South African tradition.  I’m sure a few will pop up in other places, but there’s no way it’s going to replace a good old-fashioned yell.

15. Tim Howard was disappointing for team USA.  Yeah, he had a couple of good saves against England, but he was otherwise pedestrian.  I expected more from a top-class keeper.

16. Fernando Torres was clearly not 100% fit.  His touch was off and he couldn’t find the back of the net to save his life.  An apparent hamstring? groin? injury was just the crappy end he needed.  Well, at least he ended up with a winner’s medal as consolation.

17. I think there should be retroactive punishments for horrible diving.  Example: Ivory Coast’s Kader Keita’s dramatic “facial injury” after running into Kaka, which earned the Brazilian his second yellow of the game.  The game does not need that shizz.

18. How did Lionel Messi not score a goal?  He had some pretty wicked shots on goal and had some goalies make some terrific saves.

19. I have absolutely no problem with what Luis Suarez did in the Uruguay-Ghana game.  Was it illegal? Yes.  Did he get punished appropriately? Yes. It was such a big deal because Ghana was the last African team left, but I’m glad FIFA wasn’t jaded by that fact.  If things had gone the other way around, I’m sure the Ghana fans would’ve said it was worth it.

20. I would not want to be a national team manager, especially for a team like England.  Too many egos involved.  Props to those managers that put up with that crap on a regular basis.

21. My call for biggest upset: tie between Slovakia 3, Italy 2 and New Zealand 1, Italy 1.  I hate the Italian national team so these results were amazing.

22. The World Cup brought out some really good journalism.  It also brought out some total crap.  After Rick Reilly’s horrible WC column, I refuse to read anything he writes.

23. For the love of all that is holy, Bob Bradley, what the hell were you thinking with the lineup against Ghana?

24. The whole Paul the Octopus phenomenon really amused me.  It was crazy to see how seriously people were taking his predictions.  It’s an octopus, people!

25. Game of the tournament: Uruguay-Ghana, hands down.

26. I don’t think Robert Green will ever live down his howler against the United States.  He’s just lucky that draw didn’t cost England a spot in the knockout round or it could’ve gotten a lot uglier.

27. The supposed “stars” of this World Cup didn’t shine, but I’m ok with that.  It allowed players that are equally as awesome like Diego Forlan, Xavi, Asamoah Gyan and more to get their deserved chance in the spotlight.

Six thoughts after six days

17 Jun

Well, I meant to post this yesterday, but I forgot, so you get it today instead. 

The World Cup is six days old and every team has played its first group game, so here’s my thoughts on the first 16 matches.

  • Meh.  Team are playing cautiously, which means lots of defense and not a lot of goals.  Not exactly super exciting stuff so far.  Only four teams have scored more than one goal in a game (South Korea, Germany, Netherlands and Brazil). Things should open up more as teams push for wins to get to the next round.
  • Germany is the only team so far that looks like it wants to win.  Granted, Australia looked rather poor, but Germany’s passing was spot-on.  They did such a good job controlling the ball and the pace of the game.  Plus, the Germans got four goals from four different people and it’s always nice to have multiple strike options.
  • Game of the first round: Switzerland 1, Spain 0.  South Africa has not been kind to Spain.  A year after losing to the U.S. in the Confederations Cup, Switzerland shocked Spain in the opening game of group H.  Spain had plenty of opportunities to score, but just couldn’t convert.  Spain should be able to recover and get out of the group, but Chile also looked dangerous so the road once viewed as easy might get a little bit rougher.
  • As much as I would love to see South Africa get into the second round, I just don’t see it happening.  The team just doesn’t have the depth. (Also, a 3-0 loss to Uruguay and a red card for the starting goalie made that road a LOT tougher.)
  • The stars have yet to shine.  Lionel Messi and Argentina’s formidable strikers haven’t scored a goal (defender Gabriel Heinze scored the winner against Nigeria).  Cristiano Ronaldo was a non-factor and Didier Drogba was relegated to substitute duty.  Wayne Rooney hardly touched the ball.  No one has put their team on their shoulders and carried them a win (Zidane style, of course).  The big names have to step up their game.
  • As a whole, the refereeing has been solid.  I’m sure Tim Cahill would beg to differ, but compared to four years ago, refs are pulling those cards out a lot less.

World Cup results – June 16

16 Jun

Switzerland pulled the upset of the tournament so far, beating favored Spain 1-0 on a 52nd minute Gelson Fernandes goal.  Spain had several chances to score, but couldn’t ever put it in the back of the net.  Xabi Alonso came closest though, nailing a shot off the cross bar in the final minutes.  In the day’s opening game, Chile knocked off Honduras, 1-0, but it could’ve easily been 3-0 or 4-0.  Honduras just never really got in a groove. In the second set of games in group A, Uruguay dominated host South Africa in a 3-0 win. Diego Forlan became the first player in the tournament to score multiple goals in the same game.

Group H Results
Honduras 0
Chile 1 (Beausejour 34)

Spain 0
Switzerland 1 (Fernandes 52)

Group A Results
South Africa 0
Uruguay 3 (Forlan 24, 80 – pen, Pereira 90)

Group H Standings
Chile – 3
Switzerland – 3
Spain – 0
Honduras – 0

World Cup results – June 11

11 Jun

Host South Africa got the party started with the first goal of the tournament, thanks to a beautiful strike from Siphiwe Tshabalala.  Mexico tallied a late equalizer from Rafa Marquez, but it was a great start to the tournament for South Africa.  Uruguay spent the last 10 minutes or so frantically trying to keep France from scoring after Nicolas Lodeiro was ejected for his second yellow card of the game.  France couldn’t find the back of the net and group A will head into the second day of competition all square with one point each.

Group A Results
South Africa 1 (Tshabalala 55)
Mexico 1 (Marquez 79)

France 0
Uruguay 0

Group A Standings
South Africa – 1
Mexico – 1
France – 1
Uruguay – 1

Group A Preview

2 Jun

Group A
South Africa

South Africa has the advantage of playing in front of a home crowd, but will that momentum be able to carry them into the second round?  The host nation axed its all-time leading scorer in Benni McCarthy, who is suffering from Fat Ronaldo syndrome.  It will be interesting to see who can step up in his absence.  The team will try to avoid becoming the first host country to miss out on the second round.

Meanwhile, France is still dealing with head coach Ray Domenech, who might be certifiably insane.  He made the decision to leave players like Samir Nasri and Karim Benzema behind, which would have injected some youthful speed into the equation.  He also has made some questionable decisions in regards to “training”.  William Gallas was injured in a dune buggy incident (he’ll be fine), there’s been skiing, bike riding, shooting (with guns).  Who knows, maybe all the together time off the field will do wonders (doubtful) for the product on the pitch.  Oh yeah, and I’m sure people (namely, Irish people) will be rooting for France to fail miserably after the slightly controversial way they got into the tournament.

Mexico seemed like they were doing ok heading into the World Cup.  At least until Jonathan dos Santos got cut from the team, which has angered star player Giovanni dos Santos to the point where he might quit the squad. Just what the team needs!  I’m sure he will calm down and realize that playing in the World Cup is more important than making a point about your brother who really just wasn’t good enough.  With head coach Javier Aguerre, the team has stabilized after a disastrous start to qualification and should be in a good position to make it to the second round.  El Tri has made the round of 16 in four straight World Cups.  Can they keep that streak going?

Uruguay comes in to the tournament aiming for its first win since the 1990 edition.  Striker Diego Forlan comes in on a hot streak after leading Atletico Madrid to the Europa Cup title. Forlan will be joined up front by Luis Suarez who scored 35 goals for Ajax this season.  Uruguay’s midfield hasn’t been the strongest, but if it can pull it together and get the ball to the dynamic duo up top, they could make some waves.

The Soccer Wall’s picks to advance: Mexico, Uruguay