Well… Here we are again, at the cusp of another quadrennial global football carnival. And in more ways than one, carnival is the right word. Notwithstanding the obvious allusions to Brazil and its lure of everything samba, we are also witnessing the slow unraveling of the global footballing authority FIFA. They have never been under as much scrutiny or scorn from all quarters. A pantomime carnival of smoke and mirrors and a swindle three card Monty. “Is it under this one, or that one, or how about the other one? “
First, there is Sepp Blatter, the President of FIFA, who has the misfortune of a name that sounds more like a puss-filled water borne disease. This man has been at the center of every scandal, every misogynistic remark, and every nepotistic thrust that has afflicted FIFA. Yet, he still sputters on, like a battery-operated toy, remarkably unscathed by the constant slew of arrows being flung at him and his cronies. Truly a teflon don, right out of central casting…a neck less Dr. Evil from Austin Powers, complete with pinky finger on lip.
Then, there are the Executive Committee Members, from all of the world’s regions, guarding their coveted positions, as every 4 years, an expectant world, vying for the honor to host a future carnival, descends on each of their doorstep with gold and shekels and god knows what else. Scum-bucket-slime sucking is not a good enough term to describe this veritable orgy of graft and “ficha suja” or “dirty cards” as the Brazilians would say. They are truly the masters of the take.
And lastly, the greedy grasping bidding nations themselves and their corporate backers. Their only job is to sucker their respective governments into relinquishing significant portions of their public coffers, through a series of unrelenting public relation campaigns worthy of Madison Avenue….slicker than snot they are.
First off, Brazil. A quick rundown of just a fraction of the shocking details, reveal a stadium that was originally bid at $300 million ending up costing $900 million of public money….three times as much. Someone is financing their very own series of Alegorias or floats at the next carnival it would seem. Another one is of a main construction conglomerate paying out only $78,000 in political contributions back in 2008. Yet ever since the host cities were announced, their contributions have soared to $37 million. Chaaching! As the AP wire reports “ The World Cup hasn’t even begun and “there are at least a dozen separate federal investigations into World Cup spending,” That seems like a lot, until it further reports, that around 40 percent of Brazilian congressmen have criminal cases pending against them, according to a watchdog group called Focus on Congress.” Now, we’re really doing the samba!! In all of this, a nation of the most ardent football supporters are crest fallen because of all the graft. And despite the unwanted publicity at this late stage, the people are coming out onto the streets in large numbers to protest and getting their heads kicked in.
You know… it seems FIFA, perhaps along with the State of Israel, could very well be one of the last bastions of the colonial enterprise. History reminds us, that NOT A SINGLE nation, infected by the scourge of colonial rule has since prospered. The deeper the rule, the greater the misery. Blatter and his pith-helmeted lieutenants will extract every last ounce of profit from these games, while a country is left ruing the day. Maybe this time, Brazil can redeem themselves, by exorcizing the ghosts of 1950 when Uruguay left 200,000 stunned Brazilians writhing in agony at the Estadio do Maracana in Rio. Although, the early signs are that Neymar and Co might just wilt under the pressure. Heck, if nothing else they should rig the whole darn thing, if only to give the cup to the host nation, as a testament to their long suffering misery and national pillaging. Who knows..maybe they will.
And then there is Qatar. A case study in everything that is venal, malevolent and sinister. From the early days of bribing FIFA officials with bags of moolah, almost reinforcing every negative Arab stereotype of treachery, autocracy and yes, and I never thought I’d say this…..modern day slavery, to the farce of building carbon intensive stadia in a barren desert, all with the ultimate aim of inflicting a most grotesque act of cruelty… subjecting the world’s players and supporters alike, to a tournament , slated to be held at the hottest time of the year in the hottest of desert climates. I can’t help but think that the Bedouin may still have the last laugh, inflicting upon his former colonial masters from Europe, every possible pain and discomfort, for all those decades of forced serfdom. Player and fan discomfort aside, and caught in the middle, is the sub-continental slug from places like India, living out their wretched existence at the mercy of a willfully cruel system of “employers”, if you can call them that, with their miserable and inhuman internment camps, exit visa scams and wage garnishment. All this, under the watchful eye it seems, of none other than FIFA.
What is perhaps most infuriating is that Blatter and Co, whilst supposedly doing their due diligence to down select a host nation, would not have ostensibly spared a single thought to the working conditions of those hapless souls. You see…..the way I see it, if the World Cup was to be held in a country with proper labor laws, unions and the like, the consequential total cost to the host nation and in turn to FIFA the benefactor, would be significantly higher. Proper wages, codified working conditions, worker safety etc. All this costs extra. Conversely, their net profits would be modest at best. Whereas, if you can safely turn it over to an autocratic regime where no such basic rights exist, then you can clean up with bags more of the dosh. I don’t have the empirical evidence, but I’ll be willing to wager a small packet that I’m heading in the right direction with this….shall we say, hypothesis.
Lastly, it wouldn’t be proper if I didn’t at least do a little football trash talking. There is of course, the US going to its umpteenth World Cup, because the CONCACAF qualifiers for North and Central America are usually an exercise in training ground antics. It’s like The Karnataka Cricket Team playing the Kumbanad Kappal-Undies. They’ll go through the motions, but in the end, it’s usually bit of a cake walk. Only this time, there’s a little twist. We have a German coach…Klinsmann, and he doesn’t like jumped up stars. He has put the entire US team on notice, that they will each have to earn their place or else piss off! The likes of Landon Donovan and Clint “I’m such a bad-ass Texan “Dempsey are all being brought under manners. I kinda like that.
Who’ll win in July? I’m going with an underdog! The Ivory Coast. What the heck, it’s high time that an African nation lifts the trophy. There is of course, the perennial question. When will a nation of a billion two, field a decent team to get to the World Cup? Perhaps when Modi beckons for Hanumaan’s Avatar!!