“Soccer is a Religion and FIFA is its Church”

Without a doubt, my favorite sporting event to watch is the World Cup. The  World Cup is an international soccer tournament that takes place every four years. Over 200 different nations across 6 different continents play matches to be one of the 31 nations to make it into the prestigious World Cup. The World Cup is run by the Federation Internationale de Football Association(FIFA), a civil society organization, whose goal is to improve the game of soccer and unite the world through events and competitions. However, closer looks into FIFA’s practices have illuminated the corrupt, unethical nature of the organization.

On FIFA’s website, they advocate that they are an organization who cares about both the society and the environment. They further purport, “We believe that we have a duty to society that goes beyond football: to improve the lives of young people and their surrounding communities, to reduce the negative impact of our activities and to make the most we can of the positives”. The irony behind this statement is that they have taken minimal strides to reduce the detrimental impacts of their decisions. For example, in 2014 FIFA chose Brazil to host the World Cup. Citizens of Brazil, who treat soccer like a religion, should have been ecstatic about FIFA’s news. However, unrest spread across the slums of Brazil as citizens took up protest against the World Cup. One may wonder, “Why would these people be so upset when soccer is a religion to them”? The Brazilian government spent 11 billion dollars on hosting the World Cup. The government does not make any money from the event. FIFA makes all of the money from the event. Yet, FIFA claims to be a non-profit organization. When the president of FIFA, Sepp Blatter, is questioned about how FIFA is a non-profit with over a billion dollars in the bank, he claims that it is a reserve. A reserve of a billion dollars for what? Society in Brazil is suffering from the Brazilian government’s expenditures and FIFA claims that they care about societies worldwide.

Obviously the protests were unsuccessful. Brazil hosted the World Cup, but FIFA still remains shrouded in controversy and deceit. The draw for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups have already been drawn with Russia being foremost host while Qatar is the latter host. There has been a lot of speculation regarding the selection of these countries. It is believed that upper executives in FIFA have taken personal bribes from these countries to host the World Cup. Mohammad bin Hammam, the front runner of becoming FIFA’s new president, left the organization right after the selection. Evidence indicates that he bribed FIFA officials to make sure Qatar would host. Furthermore, FIFA claims to take an interest in human rights and society, but overlooks the unsafe labor practices occurring in countries preparing for the World Cup. For example, several Nepalese workers have already died in the process of creating new stadiums. The International Trade Union Confederation believes that there will be 4000 deaths by the completion of their projects. I imagine that they are receiving extremely inadequate wages for their work. When the World Cup was in South Africa in 2010, workers would make the equivalent of 20 euros after an 18 hour long shift. How can FIFA claim to care about these societies?

To get an absolute hysterical, yet insightful, view on FIFA’s practices check out this video. It raises serious questions about how FIFA still operates today as a civil society organization.

Featured Image: http://ontd-football.livejournal.com/3845378.html


6 thoughts on ““Soccer is a Religion and FIFA is its Church””

  1. FIFA’s lack of payment to host countries does seem to be an ethical problem. FIFA should be an organization revolving around social issues as much as it is an organization revolving around soccer. I wonder if there is a way to change FIFA and its role in the sport. I feel like it wouldn’t be tough to change an organization like FIFA. If countries work together and boycott the organization, changes can happen.


  2. FIFA should really consider which host countries it selects. The labor rights of immigrants in Qatar are absurdly low (as is in most Gulf States). Upon entering the country, the workers have their passports confiscated and can only leave when their employers allow them (every 4-6 years). Qatar is a very hot, arid countries and these immigrants workers have to work through these conditions. As someone who has witnessed this first hand, its truly unnerving. The Qatar government doesn’t care what happens to these workers, since they aren’t their own citizens. That is why there is an average of one to two fatalities at the construction site every day. I think either FIFA should choose countries with better working conditions or pressure countries for change prior to giving them the bid.


  3. I am a huge fan of the world cup as well, so this was interesting to read. It surprised me that none of the host countries actually make money off of the event. I think this is one area that could be more easily changed by delegating a certain percent of the proceeds to the host government. However, the host countries do benefit from the tourism that the event brings in. I now wonder to what extent the host countries are positively impacted by the world cup? If Brazil spent $11 billion to host the tournament, how much did they make from tourism?


  4. Being non-profit has nothing to do with the ability to make sweetheart deals for insiders or to enrich individuals. How much do the executives of FFIA make? How about the representatives of from the are federations?


  5. So, you have options. FIFA talks up clear deontological goals with its idea of human rights. The problem is they don’t live up to them. So that seems a possibility. OR consequentialism. Does the WC justify itself on these grounds/ Doing this gets into the key questions of c’ism: what counts and who counts (not who does the counting, but who are benefits and who is harmed by the act in question). Whether you want to look back to Brazil, or forward to Qatar is up to you.

    As for policy papers, I think one that looks more at how to reform FIFA is a possibility. They operate as a confederation of the underlying national and regional federations, right? They are a special case of international NGO/civil society organization, I think. So, in that context, what are the problems with FIFA and how might they be fixed would be a possibility.


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