What the FIFA scandal says about us

Sepp Blatter

The reports coming out of Switzerland indicate that Sepp Blatter presided over the most ludicrous of rackets, treating an organisation that represents the “world game” as a banana republic. Since rising to the post of president in 1998, Mr Blatter has pretty much been re-elected unopposed, cementing his position as commander-in-chief.

“I am the president now, the president of everybody”, a defiant Blatter roared after his recent electoral victory on Friday 29 May.

However, by Tuesday 2 June, Mr Blatter had brought down the curtain on his reign, choosing to resign and likely face the US Justice system.

Ironically for any follower of football, Blatter seemed to sow the seeds of his own destruction when he surreptitiously led a campaign against Mohammed Bin Hammam, his challenger at the 2011 election. By implicating Bin Hammam in corrupt dealings, and then banning him, Blatter set in motion events that led to the arrest of 14 high-ranking FIFA executives by international law enforcement agencies.

For days, we have been captured by the orgy of wanton sybaritic avarice: the Trump Tower apartment rented for cats; the envelopes stuffed with cash; the endless junkets and meetings in exotic locales; the dolling out of development aid in return for votes – the betrayal of trust.

It is this last point that should concern us all.

Football (proper football that is) is the world’s game. The icons of the game – Ronaldo, Messi, Rooney, Beckham – are raised on incredible pedestals. They are revered in every corner of the globe, regardless of race, gender or religion.

For the poor who form the majority of the world’s population, football is a way of life. For the barefoot child playing in the street, football is a viable dream to a better life.

As custodians of that dream, FIFA and Mr Blatter have failed miserably. The organisation has a basic responsibility to champion good leadership. FIFA should have used the power of football to better promote governance and development as it espouses.

This scandal highlights once again the truism by Lord Acton, “power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely”.

Mr Blatter has been FIFA’s, and football’s, domineering leader for 17 years and did nothing to stop the rot. Indeed, it can be argued he enmeshed it in football’s culture by putting in power people who feverishly pursued corrupt deals.

Whether it is in our own families, communities or nations, failure of leadership stings – not because of the material losses, but the betrayal of trust. This scandal represents betrayal at a global level, but it could be argued it is symptomatic of a lack of real leadership offered to us all as we live in an increasingly complex world.

Image courtesy of AsianFC on Flickr.

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