When you think about international soccer, the United States of America hardly crosses your mind. If there is a 4th world in global soccer, the U.S. may even be classified in that group.
Over the decades, the U.S. has been carving for itself the reputation of the old people’s retirement home for soccer legends who have clearly past their prime or are in the twilight years of their fame in the beautiful game.
Talk about Pele and his move to the New York Santos in the 1970s to help launch soccer in the U.S. When David Beckham needed a place to see off his years in soccer, the Los Angeles Galaxy appealed to him as a nice retirement resort. As I write, Steven Gerrard (Liverpool) and Frank Lampard (Manchester City) are on their way to the U.S. to sign off on their elegant soccer careers. That is the way things have been and may continue to be in the next years ahead as famous soccer stars who wish a comfortable retirement migrate to the U.S.
But, if you followed the news in the U.S. last week, you might have thought the country was in the league of Brazil, Germany or Spain in world soccer. The word ‘Fifa’ dominated the news, not on the field of soccer, but because of the action taken by the newly crowned attorney general of the United States, Loretta Lynch.
This iron-lady of the U.S. Justice Department read out her indictment and intent to prosecute hitherto sacred cows in the Fifa hierarchy; not just one but seven of them on charges of multi-million dollars in organized corruption and bribery.
While reading her charges against the lords of Fifa, Lynch declared that “These individuals and organisations engaged in bribery to decide who would televise games, where the games would be held, and who would run the organisation overseeing organised soccer worldwide. They did this over and over, year after year, tournament after tournament.”
This spacecraft of bribery and corruption is estimated to have moved at an incredible speed that gulped up $150 million over twenty-four years.
Election of Blatter
But the irony was that while the U.S. officials were blowing hot smoke over Fifa, the organisation was busy re-electing Fifa President Sepp Blatter for his fifth four-year term. It was a presidential contest that saw African and Asian countries firmly pitching their tent with Blatter who they believe to have worked so hard over the years to pay attention to the development of soccer in their territories.
In his victory speech, Blatter told the audience that “I am the president now, the president of everybody……I am not perfect, nobody is perfect, but we will do a good job together, I am sure…I take responsibility to bring back Fifa where it should be.” He then valiantly added that: “At the end of my term I will give up Fifa in a strong position.”
And in what looked like a swipe at his European and American critics he added this: “The Congress are of the opinion that I am still the man to solve the problems.”
Need to clean Fifa’s stable of corruption
U.S. Attorney General Lynch may not agree with Blatter. Lynch’s actions on the eve of what was to be Blatter’s crowning glory spoke loudly about her undeclared wish for Blatter to quit. There is little debate that there is need to clean Fifa’s stable of corruption, but Lynch’s highly publicized action against the soccer body on this comparatively drop-of-water-in-the-ocean sum of $150 million squandered over twenty-four years raised some eyebrows over the main objectives of Lynch’s strategy.
The fact is that high-level corruption and under-the-table financial shenanigans are not new in America. So, why did Lynch choose to clean Fifa’s “small” stable when there is a huge ranch that needs serious cleaning in her backyard? This web site shows a glimpse of the Olympic level corruption and financial scandals that rocked and continue to rock the U.S. (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/business-economy-financial-crisis/untouchables/how-bank-of-americas-16-65-billion-settlement-compares/).
In August 2014, the report published by PBS (Public Broadcasting Service) entitled “The Untouchables” revealed that “In the five years since the (2008 US financial and mortgage) crisis, government authorities have won nearly $83 billion in credit crisis and mortgage-related settlements from the nation’s six largest banks by assets. Over that same period, the banks have earned more than $320 billion in profits.”
In other words, corruption and financial scandals are multi-billion industries in the U.S. The six big banks mentioned in “The Untouchables” story defrauded the American public, imperiled the American economy and walked away with huge profits, only to agree to shed just about 26 percent of their ill-gotten profits, not their entire assets, and continue to do business in the country.
Overall, the titans of Wall Street continue to thrive in their questionable ways of making money off the backs of impoverished Americans. Yet, Lynch’s justice department has not moved against them with the speed and determination she exhibited in charging at Fifa.
Here is how an article (May 28) in Zero Hedge, a web site that looks at the other side of the establishment, examined Lynch’s action: “What is just as ironic is that the one reason the US determined it has jurisdiction over the case is only because FIFA’s corrupt officials had used US banks as intermediaries to funnel and otherwise launder bribes and other flows of funds…. How many people were arrested in the DOJ’s crackdown on criminal US banks? 0. How many people are arrested as part of the DOJ’s crackdown on FIFA: 14. One can start to sense an agenda in play.”
2018 World Cup
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin already sees Lynch’s action against Fifa as an effort to derail the 2018 World Cup awarded to his country. In an interview he claimed that “We are aware of the pressure that he (Blatter) was subjected to in relation to Russia holding the 2018 World Cup.” He may have a point. Last weekend, the English FA chairman Greg Dyke called for the boycott of the 2018 world cup in response to Blatter’s re-election and questioned the validity of Fifa’s principle of equal voting power for each of the organization’s member states.
As overtly well intentioned as the move to hold Fifa accountable might be, could it be a subterfuge for what the public is not privileged to know for now?