Brian Phillips’ latest for Grantland strikes at the futility of match-fixing’s global reach. Despite his resounding conclusion—”Soccer. Is. F*cked.”—one would think the problem could be addressed by an organization that eschews domestic politics, whose reach extends well beyond borders and overseas the very professionals susceptible to approaches from shady middlemen: FIFA.
Here’s Phillips’ damning appraisal:
UEFA and FIFA talk about stamping out corruption, but, and I’ll try to be precise here, FIFA rhetoric is to action what a remaindered paperback copy of Pippi in the South Seas is to the Horsehead Nebula. FIFA is eyeballs-deep in its own corruption problems, being run, as it is, by a cabal of 150-year-olds, most of them literally made out of dust, who have every incentive to worry about short-term profit over long-term change. They all have streets named after them, so how could they have a bad conscience? FIFA sees the game as a kind of Rube Goldberg device, or, better, as a crazed Jenga tower, and their job is to keep it standing as long as the money’s coming in. Doesn’t matter how wobbly it gets. Nobody look at the foundations.
These are the fruits of football finance as global pandemic—for every market, there is a black market. But there is another dirty little secret emerging ahead of Qatar 2022 that will make South African tax evasion and bulldozed Brazilian favelas seem positively quaint. From Human Rights Watch:
Qatar has not delivered on its pledges to improve migrant workers’ rights, Human Rights Watch said today at a news conference in Doha about its World Report 2013. More than two years after it won the right to host the 2022 World Cup, it is high time for Qatar to deliver on its promises for reforms to prevent the trafficking and forced labor of migrant workers, Human Rights Watch said. The Qatar Supreme Committee for Qatar 2022 – the tournament’s quasi-governmental delivery committee – has made encouraging pledges on workers’ rights, but these lack detail. Nor do they mask the failure of the Qatari authorities either to reform exploitative laws, such as the kafala system of sponsorship-based employment and the prohibition on trade unions, or to enforce the prohibition on illegal recruitment fees and the confiscation of passports.
The HRW report goers on to list of labour practices that bring to mind late 19th century London. It also warns ominously of the likelihood of Qatar’s outmoded policies leading to “the threat of trafficking and forced labour…”
That would be the nadir: a World Cup, the supposed festival of football, brought to you by slaves. The slogan is “Against Modern Football,” but the sport seems mired in 19th century social problems.