The seminal radical football podcast “This is Deep Play” once made this perceptive point about football: far from being a form of escapism detached from real life, football is like a mirror, vividly reflecting everything that’s playing out in capitalist society at large.
If you want to go to the football to get away from big business, gentrification, bigotry and corruption, you won’t be in for much luck — they’re all there. Happily, all the collective solidarities and human kindnesses, all the spontaneous moments of joy and humour will also be there, often in distorted and exaggerated form.
There is one exception to this rule, however: FIFA.
World football’s governing body is more corrupt, more opaque and unaccountable in its dealings, more obviously a totally crooked swindle, than ordinary capitalism. FIFA has spent decades acting more like a bloated crime family.
It seems like everyone knew, or felt they knew, that FIFA under Sepp Blatter, was crooked for a long time. After all, what explanation could there be for awarding a world cup to a country like Qatar if not the appeal of hundreds of millions of petrodollars.
While I’m sure Qatar has many charms, its arid desert climate is clearly not appropriate for a top-level football tournament. What’s more, report after report has revealed the appalling conditions that workers building Qatari World Cup facilities are forced to live under by their fantastically rich bosses.
The Nepalese government estimates that 157 of its citizens died working in Qatar alone. It is now thought that construction for the World Cup is killing a worker every two days.
So it has not come as too much of a surprise that US authorities have finally swooped. Under US law, corruption carried out using US banking networks count as violations of US law, no matter where they took place. So far, 14 FIFA officials and executives have been arrested, and it is expected more will follow.
This is very far from being “problem solved”. It is thought that FIFA were tipped off that they were being investigated, and it is likely that much evidence has been destroyed.
A socialist society will see the governance of the economy, public services, and yes, football, prised from these self-serving crooks and placed under the radically democratic, collective control of all us all.