President Hassan Rouhani of Iran, right, receiving a soccer jersey from FIFA’s president, Gianni Infantino, on Thursday. Credit Iranian Presidential Office European Pressphoto Agency

Over the past few months, the world has once again been reminded of the gender apartheid long practiced in Iran — and of the bravery of Iranian women languishing under it. Late last year protesters began removing their compulsory hijabs in public and waving them in defiant protest. At least 29 women have been jailed for seeking the freedom to show their hair. Some have been beaten. All that in a country in which husbands have a legal right to bar their wives from working and in which a woman’s testimony in court is worth half that of a man’s.

So why is Gianni Infantino, the president of FIFA, the world soccer federation, doing his part to condone the Islamic Republic’s misogyny?…  Seguir leyendo »

After enduring months of corruption scandals, FIFA, the governing body of global soccer, is under intense pressure to reform. While popular interest swirls around the February FIFA presidential election, a more important vote will take place on the same day over institutional reform. The organization’s reform committee is meeting in Switzerland this week to decide on the package of reforms that will be voted on in February.

As corporate sponsors and law enforcement authorities watch closely, there is one obvious change that could improve global soccer on multiple fronts: more women.

When FIFA’s Congress gathers in February, less than 1 percent of the voters will be female.…  Seguir leyendo »

Luego de que Sepp Blatter abandonara el escenario tras renunciar a la presidencia de la FIFA, Domenico Scala, el funcionario a cargo de supervisar la elección de su reemplazo, subió al podio. En reconocimiento implícito del furor que desató la partida de Blatter — los arrestos de siete funcionarios del fútbol en Zúrich acusados de corrupción la semana anterior — Scala dijo que la decisión de Blatter “nos da la oportunidad de ir hacia donde la FIFA nunca ha ido — un cambio fundamental en su estructura”. Scala también describió el anuncio de Blatter como “valiente”, diciendo: “Sé que ha actuado de corazón, pensando en qué es mejor para la FIFA y el fútbol.…  Seguir leyendo »

The South Korean and Spanish soccer teams face off in a FIFA Women's World Cup game in Ottawa, Canada, on June 17. (Andre Ringuette / Getty Images)

Why isn’t Sepp Blatter in Canada?

Blatter, the FIFA president who said he would step down in the wake of a corruption scandal, likes to take credit for the global growth of women’s soccer over the last two decades. In an interview with the BBC, he even described himself as the “godfather” of the sport.

But he has yet to appear for a single game of the women’s World Cup in Canada. Indeed, he has not even dispatched his chief lieutenant, FIFA General Secretary Jerome Valcke, to attend. By contrast, both Valcke and Blatter were in Brazil for the entirety of the 2014 men’s World Cup.…  Seguir leyendo »

“We have fought colonialism and defeated it and we still fight imperialism and we will fight it whenever it manifests itself.” So claimed South Africa’s sports minister, Fikile Mbalula, recently. He was talking not of war or invasion but about the F.B.I.’s investigation into corruption involving FIFA, world soccer’s governing body. Other officials from Africa, Asia and the Caribbean have expressed similar sentiments.

Western commentators have equally viewed the FIFA scandal as a grand geopolitical confrontation. In The Financial Times, the journalist Simon Kuper compared FIFA’s departing president, Sepp Blatter, to Joseph Stalin and Fidel Castro. “Like Saddam Hussein, Mr. Blatter has now been removed by a crusading U.S.,” he wrote.…  Seguir leyendo »

Herr Blatter ha dimitido y probablemente otros lo harán también. Pero es dudoso que el problema haya quedado resuelto. Hace muchos, muchos años, cuando mis amigos y yo bajábamos las escaleras corriendo para jugar al fútbol en la calle todo era menos complicado. Nadie había oído hablar de Qatar, no existía la FIFA y no había ninguna regla sobre el fuera de juego. Pero estoy seguro de que nos divertíamos mucho más. Es cierto que era un juego de hombres. Las niñas no jugaban al fútbol en aquellos tiempos. Hoy, cuando veo el fútbol en Norteamérica, necesito al menos cinco minutos para saber qué sexo está jugando; las mujeres suelen jugar más agresivamente, mientras que los hombres, especialmente los profesionales, rehuyen el contacto físico, muchas mujeres no tienen tales inhibiciones.…  Seguir leyendo »

Last week, world soccer’s governing body, FIFA, again proved its knack for producing compelling spectacles that glue millions to their TV screens. But this time, rather than Messi and Neymar, the show starred the Swiss police, America’s attorney general and Sepp Blatter, FIFA’s wounded but unbowed chief, as he fought to keep his job even as 14 of his top lieutenants faced U.S. indictments under RICO: the anti-racketeering law originally designed to fight the Mafia.

The danger is that the breathtaking venality laid bare in the Justice Department’s indictment will lull us into thinking a change of personnel is all it will take to reform FIFA.…  Seguir leyendo »

And so Sepp Blatter has defied all expectations and announced his intention to step aside from the presidency of FIFA after 17 years at the helm. Despite numerous scandals afflicting the organization he ran, he won four successive elections. Finally, it seems that the long arm of American law has finally reached close enough to FIFA’s heart to force its leader to step down.

FIFA has been part of Blatter’s life for 40 years. He was headhunted by Horst Dassler, the CEO of German sportswear firm Adidas, and learned his trade at Adidas’ headquarters in Landersheim. He then became a technical director in 1975 before assuming the role of Secretary General in 1981.…  Seguir leyendo »

While Western politicians strongly supported the arrests of FIFA officials, in other parts of the world the events in Zurich were immediately seen as just another geopolitical play. In Russia, Vladimir Putin argued that the arrests amounted to a case of over-reach by US law enforcement agencies. China also criticised the arrests, with a Xinhua editorial complaining that it was “a bad example of overrun of unilateral power”.

In this polarising geopolitical discourse, calls by Western politicians for Russia to lose the right to stage the 2018 World Cup are likely to do more harm than good. Labour Party leadership contender Andy Burnham is the latest politician to link the FIFA investigation to Russia’s role in the war in Ukraine, and to press for a boycott of the 2018 competition.…  Seguir leyendo »

La única sorpresa sobre la detención de siete funcionarios de la FIFA en un hotel suizo la mañana del 27 de mayo es simplemente la de que ocurriera. La mayoría de la gente daba por sentado que esos hombres consentidos y vestidos con trajes caros que gobiernan la Federación Mundial de Fútbol estaban fuera del alcance de la ley. Fueran cuales fuesen los rumores que corrieran o las informaciones que se diesen sobre sobornos, votaciones amañadas y otros chanchullos, el Presidente de la FIFA, Joseph “Sepp” Blatter, y sus colegas y asociados siempre parecían salir incólumes.

Hasta ahora, se ha imputado a 14 hombres, incluidos nueve ejecutivos actuales o antiguos de la FIFA (pero no Blatter), de diversos delitos de fraude y corrupción en los Estados Unidos, donde los fiscales los acusan, entre otras cosas, de embolsarse 150 millones de dólares con sobornos, y los fiscales suizos están examinando acuerdos turbios a los que se debieron las decisiones de conceder las competiciones de la Copa Mundial en 2018 y 2022 a Rusia y a Qatar, respectivamente.…  Seguir leyendo »

The arrests Wednesday of nine senior officials of FIFA, among 14 people indicted by the United States Department of Justice on corruption charges, shook soccer’s world governing body as it met in Zurich for its annual Congress. America’s new top law officer, Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch, told reporters that one FIFA official alone had accepted more than $10 million in bribes.

In one sense, this is no surprise: Allegations of corruption at FIFA go back decades. FIFA itself has long since admitted, for example, that its officials took kickbacks from a Swiss company that marketed broadcast rights to the World Cup between 1992 and 2000.…  Seguir leyendo »

The 161-page indictment filed against 14 individuals connected to FIFA makes depressing reading. It identifies page after page of what the U.S. Justice Department says are corrupt transactions, usually involving the sale of marketing or broadcast rights relating to national football teams and international competitions, not least the FIFA World Cup.

According to the indictment, the typical scheme went like this: someone senior in the federation (the indictment is entirely related to the federations of North and South America) would sell the distribution rights to a marketing company, which would then sell those rights to a TV channel or sporting goods company that would ultimately make money by selling to customers.…  Seguir leyendo »

It was a scene right out of a movie: Swiss officials swept into the five-star Baur au Lac hotel in Zurich and arrested several leaders of FIFA, the global governing body of the world’s most popular sport, soccer.

It serves as a stark reminder, with all due respect to the rather indecisive Wells Report over the so-called Deflategate, that in sports, it isn’t always the athletes and coaches who are accused of cheating.

In its 47-count indictment, issued in Brooklyn, the U.S. Department of Justice charged that some 14 people, many with official roles in FIFA, took part in a 24-year corruption scheme to fill their wallets at the expense of the sport.…  Seguir leyendo »

La Copa del Mundo ha concluido con su fanfarria habitual y gran parte del mundo, como suele suceder, no pudo evitar verse atrapado en la emoción de todo el evento -exactamente lo que Sepp Blatter quiere-. Blatter, el presidente de la FIFA, el ente organizador del Mundial, quiere que el brillo de un mes de juego emocionante corra un tupido velo sobre la corrupción y los acuerdos en bambalinas -y, más recientemente, el escándalo de las entradas- que han enturbiado su gestión.

Corrían otros tiempos en 1998, cuando Blatter asumió su cargo. Los medios sociales no existían, e Internet todavía no se había convertido en un canal de difusión de las opiniones de quienes no tienen ni voz ni voto.…  Seguir leyendo »