Why is FIFA in the eye of the storm?

This past week an extradition process started against several FIFA officials on alleged corruption charges. While CNN, and other networks, focus on debating if US has or not the jurisdiction over this; I wonder: is this the second step into a Cold War?

An unexpected intervention.

During more than four decades, every action from an organization, country, or corporation affiliated to one of the superpowers was understood as a Cold War action. Either an attack or a retreat. In that scenario direct media actions were highly pondered, even if they were interpretations over innocent statements. A text-book classic example of Cold War actions is the 1980’s American Olympics boycott.

On December 24, 1979, the Soviet Union intervened Afghanistan. A few months before, the US ambassador had been murdered in Kabul and Afghanistan lost all West support. Hence, the official Afghani government welcomed the USSR and US felt the obligation to take countermeasures. The strongest one was to end with Kissinger’s Détente policy. The media response for US, together with other allies, was to boycott the Olympic games to be held in Moscow. Four years later, in 1984, USSR took their chance and boycotted the Olympics held in LA.

Back to the future.

One year after John Oliver’s last week tonight FIFA report and the start of the probably most corrupted FIFA World Cup in history, the US is prosecuting several FIFA officials under corruption charges. However, football organizations have been long surrounded by different corruption rumors, like money laundry. And FIFA was never an exception to this rule — some of the charges date from 2005 -. So why is America suddenly worried about the legitimacy of the football world?

The next World Cup is supposed to be held in Russia. Russia has then 3 years to get ready and show their achievements in the most watched event in the world, FIFA’s World Cup. This is an ambitious project coming from an ambitious country which made the news last year with Putin’s Ukraine intervention and the submarines found in the Nordic seas. Both actions were not foreseen by the West foreign policy makers leaving them in bland positions. As a result, all the sanctions imposed by EU and US failed to produce a retreat. In fact, Russia Channel One has proclaimed “America has realized that Ukraine is not worth spoiling its relationship with Russia…” and it certainly can be seen like that.

But this is a chess game, not a tic-tac-toe match, and, as 35 years ago, a first counter-strike is taking place. A new boycott threat. One can think that as a result of the very limited number of actions left to take, this time it is a more serious threat that in 1980.

Invalidating Russia’s next FIFA World Cup due to corruption charges seems plausible. That will give closure to this FIFA’s dark chapter, keep alive the organization, and it will help US position. Thus, hosting the next World Cup in an European country or Australia instead, would be the best end result.

I will be awaiting the answer to this football gambit.

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