So the 2014 World Cup is coming to an end; England out, Italy out, Uruguay out, along with so many other great nations and teams. Which country will win? How will this end? That maybe a matter for the future but one thing we can look into is how it all began.

FIFA was created in 1904 and I quote from their website “…its goal, enshrined in its Statutes, is the constant improvement of football.” By improvement also consider making it more popular and profitable or as you will see – one thing leads to the other.

Football was during that time – if you can ever imagine such a moment – somewhat not important. Yet, soon enough, in the 1908 London Summer Games the sport began to draw some attention and, in that, generated a bit of conflict between Fifa and the International Olympic Committee. While the first party wanted to professionalise the athletes and inject money into the games, the later was more interested in preserving the spirit of competition and the love for sport, no money involved – or was that just Baron de Coubertin’s way to make sure only the richer could afford to train and prepare?

…professionalise the athletes and inject money into the games…

Fans of Brazil react while watching a broadcast of the 2014 World Cup semi-final against Germany at the Fan Fest in BrasiliaNever the less, the result of this dispute is what we today know as the World Cup – professional athletes, well sponsored, putting on quite a show. The first Cup held in Uruguay in 1930 allowed amateur players to participate but Fifa’s plan all along was to reach the exact point where we are now. Letting temperatures rise, as we all fall into the fever, while watching the best try to be even better.

Now how did Fifa get us here? Like said above, professionalizing football and injecting money into it. Yes, but they had a little help. The heir of Adi Dassler or Adidas – Horst Dassler put on his best trainers and entered the game. Dassler’s main goal was to score a few – or a lot – teams to sponsor and sport his brand around the world; still he needed someone to kick that ball into the net for him – that man’s name was João Havelange.

…they transitioned football from barely noticed to really, really cool…

Havelange was a former Olympic swimmer with really nice diplomatic skills and four languages at the tip of his tongue; yet what really stood out on his resume might have been his ease around money. That’s when the whistle really blew, 1974, as Dassler took Havelange under his wing and ensured he stayed there as Fifa’s president until 1998. Together they transitioned football from barely noticed to really, really cool.

In exchange for the presidency Havelange gave Horst – or Adidas – the seat with the best view of the house. Adidas had priority in signing new teams joining Fifa and ever since – with a freshly renewed contract until 2030 – all balls used for the games have carried three stripes.

…Adidas had priority in signing new teams…

That goes only to say the least; in 2001 a company called International Sport and Leisure went bankrupt. The main activity of the monopoly run by Dassler under Havelange’s watch was to sell the broadcasting rights of the games to television channels around the world. How, I ask you, does the sole proprietor of such rights bankrupt leaving more than 300 million dollars in debts? Easy, just a bit of a kickback.

ISL was in fact just a way for some of Fifa’s authorities to gain a few extra bucks in exchange for favours to sponsors and channels. All in their pockets, none in the cashier and bam – bankrupt. Though more people were involved in the scam only three took the fall. Havelange, who by then was Fifa´s Honorary President;Ricardo Teixeira, the former president of the Brazilian Football Confederation and Nicolás Leoz, once president of the South American Football Confederation.

…accepting money in exchange for favours was not a crime in Switzerland…

Brazil fan 2Do not worry though, nothing happened to them. All they had to do was renounce their current positions and walk away, solely because during the time all the illicit business took place (1992-2000), accepting money in exchange for favours was not a crime in Switzerland – Fifa’s happy home.

This days Fifa is a non-profit association. All money raised during the games should be invested back into the house for the benefit of football around the world and – for more games. Beautiful, except for on tiny hiccup – no one knows where the money really goes.  Although Fifa does, since 2002, publish a balance sheet, it is but a mere summary of their financial activities that – if anything – is a bit strange. In 2013 the payroll numbers increased, while the total “profits” or the money left over to reinvest decreased – and no one knows how or when or – to whom. No one knows and neither do they have to tell – again so lucky to call Switzerland their home.

…Fifa’s happy home…

Also in 2002 Fifa put together an Ethics Committee and recently has former FBI and CIA agents working on the latest possible scams among their associates. Apparently an act of good will but I am willing to bet it is more of a good lubricant to keep the old machine up and running whistle also looking good.

One way or the other, in the words of foreign correspondent Jamil Chade – or rather my translation of them – “Fifa does not only control the most popular sport in the world. It hijacks our emotions.” Giving them a free pass to do whatever they want and get away with it as history goes to prove.

About The Author

Brazilian by birth, a citizen of the world by heart. Making London my new home.

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