Wednesday’s indictments of Fifa board members and others generates a great deal of schadenfreude. Fifa is a corrupt and loathsome institution, and it’s about time for its comeuppance. Hopefully the IOC will get its soon as well.
There is much comic gold to mine here. One nugget is Fifa president Sepp Blatter’s statement that it was he would lead the effort to restore Fifa’s reputation:
“We, or I, cannot monitor everyone all of the time,” Mr. Blatter said. “If people want to do wrong, they will also try to hide it. But it must also fall to me to be responsible for the reputation of our entire organization, and to find a way to fix things. [Note to Sepp: We know very well you are a fixer, but not in the way you use the term.]
We cannot allow the reputation of FIFA to be dragged through the mud any longer. It has to stop here and now.
Yeah. That we police ourselves thing worked so well with the Garcia Report.
Another hilarious aspect of this is that the decidedly un-athletic American who became an informant, the improbably named Chuck Blazer, who motors between huge meals on a scooter, looks like Mr. Creosote in the flesh. Don’t give him a mint!
But by far the best part of this is watching Vladimir Putin totally lose his sh*t over the arrests, and the parallel Swiss investigation of the awarding of the 2018 World Cup to Russia (as well as the 2022 WC to Qatar):
President Vladimir V. Putin sought to transform the burgeoning scandal over corruption in soccer’s international governing body into an extension of the confrontation between Russia and the West on Thursday, accusing the United States of global overreach while invoking the fates of Edward J. Snowden and Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder.
Most world leaders remained mum, apparently waiting for more details to emerge, but Mr. Putin went on the offensive immediately.
He used the moment to again portray Russia as under siege — in this case threatened with the humiliating loss of the right to host the 2018 World Cup, a move considered unlikely.
Mr. Putin called the arrests of top FIFA officials in Zurich on Wednesday “another blatant attempt by the United States to extend its jurisdiction to other states,” according to a transcript of an overnight news conference posted on the Kremlin website. Mr. Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor who leaked classified information about global surveillance programs, and Mr. Assange, whose website published United States military and diplomatic documents, have both eluded American prosecution by taking refuge in other countries.
Note to VVP: idiots who use American banks to launder money and arrange corrupt transactions on American soil are most decidedly in the jurisdiction of the US.
But come to think of it, it’s precisely the fact that Putin knows that all too well which explains his howling like a scalded cat. It hits very close to home. It demonstrates a vulnerability of which he is all too aware of, and neuralgic about.
Putin also conveniently overlooks the fact that it is the Swiss who have announced that they are examining specifically the awarding of the World Cup to Russia. The US said nothing about that, and indeed, the US embassy in Moscow said the indictments have nothing to do with Russia, so cool your jets, Vlad. Though, of course, Attorney General Lynch’s statement that the investigation is not over clearly looms over Putin and Russia. But the fact that the Swiss are involved makes it harder to make this a purely evil American plot.
It’s also hilarious to see that Gazprom assured Fifa that it would not terminate its sponsorship. So good to know that Fifa still lives up to Gazprom’s high standards for corruption.
Putin’s raising the issue of the “persecution” of Snowden and Julian Assange is also beyond parody. For Putin to credit Snowden as a hero for revealing secrets nearly simultaneously with Russia’s passing a law that makes information regarding the deaths of Russian servicemen on “special operations” during peacetime a state secret is particularly outlandish. To defend the Pale One at anytime is bizarre. (Perhaps Vlad sees his fate when he looks at Assange-hiding out in a friendly embassy, dependent on a sun lamp for his Vitamin D.)
The statements of the Russian sport minister are also amusing. “We have nothing to hide.” (Who said you did? And if you have nothing to hide, why did you destroy the rented computers on which contained all of the Russian bidding committee’s correspondence and work product?)
The best: “I see no threat to Russia.”
If this is no threat, why is Putin freaking out? His over the top reaction betrays a deep fear that Russia and everyone involved in the WC bid, including Roman Abramovich and Putin himself) will be implicated. So many people arrested have an incentive to sing like birds. So many computers to search (including Fifa’s, which the Swiss are doing presently).
I am actually somewhat surprised at Putin’s reaction. He has been rather relaxed lately. The old cockiness has returned. The insecurity and paranoia of late-2014 and early-2015 had apparently vanished. He would have been much better off had he played this cool, and ignored the issue altogether. By making such a big deal out of it he looks guilty as hell. Which he doubtless is, but he could have fooled a lot more people had he just blown this off. A public fit screams a deep concern that he indeed very much has something-or somethings-to hide.
The next weeks and months should be rather enjoyable, watching Blatter and Putin rant and squirm. And maybe, in the end, the world’s football-I mean soccer!-fanatics will be spared the torture of visiting Russia in 2018.