I’m absolutely exhausted from watching both the U.S. and England matches at the World Cup today. Unbelievable drama, emotion, anxiety and suspense is gripping casual American soccer fans flabbergasted by the lack of transparency from FIFA in explaining a controversial decision to wave off what would have been the winning goal from Maurice Edu of the U.S. in the 87th minute.
Not only is this America’s “Hand of God” soccer moment — embittered feelings, forever — it’s also another lesson for the U.S. sports public in the murky, unaccountable world of FIFA, the international soccer governing body that runs the World Cup. Not only is the International Olympic Committee more accountable when it comes to disclosure, but the Lords of FIFA often brandish their ability to get away with outrageous behavior.
My education in this regard came on the eve of the 2002 World Cup, which I was assigned to cover for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. There was a major scandal over FIFA finances that led the organization’s second-in-command, Michel Zen-Ruffinen, to make the issue public. His superior, FIFA boss and Swiss native Sepp Blatter, was up for re-election, and the claims were rather serious.
But not surprisingly, Blatter found a way to rid himself of the problem — and his pesky sidekick — as the FIFA executive committee gathered in Tokyo. As I sat in the media workroom in Seoul, hearing Blatter’s victory speech, I was stunned by his referral to the unnamed Zen-Ruffinen:
“Vee haff svept avay Meestah Kleen!”
A British journalist sitting near me chuckled. This is old hat for the likes of him, but for me, American naïf, this was jaw-dropping stuff.
• At the excellent Run of Play site, Ryan O’Hanlon points out that not everyone’s able to watch because of work, etc. So what about them?