The U.S. Department of Justice indicted 14 high-ranking officials within FIFA on Wednesday, accusing soccer’s governing body of corruption that has plagued the world’s most popular sport for the last quarter of a century and beyond.
The DOJ’s move was bold, and it was decisive – and the soccer world should be thankful.
“I was pretty surprised at how detailed the specifics were from Loretta Lynch, her staff, the FBI and Switzerland police,” former U.S. men’s national team member Jimmy Conrad said on CBS Sports Radio’s The DA Show. “They clearly put together a really strong case to go to this length and to be able to talk about it in such detail. I’m not surprised by any of this. I think what I am surprised about is that somebody finally had the gull to step up and stand up to this behemoth that is FIFA, who has had so much unchecked power for so many years.”
Indeed, everyone knew that FIFA was corrupt and its hands were dirty; it’s just that no one could do anything about it.
“Who’s the governing body above FIFA?” Conrad asked. “There’s no checks and balances. All the power was up to one guy – president Sepp Blatter. He had carte blanche to do whatever he wanted, and I think once you get a taste of that power, that unilateral power where you don’t have to answer to anybody, I’m sure it’s quite enticing to maintain that. Hence, why he’s running for his fifth term as president. That must be a nice cushy spot to be in. He’s on a throne that he’s in complete control of.”
But when kings abuse their power – or allow those beneath them to abuse their power – there are typically consequences. This was no exception.
“I think really what was the breaking point from the U.S.’ standpoint, obviously we were trying to bid for the 2018 or 2022 World Cup and we didn’t get it,” Conrad said. “It went to Qatar, which is just insane. They don’t have the infrastructure. Having a tournament in that part of the world in the summer – 120 degrees – it’s not healthy for the players or the fans. This was a disaster. But (it was presented) under this veil of, ‘Well, I’m just trying to spread this mission. I’m trying to get the World Cup into all corners of the world,’ as Sepp Blatter was saying when he awarded it to Qatar. (It’s) just crap, frankly. I think that’s what kind of awoke the sleeping giant that was the U.S. . . . I just think it was too much for the U.S. to ignore. With CONCACAF having an office in Miami, there was a way for them to get to some people – and they have.”
While the United States may not be a soccer power on the field – although it is certainly making strides – the rest of the soccer world should be giving America a standing ovation for standing up to the neighborhood bully whose reach, and corruption, knew no bounds.
“Oh, I hope so,” Conrad said. “I think fans should stand up and applaud. We’re finally taking on something that’s so corrupt and so obviously corrupt. (FIFA is) incredibly arrogant to think (that what it has done over the years is) okay.”