The indictment of top-ranking FIFA officials – not to mention the resignation of Sepp Blatter – has become one of the hottest stories in America. Not one of the hottest sports stories in America; one of the hottest stories.
You have to wonder if that would have been the case, say, 20 years ago.
“It’s interesting,” 60 Minutes Sports corespondent Armen Keteyian said on CBS Sports Radio’s The DA Show. “Soccer has really boomed in a lot of ways in this country and certainly around the World Cup and the women’s World Cup is just beginning now. I was surprised to a certain degree at the level of coverage that this has gathered, and I think it’s great that it has. Because you’re talking about the governing body of soccer – an organization that brought in almost $6 billion over about a six-year period – they are the franchise and the last word in international soccer.
“In reading this indictment – it’s 161 pages long – it’s like something out of a mob movie,” Keteyian continued. “You have racketeering, bribery, money laundering. I don’t think it’s out of the question to characterize FIFA as the mafia and Sepp Blatter as the Godfather.”
Blatter might not disagree. This is someone who often spoke of soccer as a family, of keeping things in the family, of forgiving but never forgetting.
“In many ways, he was playing to that sort of theme himself,” Keteyian said. “This is an extraordinary story that has gathered certainly international attention. But I’m really glad in many ways that in the midst of the baseball season, in the never-ending football coverage that we have in this country, you’ve got a lot of things going on in college sports right now that are just fascinating, the NHL playoffs and the NBA playoffs – this has become a front-page piece of news. I think it’s important that it is. Because when you look at what’s going to happen in Qatar in 2022, all these massive human-rights violations have gone on in building the stadiums. It’s important that . . . the media – and I mean the mainstream media in this case – have caught on to this story and really brought it to the fore.”
If not for the U.S. Department of Justice, it is unlikely that Blatter or FIFA would have stopped their shady shenanigans any time soon.
“I think there’s no question it was going to go on as long as he wanted it to go on and as long as FIFA wanted it to go on,” Keteyian said. “Just the internal politics and the internal attitude of not only Blatter but people within FIFA, I think it would have gone on forever. He literally said he considered themselves a sovereign state – much like you would say with the United States or Canada. He considered FIFA to be a sovereign state even though they’re a non-profit organization – meaning he felt they could do whatever they wanted to do whenever they wanted to do it.
“Soccer is the most popular game in the world, but this has been the ugliest week I think in the history of the sport.”