This week’s U.S. Department of Justice’s takedown of top FIFA officials has rocked the sporting world, but because soccer isn’t as popular a sport here in the States as it is elsewhere in the world, many in this country don’t understand what all the hubbub is about. But when you scratch the surface of the bribes and cronyism, you’ll find human rights and environmental atrocities that make the payoffs pale by comparison.
When FIFA awarded the tiny desert state of Qatar the rights to host the 2022 World Cup, the news was greeted with disbelief and allegations of corruption. How had a country with almost no football infrastructure or tradition, a high terror risk and searing summer temperatures of 50C (122F) beaten more established countries with stronger bids? The story behind the Qatari success soon developed into one of the greatest sporting scandals of our time.
And when the Sunday Times Insight team received a cache of hundreds of millions of documents from a whistleblower, the contents of the FIFA Files became a global sensation, unearthing the corruption that lay at the heart of the bidding process.
Now in this remarkable new book by the Sunday Times journalists at the heart of the investigation, Heidi Blake and Jonathan Calvert, comes the most comprehensive account yet of what happened and who was involved. Above all, it explains why, despite all the evidence, FIFA under Sepp Blatter continues to support Qatar – even to the extent of publishing an edited and abbreviated report into the process that was immediately denounced by its original author. The Ugly Game is undoubtedly the biggest sporting story of the year.
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Note that a recent piece in The Guardian reported the migrant worker death toll for workers building the stadium at 188 as of last December, and more recent reports have put the number well over 200. If working demands and conditions don’t change, it’s estimated that over 4,000 migrant workers will die by the time the stadium is finished. In another piece, The Guardian exposed the migrant workers’ plight as akin to indentured servitude, or slave labor.
“You have to read David Zirin to believe him, and if you read him, you will believe him.” —Jack McCallum, senior writer, Sports Illustrated
“I once said Dave Zirin was the best young sportswriter in the US. I was wrong. He’s simply the best.” —Robert Lipsyte
The people of Brazil celebrated when it was announced that they were hosting the twentieth World Cup (June 12–July 13, 2014), the world’s most-viewed sporting tournament, and the thirty-first Summer Olympics (August 5–21, 2016).
Now they are protesting in numbers the country hasn’t seen in decades, with Brazilians taking to the streets to try to reclaim the sports they love but see being corrupted by powerful corporate interests, profiteering, and greed.
In this compelling new book, relying on original reporting from the most dangerous corners of Rio to the halls of power in Washington, DC, Dave Zirin examines how sports and politics are colliding in remarkable fashion in Brazil, opening up an international conversation on the culture, economics, and politics of sports.
KF on KND Editor’s Note: Sepp Blatter resigned his post as the head of FIFA this morning.
‘In Omertà I show that the leadership of FIFA, under Brazil’s João Havelange and now Sepp Blatter, tick all the boxes defining an Organised Crime Syndicate,’ says Andrew Jennings. ‘My investigations took me from confronting the Mafia in Palermo, to FIFA’s glass and marble palace in Zurich, then to the gang wars in Rio, following the trail of briefcases stuffed with gold bars.’
‘The 2014 FIFA World Cup will be played against a backdrop of the rage of more than half of Brazil’s football-loving population. If demonstrators are killed by the out-of-control riot police, the responsibility rests with Sepp Blatter who years ago endorsed the corruption now engulfing the tournament.’
‘At the beginning I thought there would be only a few crooks to expose at FIFA. Then terrific sources from inside the organisation made contact, giving me boxes of FIFA’s confidential internal financial records. I realised that the magnitude of the corruption — and the cover-ups — was breath-taking. It was not a few crooks. As an institution, FIFA was mobbed up!’
‘With other reporters I have exposed the organised corruption at the top of FIFA. The scandals of recent years have been marked by the silence of FIFA’s leadership. Like a true gangland boss, Blatter refuses to condemn any of his colleagues forced out for wrongdoing. The global brands that fund FIFA are equally silent. Omertà is their rule.’
‘Some of the heaviest punishments inflicted on football officials by Blatter during the last four years of scandals have not been for corruption. They have been for talking to undercover reporters – for breaking the vow of Omertà. Some of Blatter’s Executive Committee are proved to be outright crooks. Others, enjoying fabulous salaries, fees and bonuses, access to World Cup tickets and unaudited development grants look the other way, mouths and eyes glued closed, upholding Omertà. Football’s money is the grease lubricating the FIFA machine and keeping Sepp Blatter in power.’
‘Omertà reveals that ‘Blatter’s ‘reform process’ is bogus. He has changed FIFA’s rules to protect himself, rigged the evidence against him and hired expensive investigators to exonerate him It has cost FIFA millions of dollars to make him the sports world’s Great Untouchable.’