FIFA’s dark joke on soccer turned out to be on FIFA

Joke’s on you, Sepp.
Joke’s on you, Sepp.
Image: Reuters/Amr Abdallah Dalsh
We may earn a commission from links on this page.

Even if you don’t care a thing for soccer, it will make you happy to learn that there is a man named Chuck Blazer who didn’t pay his taxes from 1996 to 2011 (and didn’t even bother to file between 2005 and 2010) while also living in an $18,000-per month apartment in New York’s Trump Tower, occasionally dressing like a pirate, hanging out with Vladimir Putin, Prince William, and Dr. Ruth, soliciting bribes from pretty much anybody who wanted to host an international soccer tournament, renting a separate $6,000-per-month Trump Tower apartment for his “unruly cats,” and writing, in his personal blog, which is still live, sentences like, “As I arrived on the hotel’s front veranda, he introduced me to former U.S. Treasury Secretary Michael Blumenthal, whose signature I recongized [sic] from all of those dollars that had gone through my hands during his tenure.”

Blazer is the key witness in the spectacular downfall of the corrupt technocrats who have been running FIFA, the global governing body for soccer. He was apprehended in 2013 by agents from the FBI and IRS while motoring on his mobility scooter down a sidewalk in Manhattan, and ever since news broke last November that he was cooperating with an FBI investigation into FIFA, soccer fans have been waiting for the other cleat to drop.

It happened early last week when Loretta Lynch unsealed her indictments and Swiss law enforcement descended on a luxury hotel in Zurich to round up FIFA officials, some of whom emerged draped in white bedsheets. Sepp Blatter, the long-time FIFA president who has stayed in charge even though the organization has been at the center of scandal after scandal during his decades in office, was elected several days later to his fifth term. Then, a few days after that, new information was made public that appears to implicate top FIFA leadership for the first time. Blatter called an emergency press conference and announced he would be resigning in a matter of months. Even then, he found a way to continue the farce, saying that since he would never again stand in an election, “I shall be able to focus on driving far-reaching, fundamental reforms that transcend our previous efforts.” Right.

There’s been a fair amount of glee in my little corner of Twitter as we watch these men’s ridiculous lives explode. This is the first time I’ve taken part in an internet lynch mob, and I now understand how good it can feel. As I scan my timeline, I keep waiting for someone to cross some kind of line, to say something too mean or distasteful, but it’s a mark of how awful these people are that even Blazer’s current condition—aggressively obese and suffering from rectal cancer, coronary artery disease, and diabetes—doesn’t make him a sympathetic figure. (Though I have to admit that trawling through his blog, he seems jolly and somewhat self-aware. “Well, don’t get the wrong impression from these pictures,” he writes in an entry from Munich. “I rarely if ever have a beer. Doesn’t mean that I am a stick in the mud, just never gained a taste for it. Clearly, the same can’t be said for food.”)

The details fuel our fascination. When Wall Street collapsed in 2008, there were stories about the unbelievable decadence of the people who had been living in their own gilded bubbles, but Dick Fuld wasn’t flagrantly messing with the IRS while maintaining a personal blog about his luxury travel, where the lead image is a photo of himself in a private jet with Nelson Mandela. For that we can thank Chuck Blazer. I haven’t even mentioned Jack Warner, whose rap sheet is just as long as Blazer’s, who likely stole even more money, and who is also, at this very moment, a sitting member of the Trinidad and Tobago parliament. Earlier this week, Warner posted a video in which he cited a “conspiracy” against him—“If FIFA is so bad, why is it that the USA wants to keep the World Cup?” he asked, brandishing a story he had printed from the Internet with a headline reading “FIFA Frantically Announces 2015 Summer World Cup In United States” just an inch or so below the name of the news organization that had produced it: The Onion.

Howler took on Blatter in its most recent issue, days before the arrests and charges.
Howler took on Blatter in its most recent issue, days before the arrests and charges.

I also haven’t mentioned in any detail the worst crimes they’ve committed, the millions of dollars secreted away, the network of kickbacks and double-dealing that has underpinned world soccer for so long. That information will likely keep trickling out for months, if not years.

Humans have suffered and even died because of these people. Soccer fans have been living under their regime for a long time now, with no recourse for getting them out of the game and little choice but to look for humor, however dark, when it is offered. In that respect, at least, Blazer, Blatter, Warner, and co. have been abundantly forthcoming.