After FIFA, the US Should Turn to BCCI
The US did all football lovers a favour by busting the FIFA scam. It should now get into cricket
FIFA Under Fire
Today FIFA, the top organisation of the world’s favourite sport – around 1 billion people watched the 2014 World Cup live, compared to 114 million people who saw the US Superbowl final – will elect the man who will run it for the next few years.
Sepp Blatter, from Switzerland, is the favourite to win the election, just as he has done from 1998, a 15-year long term. That year, he took over from Joao Havelange, a Brazilian, who had run the organisation for an eye-popping 24 years, from 1974-1998.
Throughout, there were charges of graft directed against local, national and regional football associations that comprised FIFA. On May 27, everything came to a head, after US and Swiss authorities arrested seven top FIFA officials from around the world in a Zurich hotel and accused others, including sports sponsors, promoters and middlemen of fraud, money laundering and bribery.
The penny, or dollar, has finally dropped on the most beautiful game, run by a bunch of greedy, money-grubbing officials who have little or nothing to do with the game as it’s played.
The heart of the probe was America’s fight against money laundering, begun soon after 9/11 to unearth terror funding. This widened in scope. The guy who led sleuths to FIFA, Chuck Blazer, once a flamboyant US soccer administrator and FIFA executive, is now an invalid who plead guilty to 10 charges of financial misconduct.
The Allies and Enemies of Blatter
The world’s richest football union, Europe’s UEFA, led by the now-corpulent Michel Platini, the genius of France’s Platini-Tigana-Giresse midfield of the late 1980s, will probably boycott today’s polls, where Blatter wants a fifth consecutive term. UEFA might also pull out of FIFA, unless ‘significant’ reforms are done. This will be a disaster for global football.
Based on international games and points, six of the top 10 FIFA members are Europeans. Germany is number one, followed by Belgium (3), the Netherlands (6), Portugal (7), Switzerland (9) and Spain, the winner of the 2010 World Cup at 10.
Yet, Blatter might win the polls. FIFA now has 209 members, 16 more than the United Nations. Europe has only 53 votes from each national association and it backs Jordan’s Prince Ali Al Hussein, son of the king, for presidency, hoping he’ll be less corrupt than Blatter. The rest, including associations in Africa, South America, New Zealand and Oceania, the Americas and Asia, are likely to back Sepp, who will sail through comfortably.
India now ranks 147 of the 209, between New Zealand and Curacao. Yet, it will likely back Blatter. Our football boss is Praful Patel, a protege of Sharad Pawar and member of the NCP party in Maharashtra. He made his fortune in bidis and chewing tobacco, later in real estate and now promotes nicotine chewing gum – of course made by his company.
What is it with sports and politics? India’s archery federation has been headed for decades by BJP politician V K Malhotra; three years ago, Rajasthan BJP MLA Abhishek Matoria was elected to head the boxing foundation. But the biggest scam, of course, is in cricket, still India’s favourite game.
The person who heads the BCCI has to win a majority of votes from state cricket associations. This is done through various means that include chicanery, politicking and graft. In October 2004, an epic contest brewed between Jagmohan Dalmiya, then-head of the powerful Cricket Assocoation of Bengal and Sharad Pawar, to take charge of the BCCI.
For Indians, a Familiar Tale
I had the misfortune to report on this, for The Times of India and from what my savvy sources told me, predicted that Dalmiya would win the contest, buying out or influencing the majority of state votes. That’s exactly what happened, though Pawar got his own back later.
A couple of years ago, Arun Jaitley, a BJP Rajya Sabha member and now India’s finance minister gave up his leadership of the Delhi & Districts Cricket Association (DDCA) – after 13 years of heading it.
Today, Indian cricket is a mess: IPL, one days, Test matches clash with one another, players are exhausted. Meanwhile BCCI is rolling in money and conflicting interests. The owner of an IPL team employs India’s cricket captain as a VP in his cement company. The same cricketer heads his IPL team.
Friends and relatives of cricket officials and players are accused of illegal betting and money laundering. India’s cricket money is awesome, and it now calls the shots in the few countries that play the game. N Srinivasan, a former, disgraced, BCCI boss now heads the ICC, international cricket’s top body.
The US did all football lovers a favour by busting the FIFA scam. It should now get into cricket, not the most favoured sport in America, but a gigantic source of dubious financial transactions from Dongri to Dubai.
(The author is a Delhi-based journalist.)
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