Why the FIFA Crackdown Took the World by Surprise
Policy + Politics

Why the FIFA Crackdown Took the World by Surprise

Global reaction to the announcement that the U.S. Department of Justice and Swiss prosecutors had indicted senior members of FIFA, soccer’s world governing body, on corruption charges ran from grim satisfaction to joy and schadenfreude.

On the one hand, because of the widespread belief that FIFA is thoroughly corrupt, charges of fraud, bribery, money laundering and more hardly came as a surprise to anyone. At the same time, though, FIFA has seemed so untouchable for so long that what caught the world off guard was that someone was actually trying to clean it up.

Related: Why the U.S., of All Countries, Stepped Up to Save Soccer

Writing in the UK’s Guardian newspaper, David Goldblatt, a Brit who has authored best-selling books about the history of soccer, said the U.S. and Swiss prosecutors had “done what much of the football world has been longing for.”

Romario, a former Brazilian star and onetime FIFA World Player of the Year who now serves as a federal senator in his country’s government, said: “Unfortunately, it wasn't our police that arrested them, but someone had to eventually arrest them one day.”

Rodney Marsh, a former professional soccer player from the U.K. who now hosts a radio talk show in the U.S., seemed impressed by U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch:

Related: Undeterred By Arrests, Soccer Boss Blatter Plots Another Great Escape

Reflecting on the extensiveness of the bad practices revealed in the 47-count indictment that named a total of 14 people, including American sports marketing executives, the French daily Libération went with a Godfather theme on its latest cover:

Donald Tusk, the stolid and respectable head of the European Union, gave a very measured reaction on his Twitter feed:

In the United States, though, while there were many soccer fans pleased to see what many believe is the beginning of the end of FIFA’s corrupt reign, a number of voices on both the far right and the far left challenged the decision of U.S. prosecutors to go after officials of a game that many Americans still view as essentially foreign.

The right-leaning Drudge Report website kicked in with this:

Republican Congressman Steve Smith of Georgia was similarly unhappy with DOJ’s choice of targets.

On the left, critics wanted to know why Lunch was going after sports executives when, by their lights, she ought to be jailing bankers and rogue police officers.

Related: World Cup Scandal Explainer – World’s Biggest Sporting Event Faces Bribery Accusations

Liberal activist and writer Zaid Jilani observed:

It’s not everyday that the far right and the far left agree about anything done by the Justice Department, and it’s even more uncommon for them to be joined by the administration of Russian President Vladimir Putin, but on Wednesday, the stars were aligned just that way.

In a statement Wednesday, Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson A.K.Lukashevicha said: “Without going into the details of proposed charges, pay attention to the fact that there is another case of illegal extraterritorial application of U.S. laws…. Once again, we urge Washington to stop trying to judge far beyond its borders.” 

Top Reads from The Fiscal Times: