Tag Archives: FIFA

CONCACAF Gold Cup: the worst cup ever? Plus: Fox goes Full Trump

This is a brave night to cool a courtesan.
I’ll speak a prophecy ere I go.
When priests are more in word than matter,
When brewers mar their malt with water,
When nobles are their tailors’ tutors,
No heretics burned but wenches’ suitors,
When every case in law is right,
No squire in debt nor no poor knight,
When slanders do not live in tongues,
Nor cutpurses come not to throngs,
When usurers tell their gold i’ th’ field,
And bawds and whores do churches build—
Then shall the realm of Albion
Come to great confusion.
Then comes the time, who lives to see ’t,
That going shall be used with feet.
This prophecy Merlin shall make, for I live before his time.
– The Fool, King Lear

FIFA is crumbling. The head of FIFA has been suspended after four major sponsors — Sugar Water, Clown Burgers, Debt Card, and American Beer — demanded that the beleaguered Sepp Blatter step down. It is, as the fool notes above, a time when the usurers count their gold in public, when the brewers water down their beer, when the Pope sounds like a rational person, and a time when Theo Walcott is playing like one of the world’s best strikers. In other words, it is a time of great confusion.

But let me get back to FIFA and their criminal gang for a moment. There was a brief moment of clarity when FIFA suspended Blatter and his sidekick Michel Platini, along with General Secretary Valcke, under a storm of allegations of bribery and corruption. The allegations are specifically that Platini took a bribe to take a dive against Blatter during a FIFA general election. 

Those allegations followed on the arrests of several high level FIFA officials, including Jeff Webb, the former FIFA vice-president and head of FIFA’s North American, Central America, and Caribbean Confederation, known by the mouthful acronym “CONCACAF”. Webb isn’t alone in the CONCACAF scandal, the secretary general, Enrique Sanz, was fired in August. Mr. Sanz had taken over from Chuck Blazer, who was banned from all football activities for life in 2011 — because of… wait for it, wait for it… he had Trump hair. No, sorry, it was because of corruption.

You would think that an organization which is crumbling at such pace would find it difficult to organize matches but you’d be wrong. The show must go on: there are games to play, stadiums to be filled. and bribes to be paid.

One of those games is today’s match between USA and Mexico being held in the Rose Bowl, Pasadena California. The match is for the CONCACAF Gold Cup which sounds like an amazing tournament and cup but it’s really yet another illustration of how FIFA can turn any situation into a money-spinning event.

This is going to be a weird ride so, sit back for a second and hang on. Today’s match is the first CONCACAF Gold Cup. Winner of the CONCACAF Gold Cup gets to go to the FIFA Confederations Cup, to be played in Russia, and the Copa América Centenario, which is a fancy name for the Copa America, which was always really just the Copa South America but is being hosted by the United States for the first time ever.

Confused yet? Wait, because when it comes to FIFA and CONCACAF, our cups runneth over.

Ok, so, the Confederations Cup is basically the pre-World Cup. It’s a tournament hosted by the World Cup host nation in the year before they host the World Cup. The teams at this tournament are the host nation (Росси́я), the World Cup winners (Germany), the AFC Cup winners (Australia), the Copa America winners (Chile!), The CONCACAF (Gold) Cup winners (decided  today), Africa Cup of Nations winners (2017), the UEFA Euro 2016 winners, and the 2016 OFC winners.

CONCACAF admission to the Confederations Cup used to be decided by the CONCACAF Cup winner from the nearest year, so in this case, that would have been Mexico because they won the 2015 CONCACAF Cup (which was one of the most controversial tournaments in CONCACAF history). But the problem is that the CONCACAF cup is held every two years. So, prior to 2013 teams would intentionally field weakened teams in the CONCACAF Cup which was held 3 years out from the World Cup and then everyone would field better sides for the tournament which granted admission to the Confederations Cup.

The simple answer is to stop having a Confederations Cup every two years, but that doesn’t make money. So, instead, CONCACAF decided to have an extra match, a one-time playoff between the winners of the 2013 CONCACAF Cup and the winners of the 2015 CONCACAF Cup. It’s pretty much the dumbest solution anyone has ever conceived: hey, let’s have a 90 minute decider, to give one country access to a prestigious tournament, between the team that was good enough to win an entire tournament this season and between the team who were good enough to win that same tournament, two years ago.

To recap, CONCACAF used to host a meaningless tournament every four years (e.g. the 2013 CONCACAF Cup) which used to be treated as meaningless by teams because it coincided with the Confederations Cup and didn’t grant them admission to that cup. So, to fix that problem, CONCACAF didn’t get rid of the meaningless tournament, they made it meaningful by making the winning of that tournament admission to a once-every-four-year-one-time-playoff. This one match was contrived to ensure that an entire tournament is meaningful.

As I said, when it comes to FIFA, our cups truly runneth over.


And just when you thought that this whole FIFA sideshow couldn’t get any dumber, Fox Soccer said “OH YEAH? Look at how dumb we can get! We can win the Dipshit World Cup!” and they released a “Trump Pump” video to get USA soccer fans “pumped up” for the USA v. Mexico CONCACAF Gold Cup above.

The video features cuts from Donald Trump’s speeches which talk about how hard working an great America is and can be again (if we elect Trump). The problem with this whole thing is that Trump said some fucking racist shit about Mexicans. I tried to think of a better way to put that but there isn’t one. This is a man who said,

“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”

The Mexican television station Azteca pulled quotes from that racist ass speech and put them into a commercial featuring Trump talking about how “American doesn’t win anymore” and ending with “the American dream is dead”.

I actually don’t have a problem with the Mexican television station using Trump in their ad. They are using Donald Trump’s racist speech against him, mocking him, and mocking America for keeping this racist in the polls.

But what Fox Soccer Channel did next was very strange. They clipped together a bunch of Trump quotes glorifying America and ending with “we will make America great again” in order to promote their coverage of the same game. Instead of mocking Trump, a man who deserves derision for making racist comments about Mexicans, Fox threw their hat in the ring with the racist to promote their match.

I’d say it’s astonishing but really, this is Fox Soccer we are talking about here.

The only thing that is actually astonishing is that the tweet and video still exists. As soon as I saw the video I figured someone would delete the tweet, that an apology would be issued, and that an intern would be thrown under the bus. But apparently, Fox Soccer channel has no shame.

Luckily the match is available live on Mexican television y yo hablo Español, un poco.

¿Como se dice “Trump and Fox Soccer are wankers” en Español?

“Trump y Fox Soccer son gilipollas¹” works.


¹In Spain. Not sure abut Mexico. Pendejos?

Diego Costa Scratched Gabriel's neck

It’s hard to use video replay when your head is in the sand

There is a fundamental disconnect between the way that the game of football is played and the way that the game of football is viewed. On the pitch, there’s one referee and two linesmen. Players like Diego Costa wait until they know the official isn’t looking and then they do things to the opposition players, like smack them in the face. Watch the entire foul Costa commits on Koscielny, he is watching Mike Dean, the official, to make sure Dean doesn’t see it and then he hits Koscielny in the face.

This is what I mean by a fundamental disconnect. We, the viewers, get to see this behavior replayed a thousand times moments after it happens. People in the stands and most critically the officials, don’t get to see the replay until after the match is over.

Dean doesn’t see what actually happened but he is still forced to make a decision because a fracas breaks out. He didn’t see that Costa struck an opponent in the face, twice. He sees Gabriel step in to protect a teammate and acts on the second melee, correctly showing yellow cards to both players. But had he seen the first incident, Diego Costa would have been sent off and the entire situation would have been defused. Instead, Costa stays on and knowing that he’s inside Gabriel’s head, he turns the screw. Gabriel reacts, Costa and Fabregas demand that Gabriel is sent off, and now, with all eyes on the pair, the linesman finally sees something and Gabriel is sent off.

But the injustice is that Costa shouldn’t have been there to wind Gabriel up. If Costa was properly dealt with, Arsenal would have played with 11 men and Chelsea with 10. Instead it was the other way round and Arsenal lost a game that they probably should have won.

It’s such a clear case of injustice that Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger challenged Dean and the FA to watch the tapes again and see if they stand by their decisions over Gabriel and Costa:

“I would like them, especially Mike Dean, to look at the whole action that happened during the game and see if he stands for his decision.”

Video replay would have absolutely solved this problem and prevented the injustice. But sadly, the FA and PGMOL (the group that runs the officials in the Premier League) have their heads in the sand and refuse to “re-referee” matches by using post-match video technology to punish players like Costa. And the game’s governing body, FIFA, just last Spring rejected Holland’s application to run a trial of video technology pushing any chance of in-match video refereeing to 2018.

I know all of the arguments against video technology: it will slow play down, it will be difficult to stop play, and there are questions about how to restart the game after video technology is used. Ostensibly this is why FIFA rejected Holland’s application to use video replay. Those are legitimate concerns and issues that need to be addressed before the widespread use of video technology.

But what about fights? They don’t happen very often and when they do they are usually incorrectly punished. In other words, the officials rarely get to see what happens to instigate the fight and rather react to the reaction and then the officials typically end up punishing the guy who retaliates. Using video technology to get the calls right regarding fights would not disrupt the flow of the game, wouldn’t be difficult to restart, and would clean up the injustices that occur when the wrong players are sent off.

Just like the way that FIFA allowed the use of goal line technology to get those very few calls right, they should allow the use of video technology to make sure that they are policing fights properly. Fights have no place in the game and they need to be punished properly with the instigators severely sanctioned.

But I’m not going to hold my breath waiting for FIFA to implement any video technology. This is an organization which rakes in millions of dollars every year. Until players sue them for their negligence on the video technology issue, they have no incentive to change.

However, the Football Association can implement rules that circumvent the FIFA rules and introduce post-match review. Major League Soccer introduced post-match video replay to punish divers and other misdeeds back in 2011. Not only does MLS review their own matches but MLS players are subject to MLS post-match review for non-MLS matches. Clint Dempsey was banned for 3 MLS games when he tore up a referee’s notebook in a US Open Cup match. This is the equivalent of the Premier League reviewing a player’s conduct in a UEFA Cup match and suspending him from Premier League matches as a result.

Currently the FA hides behind a loophole in regards to video technology: they won’t review an incident unless none of the officials saw what happened (or if it’s spectacularly heinous like when Ben Thatcher elbowed Pedro Mendes). If both Mike Dean and all of his assistants say that they didn’t see Diego Costa strike Laurent Koscielny, then and only then will the FA act.

I understand that the FA wants to stand by their referees and refuses to second guess them. But we fans have seen time and again how the referees get these calls wrong and then the FA will say, “well the referee saw the incident” so by refusing to acknowledge the mistakes, the FA are actually making their referees look worse. The FA are standing by referees who are publicly saying that they got the calls wrong. It’s almost as if they feel like two wrongs make a right.

Unfortunately all of this is hypothetical. As of right now, the FA won’t be introducing post-match video any time soon and FIFA seems a long way off allowing any type of video replay, even for fights which seems like such a simple change that they could do it overnight if they wanted. Arsenal fans and Chelsea fans are going to be left waiting to hear from Mike Dean about whether he saw Diego Costa slapping Laurent Koscielny.

I hope, for Dean’s sake, that he didn’t see the incident. Because imagine the level of incompetence required to see Diego Costa slap Laurent Koscielny, twice, and not even consider it a foul? That would be worse than the incident itself. And if the FA has a referee in their midst who can’t get that kind of call right, and they stand by that referee, English football is in real danger of becoming about as believable as professional wrestling.



Sepp Blatter: Say Hello to My Little Friend

If you’ve seen one gangster movie, you’ve seen them all. It doesn’t matter if it’s a lavish production with big named actors like the Godfather trilogy, a cheesy story about a crack dealer staring Ice T like New Jack City, or even Thelma and Louise. Each and every gangster movie basically ends the same way, in a blaze of glory. And just like every other gangster movie I was kind of hoping that the end of FIFA would be at least a little dramatic. Like maybe Sepp Blatter would hold a press conference at his home, pop out onto a gaudy balcony, yell out “SAY HELLO TO MY LITTLE FRIEND!”, and start firing one of those tee-shirt cannons full of euros at all the collected media types.

But real life is boring. Despite being one of the biggest criminal gangs in the world, the fall of FIFA head Sepp Blatter didn’t end in a dramatic shootout. It ended with a resignation. It was the dramatic equivalent of Tony Montana throwing wet ladyfingers at his enemies.

For his next move Blatter will probably abscond to some country with no extradition treaty with the USA, like Russia, and spend the rest of his life in exile — wealthy, wealthy, exile. Вы говорите по-русски, Sepp? Well, you better learn!


And now that Sepp has stepped aside everyone in world football is dreaming big about what FIFA might become. Well, you might as well go ahead and stop dreaming now because despite Sepp Blatter stepping down I will bet you dollars to donuts that FIFA doesn’t change much. Because the problem with FIFA isn’t just Sepp Blatter and his criminal gang. The problem with FIFA is the entire structure.

There is a fantastic article on the Washington Post which details both how Sepp Blatter maintained his power and the complex global politics at the heart of FIFA. While everyone knew that FIFA was corrupt, while they had executives arrested, people pleading guilty, admissions of ticket stealing, and while Blatter kept making ridiculous pronouncements about race, gender, and sexuality, Sepp Blatter kept getting re-elected and my friends kept asking how.

The answer is simple, there are 209 nations in FIFA and every one gets just one vote.  So, France has the same voting power as Trinidad and Tobago. That is how Blatter held on to power, by catering to small countries. He almost literally didn’t care what countries like England and the USA had to say about his governance. There were more than enough votes in the small countries, countries which can be controlled easily, for him to maintain power.

FIFA also governs player transfers. By the laws of game players are not actually allowed to say no to international call ups. If a player tried to refuse to play in Qatar or Russia on the moral grounds that they refuse to be party to homophobic, racist, human rights violations, the player can be banned from club play.

FIFA uses its power to compel big name players to play in special, one-off, tournaments. For example, the USA is set to host the 2016 “Centenario” of the Copa America. That’s right, Messi, Neymar, and Alexis Sanchez are going to be playing in a special Copa America in Seattle and other places in the USA, the first Copa America ever held outside of Latin America, on the centenary of the founding of the Copa America. Just one year after their previous Copa America which follows the World Cup. South American players won’t be getting a single moment’s rest for three years straight.

And while the world has been wringing their hands over World Cup bribery and wondering why Qatar gets a world cup when they have no history of soccer, have no soccer infrastructure, and have a history of horrible human rights violations the real corruption has been passing right before our very eyes. It’s all about sponsorship money: $1.6bn in sponsorship money.

The Department of Justice’s case against FIFA turned up $150m in bribes.  And that’s just what they turned up here in North America. The indictment makes it clear, FIFA have operated like a mafia for over 20 years:

The indictment alleges that, between 1991 and the present, the defendants and their co-conspirators corrupted the enterprise by engaging in various criminal activities, including fraud, bribery and money laundering.  Two generations of soccer officials abused their positions of trust for personal gain, frequently through an alliance with unscrupulous sports marketing executives who shut out competitors and kept highly lucrative contracts for themselves through the systematic payment of bribes and kickbacks.  All told, the soccer officials are charged with conspiring to solicit and receive well over $150 million in bribes and kickbacks in exchange for their official support of the sports marketing executives who agreed to make the unlawful payments.

Maybe it’s just CONCACAF and COMNEBOL where this money laundering, bribery, and fraud has been taking place? I doubt it. There was a revelation today that FIFA paid $5m to the FA of Ireland so that they would drop their lawsuit against France over the infamous Hand of Gaul. And we’ve already heard some rumors about the Qatar World Cup bid being tied to massive commercial giveaways. I suppose we will have to wait to see the results of those investigations.

But in the end, this is an astonishing level of corruption, more than most of us even thought. It is corruption spanning over 20 years, with a price tag of at least $150m, and involving a host of FIFA vice-presidents and multinational sports marketing corporations. It looks like systemic corruption in an organization which only adopted ethics rules in 2004.

So, sure, dream of changing FIFA. Maybe we can all wish that there will be fewer pointless International friendlies? Maybe we can all wish that the new head of FIFA limits the absurd menagerie of pre- and post- World Cup tournaments that players are forced to participate in? But with all the money at stake, with number of international tournaments on the rise, and with the players almost enslaved to FIFA’s governance of player transfers… I wouldn’t bet on it.