Into the labyrinth

I don’t know a lot about Asian soccer so you’ll have to excuse me if I start talking out of my ass but it seems to me that the recent Asian Football Confederation (AFC) election to determine would be the region’s representative on the “all-powerful FIFA Executive Committee” is a microcosm of how FIFA itself works. To wit, there was an extraorinarily public catfight between the current representative, Mohamed Bin Hammam, and his challenger, Sheikh Ahmad Al Fahed. There were allegations of vote buying and vote denying. And both Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini showed up, probably for political reasons (Hammam is seen as one of Platini’s main competitors for Blatter’s job when the latter finally slinks away).

That seems to be business as usual for FIFA organizations. Leaders treat the organization and its arms as their own personal fiefdom and spin the results as positively as possible. In reflecting on the absurdly close 23-21 victory for Hammam, Blatter said, “I like close votes as it shows that football’s democratic system is working.” On the one hand, yeah, he could be right, but only if the vote’s closeness is a result of genuine democracy. Instead, the AFC vote appears to denote a dysfunctional federation bent on cleaving itself in half.

I don’t think all of FIFA is broken; I do think that it suffers from UN Disease. That is, too many chefs are spoiling the broth. Perhaps a streamlined organization would help. Perhaps clearer election protocols. Perhaps even more Swiss lawyers – those paragons of integrity – to monitor elections. I hope, for the AFC’s sake, that it gets its act together.


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