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Mar 25, 2015 14:42



Kailas Joshi - TFM Content Editor

Behind a glamorous mask, there is always the fear of death and decay. Every generation is born to witness greatness and legends in the making and on the wane during their time, and every generation knows that there are a chosen few among them who can really make it in the world, leading a luxurious life, with a range of cars to match outfits with a large mansion with a pool, a butler, a closet where one can play baseball in, and maybe a waterbed to boot. Which leads us to the question: what is the cost of achieving all this? Are there still people today who can achieve this with every ounce of their integrity and honesty still left in place? Or does such vulgar luxury arise from a Faustian barter?

Can I call a spade a spade and a sport a sport today? No. There are nuances that exist today that were never a part of that sport. There is politics, there is governance, monopoly and capitalism, monetary consideration as an added entertainment in the world of sport. Today, when you switch on your television to watch (no, silly, you’re under an illusion, you rarely play!) the latest update about your favourite football team, or an important match, you do so with the full knowledge that there is more to sport than an analysis of Ronaldo’s style and team tactics to deal with an opposing team’s furious and terrorizing attack. Football news today rarely limits itself to the nitty-gritties of sport, focusing instead on the price tag of a player and the million dollars that change hands like change changes hands. It focuses on the external issues that have disrupted the smooth flow of the game, and sometimes brings your idols crashing down from the holy pedestal you put them on. You enter a world of mirrors, where you do not know who or what to trust. How many times has the thought crossed your mind as you watch your (and the crowd) favourite team that is poised to win the World Cup, that they are simply throwing the match away? That they have performed so well in the past four years that maybe it’s just that the pressure is too much right when you need them to save your face at the friendly office wager? Does it flit across your mind, that dark and dirty, unspeakable compound word which has the power to change loyalties and shift tectonic plates? Something with the sound of …M-A-T-C-H-F-I-X-I-…

Chances are, you are maybe right in thinking so. In the recent past, the seemingly innocent world of football has been turned upside down with scandals of match-fixing and buying and selling of not only football player contracts, but also of officials. The recent release of the identities of the whistle blowers who asked for confidentiality regarding the allegedly fixed bids of Qatar and Russia as World Cup venues is a double-whammy in itself. It showcases the seriousness with which the sport itself is taken and the vested interests of individual parties. Whistleblowers need to be protected by authorities but instead the opposite happens, jeopardizing the lives of the individuals as well as the reputation of the FIFA as a trusted aid. An organisation, Transparency International aspires to help the FIFA out of the mire it has fallen into…..”Beginning in February, Transparency International will publish a series of articles under the rubric Corruption and Sport, highlighting the latest research from the world’s top authorities in our efforts to explain what has gone wrong in sport, why it matters and what needs to be done to fix it.” FIFA’s own Independent Governance Committee (IGC) ended up criticizing it in its FIFA Governance Reform Project, stating “While FIFA developed from an informal structure to an organization which looks somewhat like a successful multinational corporation, one thing remained reasonably constant - FIFA remained a self-regulated and very much independent body…..While this self-regulatory arrangement was generally accepted, FIFA like many institutions did not recognize or come to terms with the growing global concern about good governance and compliance. Over the course of the last 20 years, lax governance and compliance has led to scandals in business, government, education and just about every sector in the society, lessening in the public trust in many institutions.” There are the added allegations of match-fixing that drown the sport in embarrassment. An essential component of match-fixing is bribery, and based on this, betting. The whole thing is more interconnected than all the neurons in your body, and the statistics will floor you. As of 2012, official investigations for match-fixing have been going on in as many as 25 countries, and today the number is above 30, with investigations done by Interpol finding at least 380 matches in Europe alone as suspicious of fixing. The Malaysian scandal of 1994 saw as many as 21 officials and players getting cut loose and as many as 58 players fined on charges of accepting bribes.

In 2006, Juventus General Manager Luciano Moggi was caught ensuring that pro-Juventus referees officiate for their matches. It is seen that an estimated 2 billion dollars are waged in Asia, and the world has come to know the existence of Dan Tan, a professional match-fixer based in Singapore, reported to have paid grossly high amounts of money for big and small outcomes, and yet there has been no capture or investigation of the man, which suggests a tie-up between higher authorities and a lot more at stake than the careers of players. Transfers are rigged with bungs, (secret illegal forms of “bribes” that are made by agents in order to get their payers transferred to a preferred club), and tapping up (trying to convince a player to transfer while he is under contract and without knowledge of the said club) Recent allegations of the Ashley Cole bung incident sent his agent Jonathan Barnett’s reputation echoing into oblivion.

Allegations of racism, homophobia and gender bias regularly continue to occur in the falsely cheery world of football. Leaked texts exchanged by ex-Cardiff head Malky Mackay and Iain Moody show the horrifying attitude of white supremacy as well as gender bias prevalent in the beautiful game. Private aspects of the game are very different from appearances maintained, with possibly several people silently in agreement with the texts that were exchanged between the two. African American players being booed on the field is a common occurrence, and women footballers are targeted for their physical appearances as well as their so-called “incompetence” as compared to male players. Then there is the added fear of lesser funds. The FIFA claims to generate a majority of its funds through the male world cups and leagues, which it claims to give to the women’s and the underage teams. The team members have a different story to tell as far as the amenities are concerned. There is usually no funding or sponsorship available for minority teams, as they are not considered by sponsors as lucrative in terms of returns nor entertainment. Professional men’s football has the money, the glamour, the talent, the governance and the entertainment all in one place. There is also the case of young footballers being plucked out of their countries by rogue agents and sent to Europe with the promises of fair trials for important clubs. So many men from impoverished third world countries never make it big in the European leagues, having been swindled of their money by profit-earning agents who promise them trials but instead leave them high and dry and homeless in a foreign country. It is a matter of prestige for these young men to not return home, for it symbolizes a career made, showing them to be the pride for the family. They get waylaid by other less favourable jobs to sustain themselves, maybe sell drugs to earn a little money and send this money home with letters of their false glory and achievements. the presence of illegal agents and middlemen who have nothing to do with the governing bodies of football is a reflection of the state government’s inability to solve a crisis that is slowly turning into a form of human trafficking that is just as serious as other crimes. An organisation that helps send stranded victims of this football trafficking home is Foot Solidaire, whose founder Jean-Claude Mbvoumin tells BBC Sport that "The problem is still growing - today, the agents sometimes send children at 12 or 13 years old,"These agents are registered nowhere, have untraceable ghost IDs which help them escape lawful punishment, if action is initiated by the governments and other concerned authorities in the first place.

Karl Marx famously talks of his base and superstructure model which is the very foundation of capitalism. The base is run by the superstructure, but once the base crumbles, the superstructure does too. It is the job of the superstructure to keep the base in check, to deliver it from evil, to maintain its day-to-day functions so that it does not cripple upon itself and dissolve into dust, with the superstructure in tow. The governing bodies of the football world function in a similar way, creating a vacuum around them through which none can enter and counter them for fear of dying in the vacuum. It is a monopolistic entity. Although subject to conspiracy theories and hearsay, would the governors and self-appointed guardians of football let the controls go into the hands of other individuals from the crowd? “Amusement in advanced capitalism is the extension of work. It is sought after by those who wish to escape the mechanized work process, in order to be able to face it again.”states Theodor Adorno, German Sociologist and philosopher. The amount of wealth generated through advertisements, sponsorship and advertising is enough to feed a country for a long long time to come. Take a look at the revenue statement by FIFA for the years 2007-2010 in the FIFA Financial Report 2010: “Total revenue amounted to USD 4,189 million, comprised of event-related revenue, other operating income and financial income. In terms of event-related revenue of USD 3,890 million, USD 2,448 million was attributable to the sale of television rights, of which the lion’s share – USD 2,408 million – were for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™. The second-biggest source of income was the sale of marketing rights worth USD 1,097 million, of which USD 1,072 million was generated by the FIFA World Cup™. The sale of hospitality rights generated USD 120 million and licensing rights USD 71 million.” And this was five years ago! The average spectator of football is obviously not a professional. How many men and women around the world settle down with a pint or two in front of the telly, feet up on the table and blanket in tow, cheering their teams, participating with their heart and soul in the game, trying to get away the drudgery of the day? The humiliations at their average day jobs, a fight with a loved one, yet another loan. They subscribe to football as an escape, if you talk about sport purely as a social and scientific phenomenon. They feed the teams, water them and help them grow and bear fruit by buying official merchandise, watching sponsored ads everywhere they turn, but yet not being able to fully participate in the politics and the goings on of the team they love. The rich get richer and the poorer clubs get poorer, often running into debt if they land in the bottom tiers, a symbol of the hierarchy in the football world. Sponsors get attracted to larger clubs like Barcelona and Manchester United, which enables them to buy more talented players, which are in turn nurtured by smaller clubs who don’t really get paid back in kind for training the young players. In the capitalistic world, not one big club will invest in training young Turks, but rather buy young ‘uns already trained to become money-making individuals. The money generated by such individuals is certainly not invested into training young talent, and most often is suspected of going into the pockets of the authorities.

There is an urgent need for the redressal of the aforementioned issues plaguing football, an overhaul is vehemently demanded by all supporters of the game, and organisations are helping the FIFA to clean up its act, and become more transparent as far as its affairs and governance are concerned. It is one of the most powerful bodies on the planet, but need a regulatory hand guiding it and an occasional rap on the knuckles. Not everyone in this world is in need of aid, and not everyone is a greased chicken. Football is certainly a game of opportunities, offering a ray of hope to those in need of an escape from daily life, a source of livelihood for a few men, a passion, and a way of life. Call it what you will, but football helps by giving opportunities, but today, football needs an opportunity to escape from the opportunists and rid itself of the dirty money politics.

And it is time to clean up the dirty laundry.

List of all links in footnotes:

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