US Cries FIFA Foul to Penalise Russia
By Finian Cunningham
May 29, 2015 "Information
Clearing House" - "SCF"
- The saying goes: don’t mix politics and sport. That is exactly what
the United States’ authorities seem to be doing over this week’s dramatic
arrests of World Cup officials and allegations of rampant fraud amounting to
The ostensible American concern is to clean up the tarnished
image of the «beautiful game» in a global sting operation, which saw the
arrest of seven senior members belonging to FIFA – the international
federation that organises the quadrennial soccer World Cup finals.
But the real goal of the full-frontal assault on FIFA, which
involved dawn raids at a five-star hotel in Swiss city Zurich, seems more to
do with American political purpose to damage Russia’s World Cup plans. That
objective has to be seen in the context of Washington’s aim to isolate and
destabilise Moscow in an ongoing geopolitical battle that is currently
centred on Ukraine.
Russia is to host the world’s biggest sporting tournament in
2018. The event carries huge prestige for the host country giving an
enviable spotlight for millions of television viewers around the world to
showcase modern infrastructure and national prowess. There is also the
inestimable «soft power» that comes with consolidating friendly
international relations by welcoming football teams and fans from over 30
nations. Russia already availed of such benefits in its successful hosting
of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, which Western leaders sought then to
spoil by boycotting that event over unconvincing human rights concerns.
Russia’s World Cup plans appear to be now similarly targeted
for an ulterior political agenda. Within hours of the US-launched arrests of
FIFA officials in Zurich, the football federation was obliged to state that
the forthcoming World Cup in Russia was not in jeopardy of cancellation over
related claims of wrongdoing in the selection of that venue.
Russian officials also moved to quash any suggestions that
the 2018 finals would be disrupted by the ongoing US-led probe into alleged
«I see no threat to Russia or any problems», said Vitaly
Mutko, the Russian sports minister, according to a New York Times report.
Russian foreign ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich
alluded to the political dimensions of the American investigation, referring
to the FIFA arrests as «another case of illegal extraterritorial application
of US laws», adding: «We hope this will in no way be used to tarnish the
international football organisation in general and its decisions». The
latter point is no doubt a reference to FIFA’s selection of Russia as the
host nation for the 2018 tournament.
Suspicions that there is much more to the US investigation
into FIFA affairs are aroused by the unmistakable sense of political
orchestration behind the high-profile move by American law enforcement
officials this week.
Accompanying Western media glare across all the major news
channels, as well as well-honed soundbites, pointed to a politically
Even the Washington Post, among other Western outlets,
remarked on the «colourful details» disclosed by US officials in bringing
dozens of indictments against FIFA figures, ranging from bribery, tax
evasion, money-laundering and racketeering. The crackdown, carried out with
the collaboration of Swiss police, was conducted in the style of a sting
operation more often seen being deployed against organised crime syndicates.
The melodrama had the air of a politically driven media campaign for maximum
While FIFA executives were being bundled into Swiss police
cars, their heads covered under white hotel bedsheets, the highest ranking
US law enforcement authorities were coordinating across the Atlantic in a
full-court press conference.
«The beautiful game was hijacked», said FBI director James
Comey in emotive tones about a sport not usually associated with high-level
American interest. The FBI chief added: «The defendants fostered a culture
of corruption and greed that created an uneven playing field for the biggest
sport in the world. Undisclosed and illegal payments, kickbacks and bribes
became a way of doing business at FIFA».
Richard Weber, the criminal investigation chief at the US
Internal Revenue Service, described the alleged wrongdoings at Swiss-based
FIFA as the «World Cup of fraud» and added «we are showing FIFA the red
card». The Washington Post, reporting on the press conference, made the
telling comment on how «officials seem to vie for the best soundbite».
Also speaking at the high-profile US press conference was
attorney general Loretta Lynch. She lambasted FIFA over «rampant, systemic
and deep-rooted corruption». Lynch said: «They [FIFA] were expected to
uphold the rules that keep soccer honest. Instead they corrupted the
business of worldwide soccer to serve their interests and enrich
themselves». She also tugged on public heart-strings by claiming that FIFA
embezzlement had deprived millions of children in poor countries of sporting
A report in Britain’s Guardian newspaper said of the
«dramatic, unprecedented» American probe that it «represents a political
decision that an international sport that has captivated a generation of US
players should no longer be seen as above the law».
The Guardian gets it half-right. It certainly smacks of a
political decision, but the real motive, naively misplaced by the Guardian,
has little to do with American authorities stamping out corruption in
In a more realistic admission of the bigger geopolitical
picture in regard to the FIFA scandal, the New York Times noted that «the
United States and its European allies have sought to isolate Russia with
sanctions after its annexation [sic] of Crimea in 2014 and the conflict in
southeast Ukraine. The World Cup has taken on added significance for
Russians intent on projecting their international standing», added the New
York Times with perhaps an unintended acknowledgement of the ulterior
political agenda at work.
Another indication of the political origins of the latest
crackdown on FIFA is that the US legal case relies on evidence provided by
former American soccer executive Chuck Blazer. Blazer was facing a long
prison sentence in the US for alleged tax evasion before he turned FBI
informer in a plea bargain. It is information purportedly gleaned from
Blazer that has reportedly propelled the US-led arrests of the FIFA
executives this week.
Allegations of corruption and commercial fixing have dogged
FIFA officials for many years, from at least since the early 1990s,
including allegations against the federation’s five-time elected president,
Swiss national 79-year-old Sepp Blatter. There have been suspicions that
FIFA’s selection of South Africa as the 2010 World Cup host was marred by
bribery involving $10 million. Similar allegations have been made over the
2018 finals in Russia and the proceeding tournament in 2022 to be held in
the Persian Gulf gas-rich sheikhdom of Qatar. One source of such allegations
against Russia and Qatar is the London Times, a long-time purveyor of
Whatever the truth about the corruption allegations at FIFA,
it seems plausible that the sudden and strenuous criminal probe launched by
the US authorities is intended to undermine Russia’s World Cup ambitions
and, by extension, the Russian government’s global standing. US officials
warned this week that their investigation into FIFA is «just the beginning»
and that it will continue until it gets to the bottom of corruption claims.
That suggests the convenient setting up of a long campaign that will further
discredit FIFA and its associated World Cup spectacle – with Russia, as the
next venue for the event, likely to be embroiled in the US-intended climate
of scandal and smear.
Earlier this year, the US-backed Kiev regime that took over
Ukraine in an illegal coup in February 2014, called for an international
boycott of the World Cup in Russia. That notion floated by Kiev President
Petro Poroshenko seemed at the time like another ludicrous announcement from
the Western-backed regime in its hysterical claims against Russia. Now it
appears the idea has gained the full backing of Washington under the guise
of a contrived, high-profile corruption probe against FIFA.
It might also be noted that the undeclared Western hybrid war
against Russia in Ukraine is running out of steam, with the political
objective of sanctioning and destabilising Moscow failing. In particular
long-running US allegations of Russian state subversion in eastern Ukraine
are increasingly becoming threadbare and lacking in credibility.
A report this week from Reuters was headlined with the
breathless words: ‘Exclusive: Russia masses heavy firepower on border with
Ukraine - witness’.
The Western news agency, which has been caught previously
fabricating anti-Russian claims over the downed Malaysian civilian airliner
last July, reported thus: «Russia’s army is massing troops and hundreds of
pieces of weaponry including mobile rocket launchers, tanks and artillery at
a makeshift base near the border with Ukraine, a Reuters reporter saw this
Such disinformation impact the Western public over alleged
Russian malevolence in Ukraine is by now suffering from a diminishing
«overdose» response. To be blunt, US claims of Russian aggression and
expansionism are sounding increasingly hollow and hackneyed.
US secretary of state John Kerry’s «respectful» attendance at
a World War Two memorial in Russia’s Sochi earlier this month, along with
his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov, may have suggested that Washington
was paring back its covert aggression toward Moscow in a tacit admission of
failure on that front.
However, having not been able to gain much traction from
hybrid war against Russian interests in Ukraine, it appears that Washington
is shifting tactical gears in its regime-change objectives against Vladimir
Putin’s government. Spoiling Russia’s World Cup plans will endeavour to hit
Moscow with heavy economic costs, as well as to undermine the country’s
But the US-instigated corruption probe at FIFA is, in
footballing terms, more like a shabby dive by the Americans with the real
aim being to penalise Russia. It’s a risky tactic that may well backfire on
It’s also a sign of how low Washington will stoop when it is
using «a beautiful game» much loved by millions of people the world over in
order to score its ugly political objectives against Russia.
© Strategic Culture Foundation