Even as the FIFA controversy sizzles as top officials are indicted for graft in an investigation into football’s governing body, there are indications that this is not the last of the corruption story in football.
Already we are hearing that there will be a probe into the allocation of the World Cup 2018 and 2022. Seven officials were arrested in Zurich earlier in a development that sent shockwaves across the world. Re-elected FIFA president Sepp Blatter has naturally, and expectedly, sought to downplay the US criminal proceedings launched against FIFA officials.
It is shocking and disappointing that the image of the beautiful game has been marred by what critics call the culture of corruption that has infiltrated the world body. Blatter needs to be more reassuring and assertive about tackling this, rather than simply downplaying the development or venting his fury on the US.
It is hugely disappointing for football fans that the most popular game is being tarnished with corruption claims. Even though this may not have a direct impact on fan following, the seeds of doubt have been sown in the football follower, who will surely now wonder if the rot is deeper than corruption by officials. World sports bodies, especially those in sports like cycling, weightlifting, athletics have been struggling to retain their credibility as the doping crisis has eroded the faith of fans.
While doping is not the issue with FIFA, any kind of taint on the game has a ripple effect and immediate distrust sets in.
It is time to acknowledge the crisis, take stock of the situation and most importantly, Blatter needs to address it in front of the world. Platitudes will not do. The re-elected president needs to speak about the path he will chart for the FIFA now.
Blatter has often been in the news for his foot-in-the-mouth gaffes. He cannot afford any of these at this critical juncture. It is time to govern the game, steadily telling the world that it is FIFA as much as anybody else who wants the mess cleaned up.