Like most football fans across the world, I have taken a perverse and personal delight in watching the bloated, jowly patriarchs of FIFA fall, one after another. Not only do I feel that the on-going investigations into the misogynistic world of backslapping, ham-handed, wink-wink deal making are confirming my own knowledge and intuition, but also that the doors to the smoky back rooms of FIFA have been prised open, exposing a global coterie of sycophants and their clever, intertwined, and illegal schemes.
FIFA and its (two) presidents have cozied up to dictators and presidents, popes and prime-ministers, conferring upon themselves all of the pomp, power, and impunity of a head of state
For the last six years, I have been investigating how the hosting of the World Cup and Olympics impacts upon urban and social relations in Brazil. In this work, I have exposed how the intricate shell game of FIFA and the IOC extracts maximum wealth from host cities and countries while at the same time militarizing and privatizing urban space, violating human rights, and leaving legacies of debt and unfulfilled promises. For those who can afford it, the party is fantastic. Once the floodlights have burned out, the hangover lasts for decades. In Brazil, the links between big business, big government, and big sport are opaque and insidious, yet the connections to the most recent FIFA-crisis are all too clear. Brazilian companies and executives are in the spotlight, again, for all the wrong reasons.
The most surprising development is that it has happened at all. Since 1974, FIFA and its (two) presidents have cozied up to dictators and presidents, popes and prime-ministers, conferring upon themselves all of the pomp, power, and impunity of a head of state. They have showered riches upon themselves as the self-appointed stewards of the game and like the Euro-aristocracy resident on Mt. Olympus, have made others rich in the process. The complex systems of patronage and peonage that define FIFA´s political philosophy are the same as those used by colonial powers. Big egos in white bodies (with apologies to Jack Warner and Issa Hayatu) rule this world by manufacturing consent through the distribution of favours, suppressing dissent through the militarization of urban space and the curtailment of civil liberties, and choreographing their marionettes who, in accordance with the Brazilian World Cup slogan, are “all in one rhythm.”
will there be anything left of FIFA? Or rather, is it reasonable to think that FIFA can disassociate from the same kinds of oppression, violence, and injustice that define global consumer capitalism?
Predictably, it was from FIFA´s band of servile minions – morbid troglodytes like Chuck Blazer, hyperbolic shysters like Jack Warner, and half-arsed opportunists like Ricardo Texeira – that the tightly wound FIFA-world began to unravel. Too much money flowing too quickly to the wrong people though the wrong country for too long, coupled with the FBI´s charming insouciance for the real-politik of global sporting affairs has resulted in a very hard, very determined tug on a lot of rotten strings. Among the unanswerable questions is, if it all unravels, will there be anything left of FIFA? Or rather, is it reasonable to think that FIFA can disassociate from the same kinds of oppression, violence, and injustice that define global consumer capitalism? There has never been a period in the era of mass-communications when FIFA was not corrupt, so how will it suddenly emerge? Will cutting off some heads of the scabrous FIFA-Hydra change the nature of the beast? While behind the scenes deals are being struck, these desperate attempts to consolidate power are finally in conflict with an exasperated public, the FBI, and a thirsty press corps. Somehow, despite the rot, we are still captivated by football.
As the events of the past weeks have unfolded, the depth and extent of FIFA´s criminal network has become evident even to casual observers. The sudden resignation of FIFA´s communications officer, Walter de Gregorio (responsible for Blatter´s 2011 re-election campaign), may be a sign that there is no message to deliver, no more damage control to be done. It is almost impossible to keep track of the threads, but some of the more intriguing are that:
- The Germans may have swapped arms for a Saudia Ariabian vote to get the 2006 WC
- FIFA authorized a $10 million USD bribe to then-CONCACAF president Jack Warner
- Jack Warner split this with his deputy Chuck Blazer, who used the money to keep a Trump Tower apartment for his cats
- The 2018 and 2022 WC votes were bought, as were 1998, 2006, 2010, and 2014. The 2002 WC was not exempt, either, but corruption allegations against corrupt officials were never pursued
- Nike, the Brazilian Football Confederation, the ex-president of Barcelona, Sandro Rossell, and the Qatari royal families have exchanged hundreds of millions of dollars between them
- FIFA paid the Irish FA 5 million Euros to not make noise about being wrongly disqualified from the 2010 WC.
- All of the television broadcasting rights contracts for the WC, as well as the Copa Libertadores, Copa América, and other tournaments in Brazil, and much of South America, were illicitly gained
This list is far from comprehensive and spans several modes of corruption, ones that affect governance, publicity, as well as actual decisions on the field. One hopes that in the coming months, the details will emerge to fill in these categories. In the meantime, everything – from marketing contracts to penalty decisions to hotel accommodations – is tainted with corruption.
Journalists and academics that report on and research global sport had yet to touch the bottom of the fetid pool, but even for us it still comes as somewhat of a surprise that the rest of the world can now read about match-fixing, illegal transfers, human trafficking, money laundering, Swiss bank accounts, bribery, racketeering, falsification of contracts, etc. as an integral part of the way football is organized. With the recent politicization of labour rights for NCAA athletes, the banal cruelty of playing a World Cup on turf, and the destruction of human life in the NFL and its subsidiaries, perhaps there is a chance that sport and politics will find a place in the public consciousness.
This is not about using sport as a force for good, or as FIFA claims “developing football everywhere.” Sport is about power
In reality, the FIFA saga is a captivatingly complex morality play being acted out on a global stage with curious twist: the chorus is hundreds of millions strong and may be able to influence the plot. Will the hood-eyed prince, Michel Platini, make his move for the presidency now? Will the court jester, Zico, show that he can perform better than Texeira? This is not about using sport as a force for good, or as FIFA claims “developing football everywhere.” Sport is about power and we should be aware that our places in the audience impact on its exercise.
We know World Cup games are bought and sold. We know that the WWC is being played on turf because football associations are on FIFA´s leash and have more power than the players. We know that thousands of kids are trafficked across borders, sold into prostitution, or are molested, mistreated, or die because of a lack of medical attention. For every Dani Alves or Neymar, there are a hundred thousand broken legs and a million broken dreams in Brazil alone. We know of the bribery behind World Cup bids, the illegal and blindingly idiotic stadium building contracts, the militarization of cities for FIFA VIPs, dirty billion dollar television contracts, institutionalized racism and sexism, and a never-ending series of lies, deceptions, and platitudes. There is no “Fair Play” in or with FIFA.
As a reminder of how short our memories are, it is nearly a year to the day that the 2014 World Cup kicked off in Brazil. Of the twelve stadiums, in the twelve cities, ten are in serious difficulty. The only two that are not going through financial and political turmoil are the two built by clubs in Curitiba and Porto Alegre. Of all the football associations implicated in the current FIFA hullabaloo, the Brazilian federation is the most embroiled. The Brazilian João Havelange was FIFA´s modern architect and his granddaughter, an executive director of the 2014 World Cup, famously quipped about the R$ 30 billion outlay, “however much was spent, or stolen, already has been” [so why worry?].
None of the “legacy” promises made by FIFA has come to fruition in Brazil. On fleeing the country as protests erupted around the Confederations´ Cup in 2013, Blatter announced a $ 100 million USD “legacy fund”, that would be administered by the CBF. This is the Brazilian organization recently run by a man now sitting in a Zurich jail house and currently headed up by a man who fled Zurich and ran straight to Brasilia where he was honoured by senators and congressmen. Of course, FIFA regulations prevent the Brazilian government from interfering in CBF affairs, a position that is at least consistent with the surrendering of territorial sovereignty that comes with hosting the World Cup. This takes the form of tax exemptions, restrictions on advertising, and the ability to close any street in a host city, at any time, for any reason.
And now, as if to prove the point that the Canadian World Cup doesn´t matter, the Copa America kicks off in Chile, a country with long and painful associations between football and politics. In the same way we should remember those tortured and murdered in Santiago´s National Stadium, we should also remember that the same people who organized, broadcast, and advertise at this tournament are implicated in the shambolic governance of football. The show goes on with the same delirious media coverage, the same lack of critical reflection, the same people making more money than ever. It may be that FIFA and football are beyond reform as long as the crowds pour their money in and conform to FIFA´s inexhaustible list of prohibited behaviours. Is it possible that the global chorus of football fans can only hope to sing their teams on to victory, while the dark-suited protagonists squirrel away their millions? Can anything change if we only watch the ball?Christopher Gaffney, PhD (University of Texas at Austin) is a Senior Research Fellow in the Department of Geography at the University of Zurich. His work investigates the impact of major sporting events on urban centers and their populations.
News and social media around the world are carrying stories about the tear-gassed transportation strikers in São Paulo, violence and conflict with the police in Rio’s favelas, and – witty but no less serious – John Oliver’s scathing explanation of the problems with the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), which drew on major media reports about the organization’s well-known illegal cash-for-contracts corruption, and also its scandalously legal pillaging of World Cup host countries.
The scene was impeccably staged. The Special Operations Police Battalion (commonly referred to as BOPE and famously depicted in the film Elite Squad and its sequel) had set up a temporary command center on the edge of the plaza. More than a hundred of their police, armed to the teeth, with bulletproof vests and helmets, were milling around in the sweltering heat with nothing to do after taking control of the area without a shot being fired. Sky, the television company, had set up a small table under an umbrella and was hoping to sign up residents for their cable package. A helicopter made low passes over the plaza. City sanitation workers pushed around piles of garbage, pretending to work. In the midst of all of this, BOPE police were giving rides to kids on several horses as dozens of journalists snapped photos of the delighted children. Later in the afternoon, BOPE raised their flag alongside the Brazilian national flag in the middle of the plaza. With much pomp and circumstance, Complexo da Maré, the largest group of favelas in Rio de Janeiro, had officially begun the pacification process.
Located in the sprawling, industrial northern zone of the city, Complexo da Maré is a cluster of 16 favelas with a population of roughly 130,000. It is a public security concern because it is home to several non-state armed actors (two separate gang factions and a militia) and is located at the intersection of three of the major traffic arteries that connect the international airport to the rest of the city. I have been residing in Maré for the past year conducting dissertation field research. This has allowed me the opportunity to witness BOPE operations first hand and interview residents and community leaders about the tenuous and shifting public security situation. I will argue that BOPE’s pattern of abusive tactics and violence comprised an overall strategy to threaten and terrorize these communities into submission in an effort to “retake” these favela territories. And while such a strategy may have produced more effective tactical operations and short-term results, it is counter-productive to the pacification process in the long run and requires a major reassessment by the public security apparatus moving forward. Continue reading
A study conducted through a collaboration of biostaticians and lawyers attracted attention this month, with the duo evaluating the overall success rate of the criminal justice system. Using death penalty cases as a “control group” of sorts, they argue against the claim that “99.973%” of US Court cases are processed accurately. They also found that ~36% of death row inmates are reassigned to life in prison if question about their guilt remains, fueling discussions of whether there is, in fact, an “acceptable” error rate.
The ACLU called for a reconsideration of Border Patrol Officer discretionary power with respect to the use of deadly force. Does throwing a rock at an officer warrant a lethal response? John Burnett of NPR also tackled the question (somewhat unsuccessfully), while NBC Nightly News covered a DOJ report that also exposes a pattern of excessive force by officers in New Mexico.
Use of force gave way to topics in police technology, with attention being paid to the use of “shooting simulators” by some courts in Texas. The technology allows jurors to experience a simulation of a crime before it is heard in court. Praised by some for its ability to “put the juror in the shoes of the defendant or officer”, some insist it is a pro-law enforcement ploy to justify officer use of deadly force. Also in technology, a crowd-sourcing tool known as LEEDIR was used by the LAPD last month during investigations of a widespread riot. Officers praised its ability to quickly process digital evidence, while others point to its potential to subject innocent bystanders in public areas to police surveillance. Anthropoliteia author Orisanmi Burton also reflected on police technology in a post about Sky Watch stations in Brooklyn. Is this form of surveillance technology yet another chapter in the Domain Awareness initiative?
…just when you thought you knew everything Anthropoliteia has to offer, we throw a new feature at you! Guest author Stephanie Savell talks about the hidden side of police and security in Brazil. Fill in the gaps of World Cup media coverage with Savell’s holistic historical analysis.
Anthropoliteia was pleased to see former contributor Michael Bobick publish a piece through the Council for European Studies Reviews & Critical Commentary’s site. In it, he targets and addresses 3 questions about the separatist forces operating in Ukraine.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, about 1 in 4 adult in the US suffers from a diagnosable mental disorder. Perhaps stats like these are behind the growth of Crisis Intervention Teams. Read how one police department in Fairfield, CT invested (and benefits) from enrolling 20% of its officers in mental health response training. The role of mental health and policing lend to issues in homelessness, with Anthropology News featuring a thesis overview by Maegen Miller about the slow evolution of homelessness into a prosecutable crime.
Lastly, don’t miss 2014 Society of Cultural Anthropology conference materials that were presented on May 9th and 10th. Anthropoliteia’s own Kevin Karpiak and Michelle Stewart attended to present papers on the work of police. View the SCA 2014 agenda here.
The Editors of Anthropoliteia would like to welcome Stephanie Savell as guest editor of an invited developing Forum on Security in Brazil: World Cup 2014 and Beyond
The media is full of stories about Brazil, particularly stories of urban violence, protest, and police repression. Many news stories make the link to the upcoming June 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, wondering more or less explicitly whether such violence will affect the games and visitors to Brazil. Brazilian activists and citizens have been protesting the massive spending on infrastructure and highly visible public security measures being taken in preparation for the global games, asking, among other things, “What happens in 2017?”
In Rio de Janeiro, much controversy revolves around the flagship program known as “pacification,” in which state security forces wrest territorial control of favelas from drug gangs and install police posts in these informal settlements. I just spent the past year living in the “pacified” Complexo do Alemão, a sprawling favela notorious for its crime-related street violence. Here residents perceive an ongoing battle for control between police and the still present but now slightly more covert gangs, and many believe the gangs are gaining ground. In recent months, escalating violence has many in Rio wondering whether the pacification program will collapse.
From an anthropological viewpoint, the significance of how security in urban Brazil has been developing reaches far beyond what the media portrays as preparation for the games. Current trends must be understood in the context of a history of both repressive policing and alternative community policing programs in Brazil. There are pressing questions to be asked about the deployment of the military in urban neighborhoods and the use of private security firms and personnel to fill gaps in state capacity. Additionally, there are multiple dimensions of a broader understanding of the term “security” that are obscured by the focus on public security in the context of the forthcoming global sporting events. For example, many Brazilians protest the economic and social costs of hosting the games, at a time when the government fails to meet the basic needs of citizens, and as many favela residents are displaced by infrastructure projects and real estate interests. Unemployment, racism, gender disparities, suppression of popular uprisings, lack of freedom of the press, environmental precariousness, and the enforcement of state regulations in informal settlements are just a few of the insecurities at stake in pre- and post-World Cup security practices.
Anthropologists like myself, and ethnographers in other disciplines, have in recent years been investigating ever more closely how security is experienced, understood, and contested in the everyday lives of urban Brazilians. Through historical and ethnographic fieldwork, such analyses seek to characterize the forms of governance through which security emerges. In a timely discussion leading up to the June 2014 World Cup, several of us will take the opportunity to share posts as part of a special invited forum on Anthropoliteia to discuss and reflect on some of the issues of the contemporary security moment in Brazil and shed light on what takes place behind the news.