The FIFA presidential elections are right a few months away, which means we get a chance to peruse a cast of contenders who, in the true spirit of the world’s largest sporting organization, fit the profile of what Whalen Smithers once referred to as “that line between villainy and cartoonish super-villainy.”
How well do you know the colorful rogue’s gallery of men — and yes, they are all men — who are vying to run the beautiful game?
Find out today with our “Real FIFA Candidate” quiz. We have given you 10 names from around the world. Try to decipher who is an actual presidential candidate, and who is just a garden-variety super-villain.
1. Sheikh Salman
Not only is he the current president of the Asian football confederation, but he’s also a member of Bahrain’s royal family, so he has the bloodline (and the payoff money). The only teensy-weensy smudges on his resume are the accusations of torturing pro-democracy demonstrators, including top soccer players, in 2011. Did we mention he also has lots of money?
2. Sergei Kalashnikov
The political career of this Kazakhstan native got off to a bit of a rough start in 1977 when, as a young Soviet political officer, he punched Leonid Brezhnev over a 10-ruble bet at a bear wrestling match. Kalashnikov later found his true calling in the business world, where he operates dozens of uranium mines in his home country. He is under investigation by the UN for selling radioactive materials to North Korea. He’s considered a fringe candidate after FIFA voters were not impressed with his gift: a paper grocery bag filled with uranium ore.
3. Zhou Ba-ke
Based in Chengdu, China, Mr. Zhou is a known sportsman, and reputedly is one of the world’s foremost panda poachers. FIFA is always looking to build inroads into the Chinese market, and they were moved by Zhou’s speech condemning the panda, whose slow, lazy movements “insult the vigorous athletic spirit of the sport FIFA is charged with protecting.” They were also quite pleased with his gift of 200 panda livers, which are quite tasty when prepared with garlic sauce, as well as a potent aphrodisiac.
4. Rugged Amethyst
This candidate from Sierra Leone specializes in the mining and distribution of conflict diamonds. FIFA considers it a mission to reach out to the children — the next generation of footballers, if you will — and Amethyst has a long history of working with kids as young as 10, keeping them off the streets by organizing them into battalions. And let’s face it — these FIFA boys already know how to move conflict diamonds, so they speak his language.
5. Tokyo Sexwale
This anti-apartheid freedom fighter received military training in the Soviet Union before returning to South Africa. He was arrested after a brief skirmish with security forces, and served 13 years in prison at Robben Island alongside Nelson Mandela. Sexwale was part of the group that help bring the 2010 World Cup to Africa in a heavily criticized bidding process. U.S. investigators believe Sexwale’s group paid approximately $10 million in bribes to FIFA officials, which — let’s face it — probably helps his cause a great deal.
6. Jérôme Champagne
Champagne worked in all the hot spots before joining FIFA — first as cultural and technical cooperation attaché with the Embassy of France in Oman, and later as third secretary at the French embassy in Cuba. A former communications honcho with FIFA, he recently released a seven-page manifesto calling for greater transparency, which means he might not be long for this election campaign … or this world.
7. Baron von Chaos
FIFA prides itself on giving a vote to even the tiniest nations, and von Chaos successfully petitioned to get full voting privileges for his private monarchy, where he has made his billions developing heat-enhancing technology. Well, consider FIFA intrigued, as it looks to one-up giving the 2022 World Cup to the desert nation of Qatar, where players could very well die off heat stroke on the field, and where construction workers die of heat stroke every day building gaudy monuments to FIFA excess.
8. Musa Bility
President of the Liberian Football Federation, as well as the Srimex oil and gas company, Bility once took the Confederation of African Football to court and was suspended six months for accessing classified documents. He served only four months of his sentence, and later said of the punishment: “The situation made me a better person.” Serving time is now considered a prerequisite for FIFA, so his is a campaign to watch.
9. Gianni Infantino
The current secretary general of UEFA, he claims to have been born in Switzerland, like we’re believing that story. He also apparently has the support of Russia for this election, so you know he’s 100% not corrupt. Like, totally not corrupt.
10. Cristobal Negronoche
This Peruvian archaeologist made much of his fortune by stealing priceless trinkets from ancient Incan graves and selling them on the black market. Many of those pieces just so happened to find their way to FIFA headquarters, so perhaps it should come as no surprise Negronoche has garnered strong support. Oh, and also the South American market is important, I guess.
Answer key: 1. REAL, 2. fake, 3. fake, 4. fake, 5. REAL, 6. REAL, 7. fake, 8. REAL, 9. REAL, 10. fake