Seppsis \sep¬¥sis\ n The presence of toxins in FIFA, world soccer's governing body, under current president Sepp Blatter.
This is an article from the Feb. 21, 2011 issue
After careful consideration, I have an announcement to make: I'm running for the presidency of FIFA in the election to be held on June 1. And no, I'm not kidding. Have you seen who else is running? That's right: Sepp Blatter, the 74-year-old Swiss strongman atop the world's most popular sport, is campaigning for his fourth term. Blatter's most prominent rival, Qatar's Mohamed Bin Hammam, may run as well, but he's just another FIFA insider in an election that desperately needs an outsider.
So I'll raise my hand. Someone has to. It gets kind of old hearing the world's soccer fans complain about Blatter without anyone trying to provide an alternative. And make no mistake, FIFA needs to change. The vote in December that chose the hosts for the 2018 and '22 World Cups was just the latest evidence that FIFA is far from a clean organization. Two members of FIFA's executive committee were suspended last October after being caught by The Sunday Times of London trying to sell their World Cup votes. Why, Blatter himself admits that FIFA's reputation has been tarnished under his watch. Sepp's solution? "Trust us," he says. Seriously? That's like trusting a Tour de France winner to oversee cycling's antidoping program.
Unlike the International Olympic Committee, FIFA has never had its Salt Lake City moment, a bribery-and-real-estate scandal involving at least 20 IOC members that forced the organization to enact serious reforms. Nor has Blatter's FIFA made it a priority to include more women in positions of influence, as IOC president Jacques Rogge has done. Who's the most powerful woman in FIFA? Good question. The ruling 24-man executive committee is exactly that: all men. Even FIFA's women's committee is chaired by two men. Meanwhile, Blatter has been an equal-opportunity offender, offering his suggestions for women's soccer ("tighter shorts" and "a more female aesthetic") and saying that gays and lesbians "should refrain from any sexual activities" at World Cup '22 in Qatar, where homosexuality is against the law.
So, yeah, that Nobel Peace Prize that Blatter has been angling for may not be on its way. Me, I don't need any Nobels, but as FIFA president I'll push for the changes Blatter has been unwilling to endorse. Instant replay? I'll make sure there's a video-review process for close calls on the goal line. (Remember Frank Lampard's unawarded World Cup goal for England last summer?) Referees? I'll make sure the World Cup has the best whistle-blowers—with no limits per country—and require them to meet with pool reporters after every game to explain controversial calls. Stupid yellow cards? I'll make sure players no longer see yellow for removing their jerseys after scoring a goal. Think about it: Spain's Andrés Iniesta got the same punishment for celebrating the game-winning goal in the World Cup final that Dutch thug Nigel de Jong received for karate kicking an opponent in the chest.
As the ultimate outsider I'll bring FIFA into the 21st century by enacting the reforms no apparatchik in the old boy network would dare propose. For starters, I'll name a woman as general secretary, FIFA's most powerful appointed position. I'll clean up FIFA the only way possible: by releasing all of its internal documents, WikiLeaks-style, and commissioning an independent investigation using the guidelines of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. And I'll push for term limits to prevent any FIFA president (including myself) from serving more than two four-year terms in office. Consider, Blatter is one of only two FIFA presidents in the last 37 years! No wonder his FIFA has as much transparency and credibility as the Mubarak regime did.
Besides, if FIFA is committed to awarding World Cups to countries that haven't hosted them before (Qatar, Russia, South Africa), then here's another chance to break ground, by electing an American FIFA president for the first time. I actually think I would beat Blatter if the election were left up to the world's soccer fans (instead of the current system of one vote per FIFA member nation). Now I just need to persuade one country to heed the popular will and nominate me for president by the April 1 deadline. It could be Papua New Guinea. It could be Equatorial Guinea. The point is that a true FIFA outsider needs to run. Plus, my candidacy has precedents. The first FIFA president was a sports journalist, and so were two of the seven others—including, once upon a time, Sepp Blatter. FIFA's newest vice president, Jordan's Prince Ali, is a Princeton graduate in his mid-30s with a short résumé in soccer administration. Hey, so am I!
All that's left is to come up with a compelling campaign slogan. I'm FIFA's AntiSepptic? Cure the Blatter Infection? Or how about just, Kick Him Out! I'm open to any of your ideas. Soccer fans of the world unite! It's time to take back your game.
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For more on Grant Wahl's FIFA candidacy, plus a campaign video, go to SI.com/soccer