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Sunday, October 23, 2016

The competent Loretta Lynch can no doubt handle the job of cleansing professional soccer of widespread corruption. But why is that the U.S. Attorney General’s job? One must ask.

The World Cup does attract a large U.S. audience every four years, but largely because it’s played when the basketball and hockey seasons are over. Soccer is the top sport on just about every continent except this one, north of the Rio Grande.

FIFA, soccer’s global governing body, is based in Switzerland. Only one of the 14 defendants indicted by the U.S. Justice Department is American. The roundup of senior FIFA officials happened at a five-star hotel in Zurich.

No one has adequately explained why the accused are being dragged to a federal court in Brooklyn, New York. Prosecutors there issued a 161-page indictment detailing, as Lynch put it, “rampant, systemic and deep-rooted” corruption. The findings are the result of, as the media always say, “a sweeping FBI investigation.”

And who is picking up the tab to restore decency to the national sport of other countries? The U.S. taxpayer.

In his 1925 novel, Arrowsmith, Sinclair Lewis observed the rewards in America’s urge to protect humankind. The papers could then “announce that America, which was always rescuing the world from something or other, had gone and done it again.”

This has led to noble campaigns — curing deadly illness everywhere and sending troops on solely humanitarian missions. It’s mystifying, though, how reforming a sport most Americans ignore, corrupted by officials in other countries, got on the American to-do list.

It pains one to agree with Sepp Blatter, FIFA’s Swiss president, but he’s right when he says that “with all the respect to the judicial system of the U.S. with a new minister of justice, the Americans, if they have a financial crime that regards American citizens, then they must arrest these people there and not in Zurich when we have a congress.”

Lynch argues that the sleaze involves Americans. For one thing, a former American member of FIFA’s executive committee, Chuck Blazer, pleaded guilty to evading U.S. income taxes. Good; simply go after Blazer and make sure he pays up.

Another reason for U.S. involvement, according to the indictments, is that the alleged conspirators sent bribe money to accounts at U.S. banks. Well, money involving almost everything goes through U.S. banks. No one is accusing the banks of wrongdoing.

Finally — and this reason is almost funny — some of the alleged malefactors supposedly discussed bribe payments at meetings in Miami and in Queens, New York. Investigators surely know that illegal payments, kickbacks and bribes that actually affect Americans are plentiful and awaiting discovery in Miami and Queens.

Defending the honor of professional soccer should be in the interests of the teams, the advertisers, associated businesses and fans. The growing tawdriness and violence at the games are already costing the sport followers in even the most soccer-crazy countries.

Nonetheless, the U.S. Justice Department has piled on its shoulders the work of saving this foreign sport from the foreigners ruining it. “Enough is enough,” Lynch boldly proclaims. But isn’t it ultimately up to the people who patronize soccer to say when they’ve had enough?

Fans in other countries are now thanking Lynch for her efforts. Why wouldn’t they? Americans are doing the work their governments should be doing but won’t, especially if Americans are marching in to set things aright.

Let’s start practicing indifference to the smaller offenses that barely touch the United States. The soccer scandal would have been a good start — but too late for that.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at [email protected] To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Web page at 

Photo: PAN photo via Flickr

  • The lucky one

    Collapsing an economy is not worthy of FBI investigation and prosecution but besmirching the integrity of soccer is? No wonder the American government is such a laughingstock.

    • Bosda


      “Besmirching the integrity of soccer”?

      Nope. Accurately assessing the low state of ethics at FIFA.

      However, I am baffled as to why we did this.
      Have we no messes of our own to fix?

  • Dominick Vila

    Especially when we refuse to call that English sport by its name: FOOTBALL, as it is known throughout the world. Most Americans are not interested in Football – other than American Football – don’t understand it, and don’t want to understand it. I doubt most Americans even know what FIFA stands for or what it does.
    There is no question that there is corruption in FIFA, especially involving taking bribes to choose the location of major venues, but I don’t know what on Earth we are doing trying to clean up a foreign entity…other than the fact that it occasionally chooses places we hate for major events, such as the World Cup.

  • itsfun

    Why is our government spending tax payer money to investigate any sport? They have congressional hearings about baseball. Let baseball take care of its self. Let the NFL and the NHL take care of their selves. Our world has real problems and we need our government trying to fix those problems. We need jobs, inter cities have great problems that need to be fixed. Just look at the crime rate now that many “leaders” have crapped on the police. We have gang problems, drug problems and our government is worrying about sports.

  • browninghipower

    We took on FIFA for two reasons: 1) Clinton and Obama were humiliated that Chicago didn’t get the World Cup; 2) Obama and Holder were too scared to go after the Big Banks who caused the Great Recession, so they had to save face and go after a softer target.

    • Daniel Jones

      There’s a third reason. FIFA’s corruption even extended into the licensing and planning of the video games international soccer allows to have made about the sport.

    • Dominick Vila

      I don’t know about Clinton and Obama being humiliated because FIFA chose Moscow and Qatar for future World Cups, but there is no question that some people in the United States do not support those choices, not because those countries are incapable of hosting the most popular sport in the world, but for political reasons.
      An item that should be investigated is the FBI’s decision to use Jack Warner, an American FIFA official implicated in alleged bribes, to infiltrate FIFA meetings and illegally record conversations in exchange for not being prosecuted.
      There is no question that FIFA, UEFA, CONCACaf, and all the other football organizations have been engaged in fraudulent activities. Not surprising for an institution with assets in excess of a billion dollars. What is surprising is the extent of our investigation into something that only marginally affects us. That is, with the exception of the millions of dollars paid for advertisement by American companies.

    • Dominick Vila

      We took on the
      Fédération Internationale de Football Association because (1) it is filled with corruption, (2) because of FIFA choices such as Moscow and Qatar for future World Cups, and (3) because some FIFA decisions, especially the choice of countries/cities to host major football events, affect the revenues of American advertising companies, TV networks such as FOX, multiple American sponsors, and are offensive to American sensibilities.

    • Independent1

      Obama and Holder not prosecuting the Big Banks had nothing to do with being ‘scared’ it had everything to do with being REALISTIC!!

      • browninghipower

        Thanks for that..I don’t necessarily agree with all the conclusions, but it is one part of the issue.

  • Independent1

    For those of you who are perplexed about why our government went after the corruption in FIFA, here is your answer from Quora.Com:

    The US is going after FIFA for corruption because its laws are quite stringent about corruption, and nobody else seems prepared to do it.

    Corruption of this sort means that what is supposed to be a level playing field in the competition to hold the World Cup actually isn’t. If you don’t bribe the officials, you don’t get considered. This means that nations which have laws against bribery, such as the United States, and nations that can’t afford the bribes, don’t have a chance.

    What the government plans to get from it is that the US will be able to compete along with everyone else, without bribing anyone. The US laws against bribery are strong, which puts US companies at a disadvantage against foreign companies that can bribe without sanction.

    The situation was tolerable enough for everyone to look the other way until the move to Qatar. Qatar’s construction industry is killing literally thousands of workers to construct its stadium, and they are treated very badly in the process. FIFA also messed around with the schedule to suit the Qatari weather, which disrupted a lot of other countries’ plans. The US has decided that enough is enough; it’s time to put a stop to it.

    The irony of all this is that if FIFA had simply auctioned off the opportunity to hold the World Cup to the highest bidder and then distributed the money to the officials, it would have been perfectly legal. But by pretending to be fair when they were not fair, they broke US law.

  • Urbane_Gorilla

    As soon as I heard about the US pursuing these ‘arch criminals’, even going so far as to involve Interpol, I asked, “Why us?” ..Swiss operation, bribes in So Africa and Russia. Yep! I get that the funds were funneled through our banks, but seriously? This is soccer. Wouldn’t we be better advised to nail some of these criminal banks that keep pulling one stunt after another, than a sport that isn’t based in our country?