December 2, 2010 was a day that started out filled with hope for me. As a huge soccer fan, the United States was on the brink of being awarded the 2022 FIFA World Cup, and today was the day I would find out. Reports were that the bid was strong, and the US was very much in contention to host its first World Cup since 1994. But when the ruling came down that Qatar had won the bid to host instead, my immediate though was, “RIGGED!” I had not even really heard of Qatar until then, and some quick Googling showed that while it was a country that was strong financially, it was one that seemed to lack the necessary architectural infrastructure and manpower necessary to build stadiums and roads that are essential to a successful World Cup. Add to that Qatar’s average summer temperature of 106-114 degrees Fahrenheit at the peak of the day. At that juncture, I was citing all of these facts from the standpoint of a disappointed fan, but five years down the road, it appears that I may not have been far off. On May 27th and 28th, several top FIFA officials were arrested racketeering, conspiracy, and corruption over the period of two decades.
When the news broke about the arrests, I was indifferent, since the trials would be long, drawn out affairs due to extradition and gathering evidence. Furthermore, there was no investigation announced into the bidding process for the World Cups, nor was Sepp Blatter, the FIFA president, named in any way. My gut feeling was that as long as Blatter remained in charge, the path towards change would still suffer from a severe roadblock. This feeling was only intensified when, somewhat against odds, Blatter won re-election, and would serve another four years as the president of FIFA. To me, this was a sign that the high ranking officials of the organization did not want change either, and instead preferred Blatter and his style leadership. These few days were tough for all soccer fans; so close to change, but foiled at the last hurdle.
I woke up on the morning of June 3rd to news that was like opening a present on a holiday morning: Sepp Blatter had announced his resignation from FIFA. The reasons are still unclear, perhaps Blatter did not have the organizational support that he though, perhaps he was concerned about his legacy in the wake of the scandal, or perhaps investigators had evidence that pointed directly to Blatter’s role in the corruption. Whatever the case, this was a positive step that just days ago had looked all but impossible. While Blatter will continue to serve as president until December, whoever is elected as the new president will finally have the freedom to enact change and a new vision on an organization that had undoubtedly become rotten and stale over the years. Additionally, news broke later that day officials had enough evidence to launch investigations into the bidding processes behind the 2018 World Cup in Russia, as well as the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. While this is no guarantee that any change of venue would occur, or that the US would be back in the mix as a host country, confirmation that the bidding was unfairly influenced would be some bittersweet revenge for fans that felt hard done by.
In the end, what I take from this entire process is that, first and foremost, it is far from over. Blatter is not yet out as president, the legal prosecution of officials could take years, and there are still a myriad of investigations and evidence collections to be completed. Despite all of that, it is reassuring to think that “good” prevailed in the end, and an organization that has so much power and influence over so many people has taken the first step on a long road towards rehabilitation.
This article was written by Lucas Woodward, a writer for dusk magazine.