The Fédération Internationale de Football Association, otherwise known as FIFA, was the first globally established organization for football. Created in 1904, it was meant to govern international games between different regions. Comprising of only European countries at first, it quickly expanded to include countries from all over the world. Using the Olympics as a basis, they created an international tournament known as the World Cup in 1930. The World Cup itself is a tournament that has had controversy surrounding it since the beginning when Europe hosted the 1934 and 1938, causing issues with Latin American countries as they believed that the tournament would rotate between the two continents. This controversy has continued in modern times, with most if not all the recent tournaments having their respective issues. Like the 1938 World Cup, these modern controversies have been centered around the influence of governments, which creates the perception of the World Cup being a political event rather than a sporting one.
In 2006, the tournament was held in Germany, a decision which a satirical German magazine has taken credit for. For the 2006 World Cup, South Africa and Germany made it to the finals of the bidding process. It had been a long and difficult process, and it was looking that the vote would end up in a tie, in which case the President of FIFA, Sepp Blatter, would have cast the tie breaker. It was widely believed that he would have voted for South Africa but was denied the chance when Charlie Dempsey of New Zealand abstained. (Newman) The reason for his abstention is rather interesting, as he had been under a lot of pressure leading up to the vote from both sides. As a joke, a German satirical magazine sent him a gift basket containing sausages and a cuckoo clock, asking that he vote for Germany. This has been cited as causing him to abstain from the vote, and Dempsey even seemed to acknowledge that, saying, “This final fax broke my neck,” (Newman) the fax being the note that was included with the gift basket. Unfortunately, this was a rather satirical take on what has become the largest issue in FIFA, that being bribery.
Bribery in sporting events is something that is not new but is something that has increasingly become apparent in FIFA. The 2010 World Cup was held in South Africa, a decision which has also come under attack due to new information alleging that South Africa bribed FIFA officials and the then vice-president of FIFA. Much of this information came out in 2015, and it was found that South Africa paid over ten million USD to secure the bid. (Telegraph) The information alleges that it was Morocco that won the bid, which was found out when officials talked to one another afterwards and found that the votes did not match. Rather than having a recount, they allowed the tournament to be held in South Africa despite seemingly knowing this fact. (Telegraph) Disregarding the bribery taking place, the 2010 World Cup also brought up the issue of human rights, and whether a country should even host the tournament if the infrastructure was not in place.
In 2014 this issue of infrastructure was readily seen during and leading up to the world cup in Brazil. In Brazil there were massive protests about the amount of public money being spent on the event. Money which was spent on building stadiums and other infrastructure around where the tournament was being held in a rush to be ready for the tournament. This rush to be ready led to multiple safety issues, such as collapsing buildings, fires, and the death of eight workers. (Bowersox) This all came at a time in which the government of Brazil itself was in turmoil, with multiple scandals affecting the highest levels of government. They also faced external pressure and were forced to change a law regarding the sale of alcohol at soccer games that came to be known as the Budweiser Bill. (Marcaleti)All of this and more showed that there were issues in selecting Brazil as the location for the World Cup, issues that have seemingly been ignored based on the decisions for the 2018 and 2022 locations for the World Cup.
All of these controversies have shown that the World Cup is becoming a political tool rather than a soccer tournament. The question then becomes what to do about it, which is something that the 1938 World Cup can help with. Protesting the World Cup worked then, and there is the chance that it will work again. Even if it doesn’t, teams and governments need to be held accountable as well as understand that they are part of the problem as well.
Bowersox, Zack. “Naming, Shaming, and International Sporting Events: Does the Host Nation Play Fair?” Political Research Quarterly 69, no. 2 (2016): 258-69. http://www.jstor.org/stable/44018008.