Need To Know
The drama continues for FIFA, the organization that manages soccer around the world. Earlier this week a bunch of FIFA executives and others that work with the organization were indicted on racketeering charges after an investigation by the US Justice Department and the Swiss government. Today, FIFA is holding an election to choose its next leader.
Every member country of FIFA gets a vote. That's 209 votes. There are two candidates: Jordanian Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein and the incumbent, Sepp Blatter, who is Swiss and has been the president since 1998. Since each country's vote carries equal weight (including those from tiny nations where FIFA money could make quite an impact), and the votes are secret, the whole thing is susceptible to bribery. And given the events of earlier this week, there's little doubt among observers that the vote will be corrupt. There's also little doubt that Blatter will be re-elected.
About 20 or so countries have publicly announced they will vote for the Jordanian prince. That's significant, but still a far cry from the 105 votes needed to get a majority. If you are truly obsessed you can watch the whole event live.
The arrests and the election are overshadowing another FIFA vote today that will decide whether or not Israel should be suspended from the organization. The Palestinian contingent called for the vote unless Israel agreed not to field five teams drawn from Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Palestinians also say Israel should be suspended because it restricts the movement of Palestinian players and equipment.
The FIFA president, who seems to wield more power in world affairs than someone who manages soccer teams probably should, has tried to mediate. But Sepp Blatter is no United Nations, and even the United Nations has never succeeded in mediating between the two sides. So a vote will go ahead. If FIFA votes to suspend Israel, it would be a huge symbolic victory for the Palestinians.
That FIFA would play any role exacting justice on behalf of Palestinians or anyone else is laughable. The organization practically operates as its own little fiefdom, and doesn't exactly have a record of championing the rights of the little guy. Here are six times, for instance, that the soccer industry violated human rights around the world. It's a disturbing list.
Want To Know
The FIFA scandal is a truly global affair. Soccer, or football as most people call it, is the world's most popular sport. When the World Cup comes around every four years, the planet grinds to a near standstill. So reactions to the arrests this week have been intense.
South Africans, for instance, were devastated. South Africa hosted the World Cup in 2010 — and in the aftermath of Wednesday's arrests, details began to emerge of a $10 million bribe allegedly made to secure those hosting rights. One South African journalist described it as the day that FIFA “stole a part of us.”
Russia had a different reaction, or at least its leader did. Russian President Vladimir Putin said the arrests were another example of the United States projecting its power in places it doesn't belong. Putin believes the United States was trying to sabotage the reelection of Blatter, and possibly the agreement between FIFA and Russia to hold the World Cup there in 2018.
The corruption scandal has also shined new light on World Cup plans for Qatar in 2022. Human rights groups have accused the Qatar government of creating slave-like conditions for the foreign workers building new stadiums and hotels for the event. Hundreds of workers are believed to have died.
FIFA's corporate sponsors around the world have also been forced to react. Some are even named as part of the investigation. Visa on Thursday said it was profoundly disappointed and threatened to pull its sponsorship. Adidas encouraged FIFA to be more transparent but said it would continue to support soccer “on all levels.” Russia's state-owned oil and gas company just proclaimed its innocence.
Strange But True
Uber has been the subject of much controversy around the world. The app has transformed the car service industry with its ease of use and no-cash payments. But it has also erupted onto the scene without having to go through the often expensive and onerous task of obtaining certain licenses and abiding by certain fare rules. Many taxi companies are taking legal action. And judges from Brazil to Italy have ruled in the favor of the old-school taxi drivers.
Mexico is the latest place where this turf war is playing out. But there, the fight is getting literal. Esteban Meza, who represents 13,000 cab drivers in Mexico, told the country's top-selling newspaper that taxi drivers were going to hunt down Uber drivers.
His exact words: “We are not going to leave [them] alone. We are tracking these colleagues and hunting them down.” Sounds like a pretty serious threat.