As The Soccer World Staggers, What's Next For FIFA? NPR's Scott Simon talks with Roger Bennett, host of Men in Blazers on NBC Sports Network, about what's ahead for FIFA and fans of soccer.
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As The Soccer World Staggers, What's Next For FIFA?

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As The Soccer World Staggers, What's Next For FIFA?

As The Soccer World Staggers, What's Next For FIFA?

As The Soccer World Staggers, What's Next For FIFA?

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/410752416/410752417" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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NPR's Scott Simon talks with Roger Bennett, host of Men in Blazers on NBC Sports Network, about what's ahead for FIFA and fans of soccer.

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Let's turn now to Roger Bennett, host of "Men In Blazers," an NPR soccer gent. Roger, thanks very much for being with us.

ROGER BENNETT: Thank you for having me, Scott, on these dark days. It is great to speak to you.

SIMON: So explain. Why does Sepp Blatter get reelected and, you know, a pretty favorable margin, too?

BENNETT: Yesterday, I spent the day watching FIFA's election, which was a little bit like watching an Albanian show trial meets a SPECTRE meeting from "James Bond."

SIMON: (Laughter).

BENNETT: And after five hours of incredibly bloviating speeches, surprise, surprise, despite having the FBI, the Department of Justice and probably most menacingly of all, the IRS, announce that FIFA is a corrupt and venal organization - wire fraud and racketeering are its modus operandi - their leader, for a fifth term, again, was Sepp Blatter. The short answer to your question, FIFA's not a democracy, Scott. It's more akin to Mayor Daley, kind of Boss Tweed, Huey Long - a political machine. And with just 209 voters, there's no surprise that he was elected, but with the FBI, IRS and DOJ on his tail, the next act is what's going to be fascinating.

SIMON: Well, let - we've actually got a clip. This'll start your pulse racing. A man named Andre Marty from the Swiss Attorney General's office.

BENNETT: (Laughter).

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ANDRE MARTY: We are still at the very, say, opening of these criminal proceedings. There are lots, lots, lots of quite-interesting electronic datas and documents. We're going to try to reconstruct financial flows based on these informations.

SIMON: So do you expect a drip, drip, drip over the next few weeks and months?

BENNETT: Yeah. I mean, to watch Swiss policemen charged into a five-star hotel and arrest nine FIFA Executive Committee members and five sports marketers...

SIMON: Yeah.

BENNETT: I mean, that itself is shocking. Those are muscles arresting people that Swiss police do not normally use. But to the FBI investigation, the attorney general's investigation, that is probably going to be most fascinating. Sepp Blatter, this 79-year-old Swiss former wedding singer, former tourist board PR man-turned-sports-industrialist had the choice of whether to back down, I'd say honorably, but he's already past that point, Scott. He decided not to. The FBI, the Department of Justice will press on the Swiss investigation into the ludicrous World Cup award to Qatar. A country smaller than Connecticut is going to host a world tournament when their heat in the summer is 122 degrees. They're moving it to winter. I mean, the whole thing...

SIMON: Yeah.

BENNETT: ...Just smells of corruption and deceit. But he's decided to continue to run the thing. And what we're facing now is a protracted, spiraling case that will fill the world's airwaves, sucking in some of the world's biggest global brands. So there's dark days ahead.

SIMON: A genuinely naive question - the U.K. and Germany have won - what? - five World Cups between them?

BENNETT: That's very generous to England. We've won one. I can tell you that.

SIMON: Well, all right.

(LAUGHTER)

SIMON: All right. They've won World Cups. OK.

BENNETT: Yep.

SIMON: And they have huge, you know, huge markets of soccer fans, obviously. Both Prime Minister Cameron, Chancellor Merkel say Blatter has to go; there has to be changes. Why don't the U.K. and Germany have more power in FIFA?

BENNETT: They did have more power. This is crucial to understand. They had almost a virtual hegemony. Blatter, from the perspective of his African voting bloc, his Central-American voting bloc - and today, he gloated about his Oceana voting bloc. He made them stand up and said, this is my "Ocean's Eleven," which is very brazen to name-check a movie about thieving

SIMON: (Laughter).

BENNETT: ...When you're being investigated by the FBI. It included key votes from Cook Islands, with a population of 10,900, Solomon Island, New Caledonia, all of whose votes count as much as France and Germany and England. And the more the English press investigate Blatter - and they do often - the more he rallies his base, the more it strengthens his hand. He says see, the English and the Germans, they're racist. They want to keep the new world order down. And that's why it's so key, Scott, that it's the Americans, home of McDonald's, home of Coca-Cola. And the question is, how long can these brands keep hand-in-hand lockstep with this FIFA situation as the FBI investigation exposes them for what they really are?

SIMON: Roger, do you see any sign yet that mad keen football fans are upset about this?

BENNETT: Scott, this is fascinating. To be candid, watching this FIFA ugliness is incredibly jarring. You see how the sausage is made. It's corrupt sausage, Scott. But it's too rational, and we don't follow sport to watch bureaucrats or to dig deep into FBI process. And I do fear that it's too easy for us to allow cognitive dissonance to kick in. Next week, the women's World Cup starts. We're going to become obsessed with that, and we'll become distracted away again from what we've kind of had to suffer through this week with the FIFA skulduggery.

SIMON: Roger Bennett, host of "Men In Blazers" on NBC, you're welcome anytime. Thanks so much, Roger.

BENNETT: Thanks again, Scott.

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