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The Modern Mandela

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Above: Ousted FIFA president Sepp Blatter

Sepp Blatter is a man who works strictly in subtlety.

But for Blatter, a man who makes Donald Trump seem modest and reticent, this is a moment to preen. Holding a rambling one-hour press conference at FIFA’s Zurich headquarters without any pretense of self-awareness, Blatter compared himself and his hardships to those experienced by… wait for it… Nelson Mandela. Blatter referenced conversations he had experienced with the late South African freedom fighter and president, saying, “Mandela was talking about humanity. Humanity needs no other significance than to respect each other and I say that to celebrate humanity through football was created by this great humanist.”

Blatter as well, in a letter sent to all 209 soccer federations, said that the ruling “brings to my mind the practices of the Inquisition.”

One part of Blatter’s press conference that had an undeniable certain ring of truth—when he said, “If we had awarded the World Cup in 2022 to the USA, we would not be here.” It is certainly difficult to imagine newly appointed Attorney General Loretta Lynch targeting FIFA for money laundering, wire fraud, international racketeering, and 150 million dollars in bribes if the USA had been awarded the 2022 World Cup over Qatar. But that does not change the open graft with minimal oversight that has defined the Blatter era. It does not change the debt, displacement, and militarization that FIFA has brought to countries wanting the financial and political allure of hosting international soccer tournaments. It above all else does not change or excuse the reality that 1,200 migrant workers have died in Qatar as the World Cup nears. Both FIFA and the Qatari government have attempted to obfuscate this figure by saying that not one death is related to World Cup facilities and instead are connected to other construction projects. Leaving aside the moral bankruptcy of this statement, it ignores that all the infrastructure projects of Qatar, a country made up of about 270,000 citizens and 1.5 million migrant workers, are part of Operation World Cup. As always, the demands for development far beyond “FIFA Quality Stadiums” was a part of the deal driven by FIFA.

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