Wednesday, August 4, 2010

FIFA's Hypocrisy Part 2

At least the French players deserved their reception upon returning home from the World Cup. The same cannot be said about North Korea who, although getting blown out by a combined score of 12-1 over three matches, gave a valiant effort in arguably the toughest group. According to US-based Radio Free Asia, after returning to Pyongyang, the entire team was summoned to an auditorium at the working people's culture palace where they were criticized and lambasted for hours by over 400 people. Among other things, They accused the team of betraying Gen. Kim Jong Un, heir to Kim Jong Il, and now the coach's safety is in danger (rumor has it he's been forced into hard labor).

No need to discuss the issues of communist dictatorships and Cold War-era nuances. It is utterly moronic that the party leaders in North Korea truly expected this team to return home from South Africa with the trophy. What troubles me most is the response, or lack there of, from FIFA.

Don't their own laws dictate that government interference in football matters is forbidden? They didn't shy away from threatening the French Football Association after the government launched inquiries into what actually happened down there. And what about Nigeria? FIFA threatened to ban the entire country from world football after President Goodluck Jonathan did it himself following the team's elimination. In both instances FIFA prevailed and the governments backed down.

Now comes another case of a team returning home disgraced from the World Cup and the government stepping in immediately to let them know about it. Don't doubt for a second that football is not important to the North Koreans - if anything it's one of the few opportunities the communist regime has to flex it's muscles to the world. In other words, the success of the team creates a crucial piece of propaganda.

I think it's safe to say that after years of ignoring sanctions by the UN and international community, anything coming out of FIFA's mouth would be laughed at. But failure by FIFA to open its mouth in the first place is appalling. How can they stand idly by while another government gets involved with the football association? And why on earth are they choosing to pick their battles? France, Nigeria, Iraq, Kuwait, Poland, Yemen, and Ethiopia to name a few. All were suspended or at least threatened for government interference in the past. North Korea's transgressions are no more or less egregious than the others (forgetting the human rights issues of course).

Inconsistency, hard-line stances and slaps on the wrist. Threats, suspensions, and staying mum. How FIFA expects to legitimize itself moving forward is beyond me (this column hasn't even mentioned video replay ad goal line technology). Football's governing body is becoming a laughing stock.

The hypocrisy must end.

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