‘The FIFA Family’ (2017) – a never-ending corruption story

Thank DR, the Danish Broadcasting Corporation, for bringing the stories of Chuck Blazer and the corruption behind the Qatar World Cup to the public in such an easily digestible form.The FIFA Family: A Love Story dissects how Blazer’s plea deal to become an undercover informant led to the arrest of 6 members of the FIFA Executive Committee (Ex-Co) on May 27, 2015.

The documentary appears to leverage the book “American Huckster“, by Mary Papenfuss and Teri Thompson. However, the film’s title, The FIFA Family: A Love Story, is somewhat misleading, which made me overlook it for quite awhile.

The title reflects the film’s angle, which is to see Chuck Blazer from the view of his girlfriend, Mary Lynn Blanks. A minor actress and a trade show model, she doesn’t know anything about soccer or FIFA. She is a self-described “Cinderella at the ball” who tells us how 450 pound Chuck Blazer lived the life of a king on FIFA’s dollar. Blazer loved the ladies, who loved him back, proving that when it comes to seduction, money beats good looks every time.

The bid to host WC 2022

Interspersed with Blanks’ scenes are interviews and news clips that trace key parts of the bid to host WC 2022. Qatar’s bid is seen as a joke because they have neither stadiums nor fans; they only have a lot of money. While they buy many votes with cash, France’s vote changes in response to Qatar’s purchase of Airbus jets just before the Dec-2010 vote. In addition, French companies become major contractors for Qatar’s stadium and infrastructure construction.

Looking at the corrupt bids of 1998, 2006, and 2010, Phaedra Almajid, who helped assemble Qatar’s bid, remarks that

“Based on its bidding history, I think they didn’t do it differently than anyone else. … FIFA made the rules and Qatar just played by those rules.”

Phaedra Almajid, media coordinator for Qatar

Executive Committee (Ex-Co) Corruption

Much of the evidence comes from Ex-Co interaction with Chuck Blazer, whose phones, body, and key fob were wiretapped in exchange for leniency for tax evasion and corruption. Chris Eaton, head of FIFA security from 2010-2011, also assisted the FBI. Eaton explains why he resigned his post at FIFA:

“I was concerned about endemic problems and vulnerabilities to greed-based corruption in the organization. … a significant number of Ex-Co members had serious issues of integrity.”

Chris Eaton, former head of FIFA Security

Then-US Attorney General Loretta Lynch characterizes the FIFA executives as follows:

“They were expected to uphold the rules that keep soccer honest and to protect the integrity of the game. Instead, they corrupted the business of worldwide soccer to serve their interests and to enrich themselves.”

Loretta Lynch, then US Attorney General

The film has some astonishing interview footage with Sepp Blatter, where he claims to be unaware of any corruption. He says that he has not studied the Garcia Report, nor the summary that FIFA issued in lieu of releasing the actual document. For Sepp, the May-2015 Ex-Co arrests at the Baur au Lac hotel were like an earthquake. But he feels that American judicial interference on Swiss territory would not have happened had the USA won the 2022 bid.

In Conclusion

Blanks says that Sepp Blatter “was very very good at keeping the family together.” The FIFA family is like any other family of criminal gangs, and Gianni Infantino is no different than Sepp Blatter. I sadly wonder how many movies like this will it take for FIFA to realize that ethics and good character start at the top.

For another film on FIFA corruption, see Planet FIFA

7 Soccer Movie Mom Rating = 7

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