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Corruption Accusations Swirl Around Soccer's FIFA


Soccer prides itself on being a sport of great beauty. Its politics though are another matter. They're ugly and getting uglier, judging by the scandal brewing at FIFA, the sport's global governing body.

NPR's Philip Reeves reports.

PHILIP REEVES: Our Game Is Fair Play, so says the motto on the flag over FIFA's headquarters in Zurich. These days, it has a hollow ring. The men who run the lucrative world of soccer are brawling. Allegations of corruption are flying faster than ever before.

Tomorrow, FIFA's members decide who'll be their next president. Switzerland's Sepp Blatter, who's 75 and has held the job for 13 years, wants another term and is unopposed.

He had a challenger, Mohammed Bin Hammam from Qatar. Bin Hammam withdrew Sunday. Shortly afterwards, he was suspended from FIFA's executive committee, along with veteran member Jack Warner, pending a bribery inquiry. The two are accused of offering big bundles of cash to officials in the Caribbean in return for votes. Both deny it.

More than a third of FIFA's executive committee has been accused of one form of skullduggery or another in the recent past. FIFA's decision to award the 2022 World Cup to Qatar, a tiny desert nation some says is ill-suited to soccer -with its rowdy, boozy fans - has aroused particular suspicion.

There are calls for tomorrow's election to be postponed. Two of FIFA's largest sponsors, Coca-Cola and Adidas, have expressed concern about FIFA's feuding.

The one man who doesn't seem worried is Sepp Blatter himself, the president. There's no crisis, he said yesterday, just some difficulties that can be settled within the FIFA family.

Those words are unlikely to reassure anyone.

Philip Reeves, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Philip Reeves is an award-winning international correspondent covering South America. Previously, he served as NPR's correspondent covering Pakistan, Afghanistan, and India.