The end of the football season

This article is a translation of "Het einde van het voetbalseizoen"

The arrest in Switzerland of a number of highly placed officials of the world football organisation FIFA on charges of corruption has triggered a wave of reactions in the media about—the corruption that plagues the organisation. And who didn’t know that this was the case. You don’t award a football world championship in summer time to Qatar, one of the hottest places on earth, only on grounds of sports considerations. Yet the arrest also lifts a tip of the veil concerning the power relations in the world and notably casts a light on two states which are involved in several wars, Israel and the US. 

In the weeks preceding the FIFA conference in Zürich it became known that the Palestinian football association would propose to suspend Israeli membership because their players from the occupied territories cannot function amidst Israeli restrictions. A recent Al Jazeera documentary on the occupation may serve as a reminder what we are talking about here.

However, Netanyahu had warned Sepp Blatter (pictured) , when the latter was on a visit to Israel (and his reelection would have to be decided at Zürich), that if this motion would be carried, he would destroy FIFA. But Blatter replied that he would not be able to prevent a vote .

So that would have to be arranged by others, and what is better than a phone call to Washington in those circumstances—or so it seems. Because football may count for little in the US if one compares it to the national pastimes such as baseball and basketball, but yet the American attorney general has used ongoing FBI investigations for a request on the eve of the conference in Zürich to extradite a number of senior FIFA representatives to the US. And because Switzerland earlier had refused to extradite the film director, Roman Polanski (currently being held in his native Poland because the US has made a renewed request to ensure he dies in an American prison), the Swiss Polanski (currently being held in his native Poland because the US has made a renewed request to ensure he dies in an American prison) will want to avoid another clash with the United States. So our football bosses will to all probability soon board a plane although their crimes, if proven, will not have been committed in the US.

This will not be the first time of course that the US enables Israel to persist in its occupation policies with impunity. But still it is striking that Israel can simply use the United States to put a few things right when it needs it.

And also, as Jason Ditz argues on, it would be an additional boon if the world championship in Russia in 2018 can be scuttled, even if the voice of Poroshenko, who has called for denying Moscow the right to organise them, does not have the weight that Netanyahu’s has.

Because the Palestinians, I just read, have withdrawn their motion to suspend Israel.

That is how things work.

Kees van der Pijl

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