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FIFA, Scandals, And Fans

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FIFA President Sepp Blatter during an interview at the FIFA headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland last week. (AP)
FIFA President Sepp Blatter during an interview at the FIFA headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland last week. (AP)

A little later on today, Manchester United and Barcelona will meet in London's Wembley Stadium to determine the champion of the Champions League.

This soccer game will be the culmination of a competition that saw professional teams from Germany, Russia, Turkey, France, Italy, Ireland, Greece, and Portugal as well as England and Spain advance to the group stage of the tournament. The earlier stages involved places lots of U.S. citizens would be challenged to find on a map.

Meanwhile, FIFA, international soccer's governing body, is supposed to be electing its next president shortly. Until late Thursday, it could have been confidently supposed that the winner in that competition would be Sepp Blatter, who has been running FIFA since 1998. His opponent, Mohamed Bin Hammam of Qatar, who is the President of the Asian Football Federation, had been charged with offering bribes to members of the Caribbean Football Union in exchange for their votes. But as of yesterday, it became apparent that electors who figured they should vote for the guy who wasn't bogged down in a corruption investigation had a problem. Mohamed Bin Hammam asked FIFA to investigate Mr. Blatter as well. He alleges that Blatter knew about various instances of corruption and failed to report them, which would constitute a violation of FIFA's rules.

Major League Baseball has its steroids stories.

The NFL, which has locked out its players, is still trying to figure out how to spin the fact that lots of the league's veterans have suffered work-related brain damage.

The NHL has concussion issues of its own.

The NBA weathered a scandal which saw one long-time official cashiered for betting on games he was working, and that league seems poised to lock out the players, too.

The challenge for fans, at least when they are watching the shortstop scoop up a ground ball and flip it to the second baseman to begin a double play; or the wide receiver juggle and then haul in a long pass in full stride; or the goalie stretch to make an apparently impossible save; or the power forward create an improbable shot in a forest of long arms is to enjoy the athletic gems despite the discouraging business stories and the posturing of those involved in running the games.

A little later on today, I will pull on my Barcelona jersey…the one that says UNICEF on the front. I will choose from my shelf one of my Barcelona caps, and one of my Barcelona scarves. Then I will sit down in front of the very large television set in the home of a friend who will be rooting hard for Manchester United. For ninety minutes, neither of us will say a word about Sepp Blatter, Mohamed bin Hammam, or any of the other six FIFA bigwigs who've been charged with corruption.

We will watch and enjoy the game.

This segment aired on May 28, 2011.


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