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Salzburg finally win a 'Red Bull battle' vs. Leipzig

UEFA Europa League

Inside France's World Cup ceremony


FIFA's ugly game

Sepp Blatter sits at the head of the table at FIFA, world football's organizing body.

This story appears in ESPN The Magazine's World Football Issue, which hits newsstands on Friday. Subscribe today!

SEPP BLATTER IS not just FIFA's president. He is its Sun King, answering to no one and deciding who will bask in the warm rays of soccer's governing body. Blatter is 79 and has now presided over FIFA for 17 years, the third-longest tenure in the body's 100-plus-year history. His watch has been marked by a series of scandals, most recently the ones embroiling the impending World Cups in Russia (2018) and Qatar (2022). At dawn today, Swiss authorities arrested several top FIFA officials with plans to extradite them to the United States, where they'll face corruption charges relating to the bidding process of those Cups. A separate criminal investigation, carried out by the U.S. Department of Justice, is on going. Fourteen people have been named in the DOJ indictment, nine of them FIFA officials; Blatter himself has thus far escaped charges, and FIFA has said its presidential election, scheduled for Friday, will nevertheless take place.

In a recent documentary produced by E:60, Jeremy Schaap told the tale of corruption, injustice and moral depravity behind FIFA's naming Russia and Qatar as World Cup hosts. Based largely on that reporting, we present a guide explaining just why everyone is so outraged with FIFA.

South Africa held the 2010 World Cup for roughly $2.7 billion. Brazil hosted in 2014, amid protests, for $15 billion. Even that is chump change next to the rubles and riyals on the table. Russia's bill is approaching $20 billion; Qatar's cost is more than 10 times that! FIFA's success now depends on nothing less than the recovery of international oil markets.

Qatar projects to spend $200 billion on the 2022 World Cup. According to a 2013 Deloitte report, the spending will go mostly to infrastructure. About the size of Connecticut, the nation still must upgrade highways, build an airport and develop a mass transit system. Oh, and construct 12 high-tech stadiums with nearly 700,000 seats (400,000 more than there are Qatari nationals).

So, money is relative when you live in an oil-rich sovereign state. Qatar has a total population of 2 million, including its expatriate workforce. According to that figure, the country will spend $100,000 per capita, 1,852 times more than South Africa spent per person in 2010. Another way to look at it: If the U.S. spent the same amount as Qatar has for each of the 320 million American citizens, we would be shelling out $32,000,000,000,000. Yes, that's trillions.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Sepp Blatter, far right, share a laugh.


Russian officials say the 2018 World Cup will cost $18.2 billion, but critics -- and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev -- say that number will likely balloon to $20 billion, a figure greater than the GDP of 84 nations. But even that amount might be low; the Sochi Games cost Mother Russia, gulp, $51 billion.


In January 2015, the price of a barrel of oil was $43, down from $95 in January 2013. The oil and gas industry constitutes 52 percent of Russia's state revenue. Perhaps it is no coincidence, then, that Russia announced in early 2015 it would cut capacity at two of its 12 World Cup stadiums, citing financial concerns and a looming recession.

On Dec. 2, 2010, in an unprecedented dual announcement, FIFA unveiled the host cities for both the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. Almost immediately, rumors swirled that Russia and Qatar had bought their winning bids. A few witnesses over the ensuing years alleged they saw the corruption firsthand. Three of them spoke with E:60.

A former member of Qatar's World Cup media team, Almajid accused Qatari officials in 2011 of attempting to bribe FIFA officials to secure World Cup bids. Almajid was present for a 2010 meeting in Angola for the African Confederations Congress, which is when Qatar became a contender for the World Cup bid.

"That's when other bidding teams should have started taking Qatar seriously. [In Angola] I witnessed the Qatari team offering to different [executive committee] members money in exchange for their vote. I was there in the room; $1.5 million per vote to three different members. They didn't take much convincing, let's put it that way. It was quite a simple transaction. ... I started laughing during one of the meetings because I became so incredibly nervous. I mean, I never witnessed something like that before. I think that what shocked me the most was the simplicity of the deal ... the brazenness."

Sunday Times of London journalists Calvert and Heidi Blake went undercover in 2010 to expose FIFA corruption, posing as consultants working on behalf of U.S. interests.

"Michel Zen-Ruffinen [ex-FIFA general secretary] was talking about all the different members. He was talking about one you could buy with the ladies. ... And none of this was about making a reasonable case to them as to, 'You've got the best [country] to hold a football tournament.' There wasn't a person we were talking to that said, 'Actually, you know, this is just not right.' Everybody seemed to be saying the same thing, that this was a very corrupt process.

"It told us that the culture as presided over by Sepp Blatter ... they turned a blind [eye] to all this nefarious activity that was going on."

"There was an extraordinary claim about Vladimir Putin's involvement in the Russia 2018 bid. There had been a raid on Russia's state art reserves from the vaults of the State Hermitage Museum and the Kremlin archives. And from that, one of the voters, Michel Platini, the UEFA president and the French voter, had allegedly been given a Picasso by a man called Viacheslav Koloskov -- he was working for the Russia 2018 bid -- in exchange for his vote. Another voter, Michel D'Hooghe from Belgium, had been given a landscape painting ... and that had been a very valuable painting given in exchange for his support.

"Now, Michel Platini categorically denies that he was given any such painting. But Michel D'Hooghe has actually acknowledged that he did receive a landscape painting from Koloskov, which he says was ugly, and he doesn't like it, and didn't want it, and it was of no value."


The money that two of FIFA's 24 executive committee members, Amos Adamu of Nigeria and Reynald Tamarii of Oceania, said it would cost to buy each of their World Cup votes, according to The Times of London.

News flash: Freedom in Russia, not a priority. The controversial 2013 law that seeks to imprison those who distribute gay "propaganda" is strongly opposed by only 7 percent of Russians. Meanwhile, shortly after Qatar won the 2022 World Cup bid, human rights organizations began to file complaints of appalling conditions for the mostly migrant population tasked with building Qatar's 12 World Cup stadiums.


Estimated number of workers who died working on World Cup projects between 2010 and March 2014.

Estimated number of workers who will die between now and the beginning of the 2022 World Cup.

Number of months some have waited for their daily wages of $9.50 to be paid, effectively making Qatar a slave state.

Number of workers assigned to live and sleep in one room in some places.

Number of Western journalists arrested by the Qatari government while reporting on these affairs.

Foreign laborers work at the construction site of one of Qatar's new World Cup stadiums.

Five corporations that sponsored the 2014 World Cup will not do so in 2018 or beyond. Castrol, Continental Tire, Emirates, Johnson & Johnson and Sony each made vague statements about the host nations' troubling politics. Like what? Russia's 2014 annexation of Crimea, a Ukrainian territory, which prompted steep sanctions from the European Union and the United States, ranging from travel bans and oil embargoes to asset freezes, that have kept the Russian economy in a tailspin.

Qatar is more shrewd in its diplomatic machinations. It hosts two American air bases and one Army base and also purchased $11 billion in U.S. weaponry in 2014. Meanwhile, in Doha, the nation's capital, the government has quite openly hosted fundraisers for internationally recognized terrorist organizations like Hamas and the Nusra Front, the splinter group of al-Qaida.


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