FIFA’s exuberance that went too farIn the heart of midtown Manhattan with high-end boutiques and department stores, the 58-story luxury apartment building is hard to miss. Trump Tower was developed and is owned by Donald Trump, real estate tycoon and Republican presidential candidate. Recently, the building was mentioned in the news about the extravagant lifestyle of former FIFA vice president Chuck Blazer. He reportedly rented a $6,000-per-month unit just for his cats. He paid the rent with dark money.
As the U.S. authorities investigate FIFA executives on corruption charges involving over $150 million in bribes, FIFA is criticized for operating like the Mafia. Former FIFA head Sepp Blatter has been called “Don Blatterone,” after the character in “The Godfather,” Don Corleone.
In fact, FIFA and a Mafia family operate similarly. A Mafia boss would contract out illegal business rights such as drug dealing to mid-level bosses and get a kickback in return. At FIFA, the president tacitly approved the corruption of executives in return for unconditional loyalty. Incumbent FIFA executives pocketed $10 million each when selecting the World Cup host country. They sold World Cup match tickets to scalpers. They also don’t speak up about the internal situation, a custom similar to omerta, the Mafia’s code of silence.
However, at a Senate subcommittee hearing on the FIFA bribery scandal, Senator Richard Blumenthal said that comparing FIFA to the Mafia is “almost insulting to the Mafia because the Mafia would never have been so blatant, overt and arrogant in its corruption.” The Mafia may be engaged in drug dealing and usury, but they are not as incompetent as FIFA. In fact, the Mafia displays outstanding business skills, and there have been books analyzing and praising their organizational talents.
The former Korean lawmaker Chung Mong-joon is to announce in Europe his bid for the FIFA presidency, promising executive reform because “fish rot from the head.” Prince Ali bin Hussein of Jordan and two former soccer players, France’s Michel Platini and Brazil’s Zico, are also running for the FIFA presidency. On July 30, Argentina’s Diego Maradona also joined the race, pledging that he would fight the “Mafia” in FIFA.
Chung had been sidelined in FIFA for criticizing unreasonable accounting practices and decision-making processes. His reformist image is likely to benefit his chances. With Ban Ki-moon as the secretary general of the United Nations and Jim Yong Kim as the president of the World Bank, Chung’s bid for FIFA leadership is a chance to elevate Korea’s national reputation, and he deserves support from the nation.
The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
JoongAng Ilbo, Aug. 3, Page 31
by NAM JEONG-HO