Tag Archives: FIFA

Politics also plays in the African Cup of Nations

By Francisco Centauro of Grada Roja

There are two faces to this beast; on the one hand the clamor that represents a continental tournament organized by FIFA, which brings together different countries in Africa to share the values that football transmits. On the other hand, also visible are the many factors that have led to the social and economic decline of the whole continent. In the 19th and 20th Centuries it was the shared experience of the imperialist yoke that gave the African nations the by-product of a fighting heritage. Now FIFA and those in political power in Africa try to provide cover for the continuing poverty and inequality of the continent with showcase tournaments. Nothing to see here, move along please…

The host country for the 2017 edition of the CAF Africa Cup of Nations is Gabon. Similar to Brazil at the last World Cup, a large percentage of the population of Gabon lives in dire poverty. The dissatisfaction at the amount of money invested in organizing the tournament permeates the population and has manifested itself in widespread discontent and protest on the streets.

The riots in Gabon commenced in the aftermath of the re-election of Ali Bongo of the Gabonese Democratic Party (PDG) whose victory is widely considered to be corrupt and fraudulent. Gabonese opposition candidate Jan Ping leads the protests and the social upheaval is ongoing, in spite of the African Nations Cup tournament. The capital Libreville, is the epicenter of both the sporting event and popular discontent. But the Cup must continue because the economic interests of the organizers in this era of commercialised soccer are a priority – they have match timetables to fill and profits to make, because ‘time is money’.

The first game of the Cup, on January 14, saw host Gabon play Guinea Bissau. Inside the stadium the encounter takes place with a certain normality, contrary to the scenes on the outside, where the population is immersed in episodes of violence, culminating in the protesters setting fire to the National Assembly as a sign of their discontent. Revolts, riots and mass arrests are the reality of the African Cup of Nations that is not reported by the mainstream media. It is obvious that, as in Brazil, the interests pursued by the government, the African Confederation and FIFA, is considered to be more important than responding to the demands of the protesters. No matter that public resources have been diverted to fund a lavish opening ceremony, the basic needs of the population can wait, because it is the priority of those in charge to show the world that Gabon is up to the task of organizing an event of this type. Most likely, after the tournament, stadiums will become abandoned properties, due to the inability of the government to finance their maintenance. Just look back and observe the countries that have hosted a tournament of similar character in other continents. In Brazil, those stadiums that were built after long days of exploitation and brutal effort for the workers, now lie abandoned. They remain as the silent witnesses of the socioeconomic consequences of being a World Cup host, Gabon will be no exception to this rule.

Looking beyond the facade of this tournament, it is important to celebrate the tradition of resistance that is demonstrated by the protests on the streets of Gabon. These protests recall the examples of struggle that led to the national liberation of several African countries, as well as the heroic characters who fought colonialism and achieved independence for their nations. Today these achievements are overshadowed by interventionism and betrayal.

So we remember Thomas Sankara and his legacy in the liberation of Burkina Faso, President Nasser’s Egypt, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the revolution of Patrice Lumumba. The many liberation struggles in southern and central Africa that saw the colonialists overthrown. And, of course, the Algerians as authentic warriors both on the pitch and on the barricades of the National Liberation Front. The revolution in Africa continues because, as has been proven by experience, national liberation in and of itself does not automatically lead to social liberation and freedom from poverty. Football and Politics remain intertwined and reflect the social context of the time and we will continue to report the political as well as the sporting.

This article first appeared in Spanish on the Grada Roja website.

Translated & Edited by Talman, with thanks to F.C. and Grada Roja

The Olympic Legacy: Sporting Leg-Ends, Spivs & Gentrification

AllInItTogether

By Phil Thornton

Well, the circus has packed up for another 4 years. Maybe it was fitting that West Ham’s first league home game at their new ‘Olympic’ stadium (bought and paid for by the ‘Great British Public’ TM) came as a reminder of all those ‘legacy’ promises that were spun in order to justify the obscene costs of the London 2012 Games.

“Legacy” – it’s one of the words of the new millennium. Everyone’s after a legacy from political failures like Tony Blair and Barak Obama to global institutions like FIFA and the World Bank.

When the much lauded opening ceremony for London 2012 was taking place, I was sat in a tapas bar on the Costa del Sol watching it with the sound turned off. Now praised as some kind of glorious reimagining of British cultural, scientific and social triumphs , all I saw was a surreal, Lionel Bart-esque imperialist wet dream. The Queen! With James Bond!! How very er, British!

Underneath all the showbiz however was the familiar story of land grabbing, social engineering, corporate greed and political sophistry. I was also reading Iain Sinclair’s ‘Ghost Milk’ at the time which put all the 2012 hype into its true historical context. Here’s Sinclair writing in 2008, four years before the London games began about what was already happening to that much romanticised area of the East End where the Hammers now plough their trade.

StratfordWestfieldTo question all this at the time or even now is to be branded a ‘naysayer’, a ‘cynic’, a ‘Doing Britain Down-er’ and anyone that opposes such magnificent projects is an enemy of ‘progress’ but what kind of progress is it, if progress at all? These vast theme parks, like the Millennium Dome before it, sold on similar promises, soon become nothing more than corporate entertainment centres with terrible transport systems and windswept concourses.

Soccer - West Ham United Takeover - Upton ParkWest Ham owners, David Gold and David Sullivan won’t be moaning however. They now have a buck shee super-stadium and won’t even have to stump up the running costs for most of it. This places them at a considerable financial advantage to other clubs both in London and elsewhere who have to spend large parts of their revenues on stadium costs.

What’s the betting that Gold and Sullivan end up selling large chunks of the Irons off to ‘investors’ keen to take a punt on a project that’s too big to fail. Where is the legacy in all this for those kids living in the shadow of the new stadium, or those businesses now left without a customer base in Green Street?

Just as Manchester City’s move from Maine Road to Eastlands left an already impoverished area, Moss Side, even more bereft, so West Ham’s move will have a lasting legacy on the population of E13. Yet at least City pay £4 million a year in rent to use the former Commonwealth Games stadium plus all overheads. West Ham’s deal not only upset other clubs, notably Spurs and Orient who had their eyes on the ground but also may fall foul of European ‘state aid’ laws, y’know those pesky ‘level playing field’ rules those Brussels types were always imposing on us.

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Legacy doesn’t always work out in the way those who seek it planned. Blair was looking around for a legacy and thought he’d found one with Iraq. That backfired but hey, he’s still milking that cash cow for all it’s worth, so what’s a legacy worth these days? Obama thought he’d found one with Health Care but, that piece of ‘communism’ is still twitching in the morgue and The First Black President presides over a nation whose law enforcement and judiciary kills and incarcerates its black population in frighteningly disproportionate numbers. No you can’t mate!

The word legacy actually means “an amount of money or property left to someone in a will.” It’s not about some demagogue associating themselves with a piece of legislation or a bloody conflict, it’s not about creaming off contracts or gifting a stadium to a bunch of millionaire businessmen. If it wasn’t yours in the first place, how can you pass it on?

Abstract legacies will no doubt justify Team GB’s record medal haul at Rio 2016. They were ‘inspired’ by the successes of 2012, and maybe some were, and maybe money talks and bullshit walks, and maybe asking what it’s all about anyway, is just being a joyless loser. Keep those flags flying, keep those medals and honours coming, keep the myth intact; ‘we’re all in it together’ folks.

FIFA CORRUPTION: The Strange Case of Belize v Mexico

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By Grada Roja  (translated by DanRed)

Corruption, fraud, bribery, politics – are we talking about a criminal organisation ? Yes, and this organisation is called FIFA, designed deliberately around a ‘capo’, an all powerful leader, whose power and influence reaches more sovereign nations than even the UN (FIFA has 209 members worldwide, the UN 193). And within CONCACAF, the FIFA Federation for North America, Central America, & the Caribbean Islands, there are relevant cases that should not be overlooked.

One of the jobs for FIFA representatives is organising fixtures, taking into account various factors including marketing, calendar commitments, the guidance of local federations, and the overall command of Big Brother FIFA. With this in mind, let’s look at the World Cup qualifying fixture between Mexico and Belize in 2008 – on the face of it, a straightforward qualification event for South Africa 2010.

Mexico and Belize are not on an equal footing. Mexico has much more political and economic power, and much wealthier sponsors than Belize – on and off the field, it’s a case of professionals vs amateurs. FIFA gave Belize membership in 1986, eventhough it could not pass the statutory entrance requirements, particularly regarding stadiums. So the World Cup qualifier between Belize and Mexico, officially a home tie for Belize, was held in Houston, Texas – a city with a 22% Mexican population according to a 2009 census.

How did this affect the game? Palmiro Salas, Technical Director of Belize, said this –

“Honestly, I am very upset with the President of the Football Federation of Belize (Bertie Chimilio) because I think it’s true, the home team has a psychological and motivational advantage, but the Federation, swayed by the money, forgot about the sport.”

There’s the answer – the benefit is psychological and consequently athletic. Mexico won 2-0. Lone Star Sports generated huge profits from the game, selling 18,000 tickets on only the first day of sales, according to their own reports. In the end, patriotism and chauvinism drove ticket sales, and regardless of the cost, fans could feel more Mexican for 105 minutes, closer to their roots, according to sociological analysis. And the games between Mexico and the United States raised even more money – all good news for mercenary football.

Mexico won the second leg 7-0, 9-0 on aggregate. An alternative venue could have been found for the Belize home tie, but hey, where would be the profit in that? Fans had discussed the possibility of playing in Guatemala, but current ongoing territorial disputes between the two governments that have reached the International Court of Justice in The Hague ruled that out.

The current exposure of FIFA corruption is nothing new – for regional federations, sport has long been secondary to money, and filling the coffers was more important than Belize’s Cinderella dreams of World Cup participation.

FIFA – for the good of the game? We’ll need some convincing.