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Players

Any breaking story involving scandal among the powerful inevitably entails other recognizable names, either as victim, confederate or kibitzer.  Headlines in the last few days have been dominated by the arrest of top ranking members of FIFA, an acronym for a sports association that stands for the Fédération Internationale de Football Association.  It controls the revenues which flow out of soccer football and has known cash reserves of $1.4 billion dollars, which -- or so investigators allege -- represent only a fraction of the actual moneys that the association deals with.

It's president, Swiss German "Sepp" Blatter, is so powerful that he is described in the press as a de facto head of state, a sort of president or prime minister. "Politicians, star players, national soccer officials and global corporations that want their brands attached to the sport have long genuflected before him."  One can get some sense of the FIFA presidency's scale by noting that an actual Middle Eastern prince,  Ali bin Hussein of Jordan, is running against Blatter as an underdog.

It is therefore not surprising that another royal name should appear in conection with FIFA: the House of Clinton.  The Washington Post reported that "in November 2010, former president Bill Clinton and then-Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. traveled to Zurich to lobby soccer’s world governing body in support of the U.S. bid to host the 2022 World Cup."

The Americans were not successful. Instead, Qatar — a small, wealthy emirate on the Persian Gulf — became the first Arab country to be awarded the event. Almost immediately, the decision to place a summer soccer tournament in a country where daytime temperatures in those months often exceed 120 degrees drew fierce criticism — and deep suspicion.

Even before Clinton and Holder had left Switzerland, there “was a lot of talk that the decision had been bought,” said a person with knowledge of the private conversations among U.S. officials in Switzerland.

"Lobbying" is a term of art for a rather more less glamorous sort of interaction whose nature is best described by Morocco's similarly failed attempt to "lobby" FIFA for the right to host the World Cup. "In 2004, FIFA’s leadership gathered to consider bids from countries that wanted to host the 2010 World Cup. Among the hopefuls were Morocco, Egypt and South Africa."

In the battle to win the 2010 World Cup, more than one country was wrangling for Warner’s favor.

Months before the May 2004 vote on the venue, a representative from Morocco offered Warner $1 million in exchange for his vote, prosecutors said. South Africa countered: High-ranking officials at FIFA, the South African government and the South African bid committee had arranged for a $10 million payment from the government to the Caribbean Football Union, Warner’s home base of support, to “support the African Diaspora,” the indictment says.

The gratuity was delivered to a Paris hotel room in a suitcase stacked with bundles each of which contained $10,000. The psychological power of such cash piles should not be underestimated.  It exceeds the presentation of an equivalent amount printed on a bank deposit slip by a considerable margin. Ten million dollars in hundreds weighs over 220 pounds and has a perceptible effect on people who will do anything for money. The dramatic impact of such a sight is typically depicted in movies by a close up of the actor's face lit from beneath by the gleam of gold and jewels, while his mouth hangs slackly open in frank astonishment and greed.

If Bill Clinton and Eric Holder thought they could lobby FIFA with a little backslapping and some autographed coffee mugs they were sadly mistaken. But if that's all they lost they'd be lucky. In Australia a Senator is seeking an investigation into the similarly unsuccessful $40 million effort to lobby FIFA for the 2022 World Cup.

Australia was “treated like a mug” over the host selection process for the 2022 World Cup which saw the prestigious tournament awarded to Qatar, independent senator Nick Xenophon has claimed.

In the wake of sensational corruption charges against nine former or current Fifa officials and four marketing executives on Wednesday, Xenophon said it was time for “Australia to get a refund of the $40m plus it spent on its failed bid”.

Of particular interest to Australian authorities are reports that the Football Federation Australia (FFA) "deposited $US462,200 into a Caribbean bank account controlled by" a high FIFA official. Charges, should they be preferred, should include stupidity that anyone should believe that so paltry a sum could have any effect on the deliberations of the world's premier soccer organization.

But it gets better. The Daily Mail reports that the "Clinton Foundation took at least $1,250,000 from Qatar and World Cup committee embroiled in soccer bribery scandal - and up to $100,000 from FIFA itself".

The fast-moving FIFA bribery scandal now has a Clinton connection, after news that the nation of Qatar and its 2022 World Cup organizing committee - and even FIFA itself - donated between $1.3 million and $5.55 million to the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation.

The scandal-hit football world authority is listed by the foundation as having handed over at least $50,001 and as much as $100,000 to the Clinton's controversial organization in a direct cash injection at some point before 2014.

There were also far larger donations from the Qatari committee which won the Middle Eastern nation its position as host of the 2022 World Cup, and Qatar's government.

The committee is listed on the foundation's website as having donated between $250,001 and $500,000, while the government of Qatar gave at least $1,000,000 and potentially as much as $5,000,000.

What the connection is, who can say?  Maybe it's just coincidence. The drama is still unfolding, Sepp Blatter is moving heaven and earth to remain in office -- with the support of Vladimir Putin --- who probably wants to avoid the inconvenience of rebidding the awards to Qatar and Moscow.

But the the story so far provides an interesting glimpse into the world of quasi sovereign organizations, a universe where high personages from FIFA, the International Olympic Committee, the UN, the Clinton Foundation  and other "NGOs" tread the corridors of power able to enter and exit exalted scenes with an ease that is fascinating to behold. In these alleyways the great are always bumping into each other -- in the Caymans, Switzerland, or on islands in the Caribbean --  and so the same names recur. It is not altogether unfitting that FIFA's nemesis should originate from New York.

the case itself arrived at the Justice Department as something of a surprise. The four-year F.B.I. investigation grew out of an unrelated inquiry into aspects of Russian organized crime by the Eurasian Joint Organized Crime Task Force in the F.B.I.’s New York office, according to people with knowledge of the case’s origins. Authorities soon realized the potential scope of an investigation into the sporting world’s most powerful, secretive organization.

“Once we really began to peel back the layers of the investigation,” it became clear that corruption had been rampant for years, Ms. Lynch, who was the top federal prosecutor in Brooklyn at the time, recalled in a telephone interview. “We always knew it was going to be a very large case.”

Those who think Hillary couldn't possibly be elected forget how persuasive a queen -- and how abject a population of serfs -- can be.   In FIFA, the UN, IOC and possiby Tammany hall, all that counts is if you're a solid man.

Who's on first? Or is the right metaphor GooOOAL!!? If you have to ask, maybe you don't belong.  We dopes are just supposed to watch the game, chuckle at the laff lines and pass the Doritos. I only hope we have enough beer.


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