I Don’t Understand Fútbol

footballLike most North Americans, I watch fútbol (soccer) every four years.  I go World Cup crazy like everybody else on this planet, but when it’s over, I go back to regular sports … mostly football (football) and hockey.  It’s not that I don’t like fútbol; I do.   As a spectator sport, it’s got it all.  The joy of victory, the agony of defeat, sweat, testosterone, talented young men doing incredible things with their balls, wives and girlfriends so hot they could resurrect the libido of a dead man, and, of course, billionaire owners, buying and selling players like it’s a Zanzibar auction.  Which brings us to the reason I’m even talking about fútbol in the dead air of August.

It’s all very complicated, but here’s the decaf version.

There’s a player called Neymar (apparently, really good fútbol players are only allowed one name — i.e. Ronaldo, Messi, etc.) who’s changing teams — from Barcelona to Paris St-Germain.  No big deal, right?  Except this involves buying out his contract.  And get this!  His contract is worth 222 million Euros (263 million dollars!)  WTF!  That’s more than the entire payroll of the New York Yankees — the winningest franchise in sports history.  It’s more than the national debt of Haiti.  It’s unbelievable!  Hell, there’s probably a lab in China where you could have an entire team biologically built — from scratch — for that price.  I’m not kidding!  Not only that, but once he gets to Paris St-Germain (PSG) they’re going to pay him 40 million Euros a year to play.  That’s over €100,000 a day — every day — including Christmas.  Double WTF!  But — for serious grins — when the lawyers showed up with a suitcase full of money to purchase Neymar’s services, the Spanish League initially wouldn’t accept it.  They said it violated Uefa’s Financial Fair Play rules.  Financial Fair Play?  Guys, the cash in this contract could feed every man, woman and child in Mali for a year or more.  Financial fair play has nothing to do with it.  Besides, think about it.  Uefa’s governing body is FIFA; these are the boys who could give shyster lessons to the Russian Mafia.  Trust me!  They wouldn’t know fair play if it bit them on the bum.

Actually, I have nothing against anybody making as much money as possible from their talents.  So, despite the fact I think it’s obscene, if PSG wants to pay 40 million Euros for a kid to kick a ball every once in a while, I have no objections.  Good on ya, Neymar!  The reason I don’t watch fútbol is I simply don’t understand how it works.  I can’t follow all the different leagues, all the different teams and all the different games.  I never know who’s doing what with whom or why.  So, I wait — and every four years, when people start waving flags I recognize, I cheer — ’cause that’s what I understand — like most people in North America.

America 1 – FIFA 0

FIFALast week, FIFA learned there’s really only one rule in the 21st century: don’t piss off the Americans.  The world’s #1 bully is about to meet The Expendables, and as the man said, “There will be blood.”  At this point the situation is beyond complicated, so here’s the Twitter version.

It’s common knowledge that FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) is one of the most corrupt organizations on the planet, rivalled only by the IOC and the Communist Party of China.  And they’re arrogant about it.  Their attitude has always been: “We’re FIFA.  If you don’t like the way we do business, too bad.  Go play badminton.”  It’s a simple choice, so for decades the world has played futbol by FIFA’s rules, handed over those hefty brown envelopes and shut up about it.  Even the Macho Man himself, Vladimir Putin, had to do some serious sucking up when Sepp Blatter and his boys came calling.  In a nutshell, FIFA is to sports what Al Capone was to liquor distribution.

Enter the Americans, who decided in 2010 they’d like to host The World Cup again in 2022.  Their main rival was Qatar.  For those of you who are unfamiliar, America is a place with enough sports facilities and infrastructure to host an Interplanetary Quidditch Tournament next Wednesday, if they so desired.  Qatar, on the other hand, is a roasted bit of desert.  Fortunately for the Qataris though, their country is oil-rich as Croesus and located  in an area of the world where baksheesh, a polite word for the hidden cost of doing business (bribery) is as common as sand castles.  FIFA fell in love; Qatar won the bid.  America called “Bullshit!”  It didn’t matter, though, because — why? — FIFA, that’s why.  So America picked up its balls, went home and quietly unleashed the FBI.

Five years later, the American legal system is kicking down FIFA doors, seizing FIFA records and papering FIFA walls with arrests and indictments.  What goes around, comes around, Herr Blatter.

The incredible irony is America doesn’t give a rat’s ass for futbol.  They think it’s a game played in the suburbs by soccer moms in minivans.  Football — real football — is played by gigantic men in armour and doesn’t involve that much contact between the foot and the ball.  Which brings us to the real reason America is about to slap the crap out of FIFA — somebody’s got to do it and no other country has the cojones.

Here’s the deal: everybody on this planet knows FIFA is as crooked as a dog’s hind leg.  However, FIFA also controlsFIFA1 billions in advertising and merchandising revenue.  No country in their right mind is going to put that kind of coin in jeopardy over a few measly millions in bribe money.  D’uh!  However, if the Americans want to get all Rambo about it — it’s easy to look the other way.  Besides, if FIFA gets taken down a peg or two, so much the better.  It’s a classic case of “Let’s you and him fight.”

And this fight is going to be biblical.  FIFA’s been pushing people around for so long they’re really, really good at it.  Meanwhile, America, like The Expendables, is showing its years.  However, at the end of the day, Stallone, Stratham and the bros can still put the smackdown on anybody who gets in the way.  So, FIFA is going to clean up its act because — why? — America, that’s why!