‘It is an institution that … has taken on a social, cultural, political and sporting dimension in the struggle to educate children and defeat poverty. At the same time it has also become a powerful economic phenomenon…’ You might be mistaken for thinking that this is a description of an organisation such as UNICEF but this has, in fact, been taken from an article by Sepp Blatter, the president of FIFA, which can be found on their website. That’s FIFA the football organisation – just in case you needed reminding. It seems that nowadays it not only looks after issues concerning world football but the world itself.
Delusions of grandeur are nothing new when it comes to those running, as opposed to playing, the game but FIFA has taken it to a new level. Peace in the Middle East? Yes, simply organise a game in Ramallah between Palestine and Jordan. Sorted. Natural disasters? No problem, let’s call up some players and play a match. AIDS, world hunger, child labour, gender issues, you name it and FIFA have supported it, raising awareness at every turn. They have also raised some money in the process, quite a lot of money in fact.
FIFA, or Fédération Internationale de Football Association to give it its full title was formed in 1904 in Paris – hence the name – and its first involvement in a football tournament was the Olympics of 1908 in London. It went on to organise the first ever World Cup in 1930 which took place in Uruguay and of course it has been involved ever since. Though not the only tournament under its umbrage, the World Cup is without doubt its most important – all 208 members take part every four years to see if they can be one of the 32 countries that participate in the World Cup finals. As well as running all other versions of the World Cup – women’s underage, beach, futsal among others – FIFA also look after the rules of the game. I say look after but there are times when you have to wonder what is going on in Zurich, the home of FIFA.
Back to money. In 2008 FIFA made a profit of 135 million Euros – not bad for any organisation in the current economic climate but this figure was only part of a four-year plan that will culminate with the 2010 World Cup finals in South Africa, a tournament in which FIFA representatives have claimed raises more than 95% of its finances. It makes you wonder what Blatter meant when he described football as ‘… life, nothing more, nothing less, and all the more precious for it.’
an institution: organisation
UNICEF: United Nations Children’s Fund
Delusions of grandeur: Feelings that you are bigger, better and stronger than they really are
umbrage: Its protection
culminate: End of a plan