Monday, June 22, 2015

Buying a Nobel Peace Prize?

Let's go back together in the not so recent past where we experienced several very visceral incidents of blatant racism in The Game. One of the most memorable was regarding Dani Alves who had a brilliant response to having bananas thrown at him. You can see the article describing the whole matter here from CNN and here in Instagram.

FIFA frankly has a horrible record of doing something about this issue inside the field. Recall in 2011 where Sepp had stated that racism could be solved "with a handshake." While I agree with his critics that he is woefully out of touch on the issue and how serious and widespread it is, I also have to give him some credit for the idea.

It is a lesson Jr. and I were talking about just the other day when he came off the field angry at an opponent. I told him to let it go when you leave the pitch ... outside of that rectangle (please note Law 1 requires the field to be a rectangle, not square) it does not matter.

This is actually an ethos I live by in my soccer life. While it can be argued that I am narrow minded to think that by crossing the outside boundary of the field the world changes back to normal, it is a construct I have used for decades now to hold to the fact that The Game is a subset of life, not the other way around.

FIFA has done some excellent, good, bad, dumb, and really dumb things in an effort to try to stop these disgusting practices. While I will not go into them, examples are legion of the full spectrum of efforts. There are a couple that stand out though.

One such notable effort was the appointment of a FIFA EXCO member specifically tasked to combat racism. An excellent Executive level position to give the issue prominence. Jeffery Webb was appointed and gave a good speech in front of the 2013 FIFA congress. However he was recently indicted and dismissed from his positions.

Another effort is "racism monitors" throughout international matches and notably for the 2018 World Cup in Russia. Even those however may not be up to the task as we have also seen recently. Now we have the "independent" group Kick It Out that seems to be gaining prominence in UEFA and is tenuously connected to FIFA, but my jury is still out on those guys while the goal is spot on some of the methods are a bit scary (e.g. calling for a referee to never work again who chose not to report an incident that he did not believe was racism or downloading an app from iTunes (here) to report such incidents).

As a final example, and a further note on Sepp's hubris, is the "handshake for peace" program that honestly really first caught my eye at the WWC. Again from above, a great concept albeit a bit too contrived from my taste, but with the backing of the Nobel Peace Center no less to give it gravitas. 

Only one catch, FIFA has been paying for the privilege (almost $1.3M per year since 2013) and it has been reported this is a crushing blow to Sepp personally as he saw himself as a Nobel Peace Prize laureate. While it was well understood that Sepp's ego knew no bounds, I was unaware that one could "grease" the Nobel Committee with a paltry $1.2M/year. I would have thought that the Nobel Peace Center would choose a cause an organization like this, as fundamentally it would seem to be a worthy cause for such a group.

Ah when will I learn.


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