FIFA can go to hell, as far as many Canadians are concerned
Many people in this country are outraged that the world's governing body for soccer, FIFA, is investigating comments made by Canadian soccer players following a heartbreaking loss to the Americans on August 6.
Canada's captain, Christine Sinclair, put it this way: "It’s a shame in a game like that that was so important, the ref decided the result before it started."
This came after the Norwegian referee called for a U.S. penalty kick after a Canadian handball occured during a free kick. That kick was awarded after the Canadian goalkeeper allegedly held the ball for too many seconds. This is something that is very rarely punished.
The penalty kick led to a chain of events allowing the Americans to win 4-3 in extra time, depriving Canada of a shot at the Olympic gold medal.
It's easy for Canadians to feel skeptical about FIFA because one of the country's top journalists, Declan Hill, has already exposed how matches have been fixed over the years.
His international bestseller The Fix: Soccer and Organized Crime (McClelland & Stewart, 2008), demonstrated how corruption thrives in international soccer because many players from poverty-stricken countries and officials are so poorly paid.
This makes them susceptible to the influence of gamblers.
On August 7, Hill wrote a post on his blog stating that he tries "to never make remarks about possible corruption in matches I simply watch". Ever so reasonably, he noted that it's a "pretty thankless task" to be a referee, and everyone makes mistakes.
However, in an earlier post dated July 24, Hill flatly declared that the soccer fixers would be at the London Games.
"We know they have been at every major international soccer tournament (with the exception of the Euros) in the last twenty years: under-17, under-20, Women’s World Cup, Men’s World Cup and the Olympics," Hill stated. "We know this because not only did I interview the fixers but also numerous coaches, players and sports officials who confirmed seeing the fixers at the events. What we do not know is if they will succeed at fixing any games."
Hill did not make this claim in advance of the recent European championships because he has credited European football officials for attacking corruption.
However, he has remained extremely critical of FIFA. He even penned a letter, called "J'accuse FIFA", to accompany the 2010 distribution of the paperback version of his book.
"The sad truth is that match-fixers will be at the World Cup in South Africa," Hill wrote."They will be there because there has been no effective action on the part of FIFA to clean up this problem."
His recommendations included having FIFA pay players directly, including offering incentive bonuses for victories. And he argued that these funds should go directly into the players' bank accounts so they couldn't be siphoned off by officials.
"FIFA has not established what is standard practice in every North American sport, and increasingly other international sports like ATP tennis and cricket, an integrity unit staffed with ex-policemen and gambling experts," Hill wrote back in 2010. "In September 2008, after the publication of The Fix, Michel Platini the president of the UEFA, established such an integrity unit for European football. It was instrumental in uncovering a wide network of fixers working in 9 different European countries. Why hasn't FIFA implemented a similar team?"
FIFA has a code of ethics, with sanctions imposed by an ethics committee.
Now, there's an investigation into comments made by Sinclair.
This is the backdrop to what has unfolded over the past few days in London. In light of this, it's no wonder that the Canadian players, led by their captain, spoke so bluntly about the integrity of the game they love.
And it shouldn't come as a surprise if FIFA decides to punish them after the Games to teach them a lesson.