It was the 79th minute of one of the most memorable Champion’s League games in recent history.
Barcelona was up 1-0 against German-powerhouse Bayern Munich, when Lionel Messi—hands down the world’s best soccer player—received a pass just outside the edge of the box.
The Barcelona striker controlled the ball with a couple of quick touches from his left-foot, and then did something that no one—let alone Bayern Munich defender Jerome Boateng—expected. With gazelle-like grace Messi cut the ball across the body of the unsuspecting defender, who became so disoriented by his opponent’s footwork that he plunged to the ground like a sack of potatoes.
With the defender out of his way, the small Argentine had only one more obstacle to beat.
Manuel Neuer—the world’s best goalkeeper—ran towards him. The Argentine was unimpressed. Like a ruthless assassin, he dispatched the keeper with his weapon of choice—a right-footed chip that floated into the back of the net and into the collective memories of soccer-lovers across the globe.
Viewers in the stadium and at home lost their minds, and soccer-lovers across the globe were reminded once again why the sport is known as the beautiful game.
Fast-forward a couple of weeks, and it seems like the world is done talking about the beauty of soccer.
The focus has shifted away from the pitch and into the back-offices of FIFA—the sport’s governing body.
The reasons are well known by now. This week, seven top FIFA officials were arrested in a luxurious Swiss hotel, accused by US Attorney General Loretta Lynch of racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering.
The officials—most hailing from soccer federations in the Americas—are accused of receiving kickbacks from sports marketing companies, who paid bribes in order to secure television distribution rights to continental soccer tournaments.
“The indictment alleges corruption that is rampant, systemic, and deep-rooted,” said Lynch about her investigation.
Along with the American investigation, FIFA is also being investigated by the Swiss judicial system, after allegations were made that officials were bribed by organizers to select Russia and Qatar as hosts of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups respectively.
To add insult to injury, Italian newspaper Corriere dello Sport ran a scathing article this morning that accuses FIFA of rigging games during the 2002 World Cup, which was jointly organized by South Korea and Japan.
Although none of this has been proven in court, the famous Italian paper is claiming that referees appointed by FIFA helped secure victories for South Korea throughout the tournament, leading the Asian nation to an unprecedented—and completely unexpected—fourth place.
In the wake of all of this, delegates from the 209 members that make up FIFA voted today to reelect Switzerland’s Joseph Blatter—FIFA’s long-standing president—to a fifth consecutive term.
In an election held this morning, Blatter defeated Prince Ali bin Al Hussein of Jordan by a margin of 60 votes, providing a blow to the millions of soccer fans worldwide who wanted to see change come to the game they love.
The Swiss—who said he isn’t responsible for the actions of some of his top officials—is now promising to clean up FIFA, but suspects that he may need a bit of extra help to do so.
"I was thinking, it was in meditation. I am a faithful man, God, Allah or whatever it is, the spirit in the vote, they will help us bring back FIFA to where it should be,” Blatter said after winning this morning’s election.
Blatter might be onto something, as divine intervention might be necessary to save FIFA’s image.
And that divine intervention may come in the form of the Gods and Goddesses that make up the pantheon of soccer idols.
I open YouTube and type Messi into the search bar. There are thousands of videos but I scroll down to the one with Messi’s goal against Bayern Munich, and I watch it over and over again.
And then, because now I’m in that kind of mood and because the Women’s World Cup is coming to Canada, I watch some goals by Canadian superstar Christine Sinclair.
And all I can think now is that no one could ever ruin soccer for me.
But fuck you, FIFA, for trying.