Words of Wilson: FIFA needs to act more selectively when choosing hosts


The Confederations Cup, an international men’s soccer tournament involving such powerhouses as Spain and Italy as well as lesser teams such as Tahiti, ended Sunday.  

But what became a more interesting aspect of the event were the protests and their intersection with the action on the field. 

The past two weeks were meant to serve as a sort of trial run for the bigger competitions that Brazil will host in the coming years — the World Cup next summer and the Summer Olympics in 2016. If the civilian attitudes during this much smaller tournament are any indication, Brazil has the makings of an explosive uprising on its hands.

Millions hit the streets of Brazil’s major cities before the tournament’s first game June 13 to protest a rise in the cost of public transportation fares, a decision some municipal governments have since changed.

The demonstrations then became broader in focus, turning attention to the abysmal quality of public services such as education, health care and the rising cost of living. The issue that laid the foundation for all the discord is that as the country prepares to host two of the world’s biggest sporting events and incur all the costs that such a commitment entails, it continues to ignore sectors still in dire need of financial support.

The conflict didn’t spill over into the stadiums for the most part, but the ways in which it did proved worrisome. Gabriele Marcotti of ESPN FC tweeted on the day of the final between Brazil and Spain, “11,000 law enforcement and army officials outside. Fire raging on hillside Mangueira favela up the road. Safe and sound at Maracana.”

The protests made focusing on the soccer, without thinking about what was going on outside the arenas, difficult, which seemed to be the point. 

But for those of us who aren’t in Brazil, what’s one to do when faced with injustice such as this? No game broadcasts addressed the conflict, and even if an individual stops watching on TV, no real change results. Linking to a YouTube video or an article as a way to spread awareness is effective to an extent, sure, but what good is awareness by itself?

FIFA, the sport’s governing body, has built a reputation on corruption, so hoping the organization will be moved to change its ways in the wake of recent events is delusional. It will take more than awareness to change the system that is culpable for the protests, at least in some part.  

Some people took matters into their own hands by hacking the 2014 Brazil World Cup website to demand change from FIFA. Others continued their efforts. Change FIFA, a movement aiming to reform the world’s governing body for soccer as its name suggests, has more than 15,000 followers on Twitter and shared various links and statistics about the events in Brazil throughout the tournament. The organization’s mission statement helps illustrate the sorry state of the administrative site of the sport.

“Freedom For Football. We seek to reform world football and football governance so that it is honest, free, democratic, transparent and accountable.”

The goals of this mission statement should go without saying. They should be implied and inherent. But they aren’t. These protests shouldn’t have occurred.  But they did. 

There is an easy remedy to these issues, which is to have common sense become the standard operating procedure in awarding these competitions, but getting to that point is difficult. However, recent developments suggest that the process has begun.

The responsibility lies not with us, as average citizens, but with our representatives to bring about positive change. As people in the U.S., our hope for improvement lies with the president of our soccer federation, Sunil Gulati. In an interview with Sports Illustrated, he addressed the progress FIFA has, or hasn’t made, in terms of reform.

“I’d say incomplete. What’s been done up to now, I think, is a long way toward addressing some of the issues, but I think more needs to be done,” Gulati said. 

But on the issue of improving the selection process for World Cup hosts, the improvements are unclear. All that is known is that all FIFA member countries will now have a say in the process.

“The changes are incomplete in my view on the World Cup [host] decision making. The only formal decision to be made so far is the final decision will be made by [all] 209 countries,” he said.

 While that answer doesn’t say much, here’s to hoping that whatever develops will keep episodes in Brazil from occurring again and prevent a dangerous cycle from beginning.