The four-part mini-series scrutinises the largest sports governing body in the world as the Qatar World Cup looms in the horizon
Last Updated: 11.18 AM, Nov 14, 2022
Story: In 2015, several high-profile FIFA officials were arrested by the FBI over corruption charges. An investigation into the global football governing body revealed systematic and institutionalised corruption across all levels over several decades — breaching every level of the organisation from top to bottom.
Review: The 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar is just a few weeks away — a World Cup marred by controversy ever since the Arab nation was selected as the host way back in 2009. The fallout from the infamous voting process involved in selecting the host for 2018 and 2022 sent shockwaves across the footballing world. From FIFA presidential elections to World Cup hosting rights, the documentary dissects historical and systematic corruption within FIFA since the 90s.
At the heart of the storm is former FIFA president Sepp Blatter. Under the Frenchman's leadership, which spanned nearly two decades witnessed significant growth but at the cost of numerous scandals. The docu-series exposes how these corruption scandals reached even the highest echelons of power involving heads of states from across the globe. It features archival footage and exclusive in-depth interviews with FIFA leaders including Sepp Blatter, journalists, whistleblowers, ex-footballers, and those involved with the World Cup bidding process.
The unique mix of interviews of the accused and the accusers provide a balanced and objective perspective. The creators of the docuseries also provide historical context as to how Blatter became an important figure in global sports. It also emphasises how Blatter was instrumental in making FIFA a global powerhouse. However, based on the evidence provided by docuseries Blatter appears to be someone with delusions of grandeur who believes that he has done no wrong. In fact, in the eyes of the law, Blatter was never formally charged with any wrongdoing. The docuseries has positioned former CONCACAF president Jack Warner as its primary antagonist.
Even though there is significant focus on the various rampant quid pro quo deals that decided elections across the board within FIFA, the central story of the docuseries is Qatar’s World Cup bid. There is also a focus on how England was shockingly pipped by Russia to host the 2018 World Cup. But it’s safe to argue that none of the other FIFA stories is even remotely as shocking as Qatar winning the bid to host the 2022 World Cup over the United States. It is the equivalent of a tropical country hosting the Winter Olympics. The weather is one of the reasons why the World Cup, for the first time in history, is pushed from summer to winter — disregarding the massive scheduling and logistical disruption to all ongoing major domestic leagues across the globe.
In addition to the scandals, the docuseries opens a discourse on how sports, football, in particular, is used as a tool to cleanse a nation or government's fractured reputation. It was first infamously introduced by the Nazis in the 1936 Berlin Olympics, and later by Argentinian dictator Jorge Rafael Videla for the 1978 World Cup. The modern term for this is sportswashing, and it has become more sophisticated over the years.
The Abu Dhabi ownership of Manchester City, the Qatari ownership of Paris Saint-Germain (PSG), and the Saudi ownership of Newcastle United are the most obvious examples. While the docuseries does not delve into club football, it does explore how PSG came under Qatari ownership just months after Qatar won the World Cup hosting bid for the 2022 World Cup. It also sheds light on how former French President Nicolas Sarkozy may have influenced UEFA president Michel Platini to vote for Qatar in order to broker several economic and strategic deals between France and Qatar.
Verdict: An engrossing behind-the-curtain look into one of the most high-profile corruption scandals the world has ever seen. With the Qatar Football World Cup just weeks away, human rights organisations have accused the nation of covering up thousands of deaths related to poor working conditions for the construction workers involved in developing the infrastructure for the World Cup.