Can soccer survive the FIFA indictments?

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By CLAY J. BENJAMIN
College Contributor Network

Before last week, Americans only knew FIFA as one of the best-selling video game franchises of all-time, if they even knew that much.

But 14 indictments and a $150 million scandal later, and now Americans finally care about soccer; or at least recognize its existence in the world.

FIFA, the world's [corrupt] governing body of soccer, has finally gotten, to what fans of the sport think, what it deserves.

Last week, in what is being called the crime of the century, 14 FIFA executives were indicted on 47 charges of wire fraud, bribery, money laundering, and racketeering. It comes to no surprise to fans across the world, as beliefs of corruption have surrounded FIFA for last 20 years.

The thoughts of corruption came to the forefront on Thursday, December 2nd 2010, when Qatar was awarded the 2022 World Cup.

Qatar, a small country off the coast Saudi Arabia, seems like the perfect choice for the largest sporting event in the world, right? Qatar, the first middle eastern country to host the event; the country where the temperature reaches 140 degrees in the summer; where there are little to no human rights laws and no soccer culture. Only bribes and conspiracy could convince FIFA executives to grant Qatar—an underdeveloped country—the World Cup, over the United States no less.

To put it into simpler words, the city that is supposed to host the World Cup Final, Lusail, in 2022—isn't even built yet. According to the Washington Post, thousands of migrant workers that go to Qatar ever year are dying and that possibly 4,000 workers can die before the World Cup even kicks off.

But some applause is in order. Congratulations to the FBI and the United States, a country that could care less about soccer, unless it is a World Cup year and we can all chant "USA! USA!" in a bar, to take down the organization in charge of soccer's downfall. Who could have seen that coming?

All of the money laundering, bribery and racketeering is just the rich FIFA executives getting richer. FIFA is the only organization that can award World Cups to the biggest spender and make billions on sponsorships year after year and still be a non-profit.

But the man who was in charge of it all, Sepp Blatter, was not touched by the indictments. Blatter, who was re-elected for a fifth term last week, even after all of the indictments were brought on FIFA, then announced that he will step down, recently said that he can't possibly "police" all of his employees.

Well, he doesn't have to anymore.

Blatter's presidency was always synonymous with corruption, even when it began in 1998, when there were rumors he bought votes in order to win the election. Before he resigned, how can a president that was in charge for 17 years, not know who the conspirators are beneath him?

On top of Blatter's ignorance, you can add sexism. Later this week, the 2015 Women's World Cup will kick off in Canada. To help increase the popularity of women's soccer across the world, Blatter has public stated, "They [the female athletes] could, for example, have tighter shorts. Female players are pretty."

At this summer's Women's World Cup, for the first time ever for any World Cup, the games will be played on artificial turf. Players and coaches have voiced their disapproval and even shown pictures of the consequences of playing on turf.

But as far as Blatter was concerned, objectification of women is all that matters.

John Oliver, of Last Week Tonight on HBO, put it brilliantly when he said that sponsors like Adidas, McDonald's, Budweiser, and many others, control whether Sepp Blatter remains the President of FIFA.

Even with the all of the corruption in FIFA, the popularity of soccer, even in the United States, is at an all time high. The English Premier League is broadcasted all over the world. The MLS is expanding ever year and is even being broadcasted in Europe.

Can a sport that is gaining new fans every day survive this pollution to the world's most popular sports?
Yes, Blatter stepping down from the presidency position is a start, but FIFA's corruption runs so deep that there is still more work to be done for FIFA to turn it around. Only time—and if nothing changes, money— will tell.

Clay Benjamin is a junior in the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University. He's a passionate soccer, football and baseball fan who wants to become a play-by-play commentator. Follow him on Twitter: @ClayBenjamin_
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