Commentary: FIFA scandal soils the beautiful game

Kansas City’s soccer scene has rarely looked so positive. Admittedly, the hometown team, Sporting Kansas City, could be winning a bit more. But soccer fans knew a 10-game road trip to start the season would be tough. The new stadium, Livestrong Sporting Park near the racetrack in Kansas City, Kan., trumps game results at this point.

The team’s new home is glorious, and a local buzz is rightfully building as the players head into their first game in the place Thursday, against Chicago. Next up at the park is a doubleheader of an international soccer tournament, the Gold Cup, played for the championship of North and Central America, and the Caribbean. The United States will play Guadalupe here on June 14.

So it should be nothing but smiles in the local soccer community. And yet anger simmers, and deservedly so. Kansas City, it appears, was victimized by the seediest sort of sport intrigue. The city was a strong candidate to host some of the World Cup games in 2022, had the United States succeeded with its bid to the sport’s global governing body. Kansas City saw an ultimate soccer dream die when that summer tournament surprisingly was awarded to the tiny but very rich desert nation Qatar.

Now investigations by British journalists and reports from inside the Switzerland-based organization imply the World Cup “was bought” by Qatar. Reports allege that two voting members of the executive committee got $1.5 million each. The head of the soccer association representing this region, Jack Warner, has been suspended pending an investigation into whether he was offering bribes for votes to remove embattled FIFA president Sepp Blatter. He has also claimed to have an email in which it is admitted the 2022 games were bought by Qatar.

Remarkably, FIFA insisted on proceeding with a presidential vote, and re-elected Blatter. His unconvincing defense was that while he knew bribes were being offered, he didn’t know they had been paid, so he didn’t really have an ethical responsibility to act.

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