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03 June 2015

Fifa part II: A scandal? It depends where you are

Fifa part II: A scandal? It depends where you are

by Chas Bayfield 

So, Sepp Blatter has resigned from Fifa. And before I go much further, I have to confess that I am not a football aficionado. I don't support a team and if 22 millionaires want to earn hundreds of thousands of pounds a week chasing a ball around a field, it's not my business. Still, I do appreciate the extreme loyalty fans have for their teams and that this is a global phenomenon –the whole world is football crazy. Never is this more apparent than during the World Cup and I have to admit that this international pageant of patriotism even gets me swept up every four years.

And so to the events of this week;14 officials of football's international ruling body arrested by the FBI on charges of corruption, bribery and other underhand shenanigans. Immediately, demands were made that Sepp Blatter should not be reinstated as Fifa president. Petitions were raised. The head of the FA acknowledged that, should enough countries follow suit, a boycott of the 2018 World Cup might be appropriate. For those of us in the West, moral outrage was the order of the day.

And yet Blatter was voted back in and it is only his resignation that is stopping him from presiding over the lavish champagne jolly that FIFA has been revealed to be. How was this possible? Now 14 men have been arrested for corruption, for goodness sake, and Blatter was their boss. How, in any reasonable world, could this happen? Well, the clue is in the word reasonable, and what this means to you, given the country you live in. 

How Danes transact business might be different to how they do it in, say, Nicaragua. And how the Germans broker a deal might be a little different to how it is done in Uzbekistan. A simple look at the leadership of the world's nations will tell you that not every country upholds western values of fairness and democracy. In fact, some nations, to a western eye, seem downright thuggish. Some are dictatorships. Some are governed by religion. Many make Fifa's backhanders look tame in comparison. And in every one of these countries, football is played. 

If Sepp Blatter appears to be the boss of an organisation that accepts bribes, revels in opulence, is easily bought and enjoys expensive cigars, then he is in good company among the rulers of many of the nations who had a vote to ascertain whether or not he should be Fifa's president. Blatter is one of them. Why wouldn't they vote for him?

But now we know why so many nations in the world see last week's arrests as business as usual, what can we learn from it? As Christians, we believe that we are living good, upright lives. We try and stick to the rules. We do things properly. And all around us, we see a world still caught up in selfishness, corruption and greed. Or in football terms, we Christians are the nations that thought Blatter should go, while the rest of the world think he's doing a great job.

So how can we convince others that our way is best? That we are right and they are wrong? I don't have the answer, but I believe in leading by example. Jesus called us to be salt and light. We can pray for nations in South America, and Africa and Asia to elect Christian leaders. We can support Christian workers in those nations and those Christian charities who fight for their rights. We may not like the dark places in the world, but without our light, they might stay dark forever.