- - Tuesday, July 28, 2015

At the very inception of the sport of soccer, the notion that a gentleman would never deliberately commit a foul was commonplace. Are the recent allegations and indictments associated with FIFA officials a testament of what some believe to be the fruit of an institution of competition, which some assert ultimately leads to corruption? Or is this news a reflection of an isolated group of likeminded individuals with character flaws who are driven by excessive profit motives?

On Wednesday, May 27, 2015, the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Public Affairs published a press release stating that nine FIFA officials and five corporate executives were indicted for racketeering conspiracy and corruption. The official DOJ documents which detail the various accounts of wire fraud, mortgage fraud, bribery, racketeering and other white-collar crimes, are nothing short of ambiguous and eye-opening as it relates to the world of this global sport and its power structure. The documents provide insight into how positions of power are exploited for large sums of money in the millions of dollars. As I combed through account after account seeking to understand the scandal as well as the business side of a sport that I myself was unfamiliar with, I was intrigued to say the least. My limited knowledge of the sport consisted of a simple description of soccer (i.e. futbol) as a competitive sport between two teams who are kicking a ball with the mutual objective of scoring the most goals. This limited knowledge was enough to see the irony in this scandal, as I examined the accounts of money being kicked around to corrupt teammates for personal gain, while the alleged corrupt FIFA officials could be representative of goalies who deliberately allow the other team to score, knowing there’s an agreed upon sum of money awaiting them for cooperating with this kickback game.

Another ironic aspect of my serendipitous research involves the evolution of the laws of the game of soccer. In 1891, the game of soccer evolved to be a very competitive sport and with respect to disputes on the field, the players could rely less on the notion described above, being that, ” … a gentleman would never deliberately commit a foul.” Therefore, the penalty was instituted. Interestingly, the penalty was also known as “the kick of death.” It is unfortunate that the above gentleman’s code was unsustainable on the soccer field, nonetheless this does somewhat provide insight as to why the code hasn’t been sustained off the field in the secret meetings between the powerful sports management executives and FIFA officials who conscientiously decided on several occasions to commit multiple fouls.

My question to the reader is, what is the underlying motivation for a person with a position of authority, with the power to make the rules as well as the design of self-regarding compensation packages, accepting bribes that jeopardize the very social status that they so desperately seek to attain? Is the motive rooted in the illusion that a “riskless gain” exists exclusively for them to obtain? I argue that such traits of greed and an individual’s propensity to be corrupted is tied to unique insecurities and inferiority complexes. I predict that the cases involved with the FIFA scandal will prove that some or all of the defendants who were indicted have deep-rooted and unbalanced desires to be seen as a success in the eyes of the public and in their circles of influence. The unbalanced aspect of these desires pertain to the fact that somewhere along the line of their development and career paths, these individuals were unsuccessful at overcoming their fear of failure and instead were successful at hiding their insecurities and inferiority complexes.

I believe the saga of these kickback kings will continue if insecure leadership does not make changes or is not replaced in the very short-term. Sepp Blatter was re-elected miraculously as the president of FIFA and vows to restore the organization’s trustworthiness by the end of his four-year term. I personally am a strong advocate of equity, fairness and giving individuals the space to make adjustments. However, the implications of deception, corruption and even ignorance (which is what Mr. Blatter claims with respect to his knowledge of the FIFA corruption) has long-lasting effects on the part of society that has limited capacity to deal with the negative impacts of these criminal acts. The scandals associated with FIFA have been going on for decades, which is indicative of a culture of enablers existing at FIFA. At the surface level we can say that this is occurring because there’s an underlying belief that there’s risk-free money to be made. Yet I am convinced that the ways and means by which the money is obtained and utilized is the distinguishing factor between kickback kings and the genuinely successful, as the latter will not be penalized via the symbolic kicks of death as mentioned above.

Five takeaways:

• Those who seek high positions by any means necessary will find themselves in a zero-sum game.

• Being equally content and open about your successes as with your failures leads to respect, trustworthiness and mercy in a time when you most need it.

• Success cannot be validated by material gain, positions of power and/or intelligence attained.

• Embrace the constraints of life and play by its rules.

• The reality of life is that when the game is on the line, your integrity will be the game-winner.

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