TIME Soccer

Soccer World Reacts to Sepp Blatter’s Re-Election

FIFA President Sepp Blatter speaks after he was re-elected at the 65th FIFA Congress in Zurich on May 29, 2015.
Ruben Sprich—Reuters FIFA President Sepp Blatter speaks after he was re-elected at the 65th FIFA Congress in Zurich on May 29, 2015.

Many seem disappointed that Blatter will remain head of FIFA

FIFA president Sepp Blatter was elected to a fifth term Friday despite a sprawling criminal investigation of the soccer federation currently underway in the U.S. that has already led to the arrest of more than a dozen FIFA executives.

Blatter, who has not been accused of wrongdoing, was heavily favored to win re-election even after the arrests were made Wednesday. However, many in the soccer community expressed dismay that the man who led FIFA during the period under scrutiny could still be elected so easily.

Here’s a sampling of how people reacted to the news on Twitter

U.S. soccer president Sunil Gulati, who voted against Blatter:

ESPN reporter Darren Rovell:

Former English soccer star Gary Lineker:

New York Times columnist Juliet Macur:

Former English soccer star Stan Collymore:

Sports Illustrated soccer writer Grant Wahl:

American singer Josh Groban:

Sports journalist Jim Rome:

SportsCenter anchor Max Bretos:

Soccer journalist Richard Buxton:

TIME Careers

Why High School Athletes are Cool Even After Graduation

(c) davepeetersphoto

They're just better at everything

Nerds are supposed to get their revenge after graduation.

Sure, high school jocks are popular. But as mothers across America tell their uncoordinated children: Study hard, get good grades, and you’ll have the last laugh by making more money later in life.

However soothing as this tale may be to athletically challenged youngsters, economists say it’s a lie. Former high school athletes “display significantly more leadership, self-confidence, and self-respect than those who were active outside of sports—such as being in the band or on the yearbook staff,” according to a recent study published in the Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies (via The Atlantic).

Not only that, but former high school athletes retain these qualities as long as 60 years after they hung up their varsity jackets. The Atlantic also points to several other studies that former athletes earn “from 5 to 15 percent” more than non-athletes.

The jury is still out on whether this statistical difference is because the act of playing sports in high school teaches kids skills like hard work and determination, or because kids with those qualities gravitate towards sports in youth. Either way, it would appear that there are more reasons than fleeting glory to go out for the football team this fall.

TIME Soccer

Women’s Teams Now Feature in Soccer Game FIFA 16 but in Real Life Have Second-Class Status

What happens on screen is a far cry from real life

For the first time, EA Sports will feature women soccer players in its hugely popular FIFA video-game series.

FIFA 16, which launches in September, includes 12 of the top women’s international teams — USA, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, England, France, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Spain and Sweden.

The video game has only featured men’s teams since it was first released in 1993.

However, as welcome as EA Sports’ announcement is, Mashable points out that while the women’s teams are “in the game” on screen, in real life they fall far behind the men’s teams in the way they are treated by soccer’s governing body.

In the upcoming Women’s World Cup, beginning June 6 in Canada, the women’s teams will have to play on artificial turf fields, instead of actual grass.

No men’s World Cup has ever been played on synthetic surfaces and many of the women’s teams feel it is gender discrimination. Playing on the fake turf puts them at a higher risk of injury.

A group of the sport’s top female players filed legal action against FIFA and the Canadian Soccer Association last year but had to end their challenge in January because FIFA stalled for so long that it was too late to potentially change the pitches in time for the championship.

“This being the pinnacle of our sport, we feel like we should be treated just like the men,” U.S. forward Abby Wambach told the New York Times last year.

EA Sports’ announcement comes as FIFA finds itself snared in a huge corruption scandal that has seen 14 senior officials arrested on charges of bribery, fraud, and money laundering.

TIME Soccer

Top Soccer Officials Say FIFA Needs a New Leader

The tide appears to be turning against Sepp Blatter as officials back his rival in elections being held for FIFA's top job

FIFA president Sepp Blatter’s 17-year reign as the strongman of soccer’s international governing body may be coming to an end soon, as authorities from across the sporting world continue to call for his resignation hours before officials cast their ballots in the federation’s presidential election in Zurich on Friday.

Blatter’s reputation has taken an absolute pounding in the past 48 hours, after the U.S. Justice Department unveiled an unprecedented corruption probe into the organization on Wednesday that has lead to the indictment of 14 of the association’s current and former executives, including nine senior officials.

As the investigation continues to make international headlines, public figures worldwide and civil society groups, from the likes of British Prime Minister David Cameron to Transparency International, have called on Blatter to step down.

Meanwhile, top international soccer officials appear be rallying around Blatter’s chief rival, Prince Ali bin Hussein, ahead of Friday’s vote.

“Sincerely, as someone who loves FIFA and its history, I am sickened, and I am vexed,” UEFA president Michel Platini told reporters on Thursday. “People don’t want [Blatter] any more as FIFA president, and I don’t want him any more either.”

The UEFA chief’s comments came as U.S. Soccer Federation President Sunil Gulati stated publicly during a press conference on Thursday that he would be casting his vote for Jordan’s Prince Ali.

“If you get good governance and good leadership, you make good decisions, and those good decisions will lead to the right outcomes,” Gulati told reporters. “So for us, this is a vote for good governance.”

Victor Montagliani, president of the Canadian Soccer Association, also came out this week in support of Prince Ali.

“The game deserves better. Period,” said Montagliani.

Despite the litany of voices calling for his resignation, Blatter appeared undeterred.

During a speech at the opening ceremony of FIFA’s 65th Congress in Switzerland on Thursday, Blatter tried to distance himself from the constellation of corruption allegations leveled at the federation.

“We cannot monitor everyone all of the time. If people want to do wrong, they will also try to hide it,” said Blatter.

The FIFA president went on to stress that the U.S.- and Swiss-lead investigations would be a “turning point” that would help clean up soccer’s ranks.

“More needs to be done to make sure everyone in football behaves responsibly and ethically — everywhere,” said Blatter. “Tomorrow, we have the opportunity to begin on what will be a long and difficult road to rebuilding trust.”

TIME Sports

U.S. Soccer Will Vote Against Sepp Blatter in FIFA Ballot

Sepp Blatter's sole rival is Jordan's Prince Ali Bin Hussein

The United States will not favor another term for FIFA President Sepp Blatter during Friday’s election, the president of U.S. Soccer acknowledged Thursday, instead casting a ballot for the embattled incumbent’s sole rival after seven top executives were arrested this week on corruption charges.

Sunil Gulati told the New York Times in an interview that the U.S. delegate would vote for Jordan’s Prince Ali Bin Hussein, who is not expected to succeed in the vote involving 209 member nations. Gulati said he made the decision to vote against Blatter months ago, but this week’s arrests confirmed his decision.

“Would I like to see the United States host a World Cup in the future?” he asked. “The answer is, of course, yes. But for me, and for U.S. soccer, better governance and more integrity at Concacaf and FIFA are far more important than hosting any international soccer tournament.”

[New York Times]

Read next: Meet the Prince Who Wants to Save Soccer

TIME FIFA

Major FIFA Sponsors Don’t Want to Talk About Qatar, Either

adidas Starts Production of Brazuca Match Balls
Lennart Preiss—Getty Images for adidas Brazuca match balls for the FIFA World Cup 2014 lie in a rack in front of the adidas logo on December 6, 2013 in Scheinfeld near Herzogenaurach, Germany.

Few want to discuss soccer's most important crisis

After Wednesday’s news that the U.S. government indicted top soccer officials on charges of racketeering, wire fraud, and money laundering, FIFA’s corporate sponsors expressed concern, saying they were monitoring the situation. They did their predictable finger-waving.

“Our sponsorship has always focused on supporting the teams, enabling a great fan experience, and inspiring communities to come together and celebrate the spirit of competition and personal achievement,” Visa, one of FIFA’s parters, said in a statement. “And it is important that FIFA makes changes now, so that the focus remain on these going forward. Should FIFA fail to do so, we have informed them that we will reassess our sponsorship.”

But companies like Visa should have reassessed their FIFA sponsorship long before the arrests. Because while the scale of the alleged corruption — over $150 million in bribes and kickbacks, according to the Justice Department — is shocking, another scandal has been brewing for years now. And this one involves the loss of many lives.

In December 2010, FIFA awarded the 2022 World Cup to Qatar, a tiny, oil-rich Gulf state with little existing World Cup infrastructure and a dangerously hot climate, for both players and the thousands of migrant workers that have been needed to built the World Cup edifices. As a result, a humanitarian crisis has unfolded. According to a March 2014 report from the International Trade Union Confederation, 1,200 World Cup workers from Nepal and India have died in Qatar since 2010. The ITCU estimates that 4,000 workers could die before the 2022 World Cup kicks off. The Washington Post, drawing on multiple sources, created a graphic comparing World Cup worker deaths in Qatar with fatalities associated with other major sporting events, like the 2012 London Olympics, the 2014 Sochi Olympics and the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. The differences are stunning.

On top of that, the Nepalese labor minister recently told The Guardian that many World Cup migrants from Nepal have not been permitted to return home from Qatar to mourn family members killed in the April 25 earthquake, which claimed over 8,000 lives.

So FIFA’s most galling corruption isn’t directly connected to the headline-grabbing U.S. indictments. (Yesterday, the Swiss government announced it has launched a criminal investigation into the bid process for both the 2018 World Cup in Russia and the 2022 Cup in Qatar). If anything, the publicity surrounding the arrests will shine further light into the Qatar crisis.

And what do Visa and other sponsors have to say about Qatar? Not a whole lot.

TIME reached out to six companies listed in FIFA’s “2015-2022 sponsorship portfolio:” FIFA partners Adidas, Coca-Cola, Hyundai/Kia and Visa, and World Cup sponsors Anheuser-Busch InBev and McDonald’s. We did not seek comment from the seventh sponsor, Russian gas giant Gazprom, whose sponsorship is listed as “2018 only” — connected with the World Cup in Russia. We asked each of them: “how can your company support an organization that is staging an event in Qatar, a place where a humanitarian crisis has unfolded during World Cup preparations, a place where, according to one report, at least 1,200 people have died during World Cup preparations, a place where migrant workers were reportedly not allowed to go home to mourn earthquake victims in Nepal?”

No company made any executive available to answer this question. TIME directly emailed the question to John Lewicki, head of global alliances for McDonald’s and Lucas Herscovici, vice president consumer connections (media, digital, sports & entertainment) at Anheuser-Busch InBev. Neither executive directly responded. We got a flurry of statements. A Visa rep directed TIME to the statement it posted Wednesday in response to the arrests. “Our disappointment and concern with FIFA in light of today’s developments is profound,” the statement said, in part. “As a sponsor, we expect FIFA to take swift and immediate steps to address these issues within its organization. This starts with rebuilding a culture with strong ethical practices in order to restore the reputation of the games for fans everywhere.” When we pointed out that that statement was not specific to the loss of life in Qatar, the rep directed us to an earlier statement, released May 19. “We continue to be troubled by the reports coming out of Qatar related to the World Cup and migrant worker conditions. We have expressed our grave concern to FIFA and urge them to take all necessary actions to work with the appropriate authorities and organizations to remedy this situation and ensure the health and safety of all involved.”

An Adidas rep sent along a statement: “The adidas Group is fully committed to creating a culture that promotes the highest standards of ethics and compliance, and we expect the same from our partners. Following today’s news, we can therefore only encourage FIFA to continue to establish and follow transparent compliance standards in everything they do. adidas is the world’s leading football brand and we will continue to support football on all levels.” This statement, too, is a response to the arrests, not our Qatar question. We pointed this out to Adidas. A spokesperson said this was the company’s standing response.

More than 20 hours after this story was published, Adidas sent another statement: “The adidas Group is committed to ensuring fair labour practices, fair wages and safe working conditions in factories throughout our global supply chain. These active efforts are guided by our core values as a company as well as by our Workplace Standards – contractual obligations under the manufacturing agreements the adidas Group signs with its main business partners. The Workplace Standards are based on the International Labour Organization’s (ILO’s) core labour rights conventions.

“We are in a constant dialogue with our partner FIFA and know that FIFA has repeatedly urged the Qatari authorities to ensure decent conditions for migrant workers in the country. There have been significant improvements and these efforts are ongoing; but everyone recognizes that more needs to be done in a collective effort with all stakeholders involved.”

A Hyundai representative also did not answer the question directly, saying through a statement, “as a company that place the highest priority on ethical standards and transparency, Hyundai Motor is extremely concerned about the legal proceedings being taken against certain FIFA executives and will continue to monitor the situation closely.” A Kia official said in a statement: “Kia Motors takes seriously any reports concerning the poor treatment of migrant workers involved in the construction of venues for the 2022 FIFA World Cup. It is our understanding that FIFA and related authorities are taking immediate steps to secure appropriate standards of welfare for all workers involved in these projects, and we will continue to monitor developments in Qatar very closely.” Hyundai is the parent company of Kia.

The statement from McDonald’s: “McDonald’s is committed to doing business around the world in a manner that respects human rights. We have expressed our concerns to FIFA regarding human rights issues in Qatar and know they are working with local authorities to address those concerns.”

Coke: “The Coca-Cola Company does not condone human rights abuses anywhere in the world. We know FIFA is working with Qatari authorities to address specific labor and human rights issues. We expect FIFA to continue taking these matters seriously and to work toward further progress. We welcome constructive dialogue on human rights issues, and we will continue to work with many individuals, human rights organizations, sports groups, government officials and others to develop solutions and foster greater respect for human rights in sports and elsewhere.”

Anheuser-Busch InBev: “We expect all of our partners to maintain strong ethical standards and operate with transparency, and are committed to business practices that do not infringe on human rights. We continue to closely monitor the situation through our ongoing communications with FIFA, including developments in Qatar.”

“It’s very bad business right now to be associated with FIFA,” says Ben Sturner, president and CEO of Leverage Agency, a sports marketing firm. “The Qatar situation is going to force more sponsors away. They have to go away. It’s the humane thing to do.” Do iconic brands like McDonald’s, Coke, and others really feel this way?

If so, they aren’t saying.

TIME Sports

Climber Alex Honnold: What Risk Means After Dean Potter

Dean Potter knew the risks in his life, and he was still willing to pursue his dreams

On May 16, Dean Potter and his partner and friend, Graham Hunt, were killed in a wingsuit BASE-jumping accident in Yosemite National Park. I heard the news almost immediately from a mutual friend in the park and spent the next day in shock and disbelief. Dean, who was 43, had been one of the most well-known and creative rock climbers in the U.S. for almost 20 years, and his death was widely covered by both mainstream and social media. Almost everyone in the climbing community posted some kind of tribute to Dean, since we had all been touched by him in some way. He was a hero of mine growing up, representing everything badass about the climbing world.

I first saw Dean in Masters of Stone V, an old-school climbing film that showed off his new style of speed-soloing big walls. Here was a wild-looking man charging up the biggest walls in Yosemite with only minimal gear. As a young gym climber, I thought what he was doing was impossible—and amazing. I came to know him over the years through climbing events, and though we rarely got to climb together, I would consistently see him around. The news of the accident came as a blow since I’d recently had dinner with him in Yosemite.

There have been wildly divided responses to his death, ranging from deep respect for a man who greatly influenced his sport to unchecked contempt for someone who threw his life away, squandering what’s most precious in search of the next cheap thrill. Many people questioned the value, or even sanity, in such risk-taking. They assumed that Dean must have been a selfish monster to hurt his family and friends in such a way. The most common kind of criticism was some version of “he owes it to others to stay alive.”

These types of comments really rankled me because they belittle how much thought and effort Dean invested in his arts. No one spends 20 years at the cutting edge of their sport by being an adrenaline junkie all the time. Most people had only seen his climbing and flying through short YouTube videos and never got a glimpse of the years of training behind them. Dean actually had a thoughtful and conservative approach, building up to things slowly over time as he became physically and psychologically prepared.

Some argued that it was immoral to risk his life, yet many Americans risk their health every day through largely avoidable diet and lifestyle choices. I was 19 when my father died from a heart attack. He was a 55-year-old college professor and had led what was by all appearances a risk-free life. But he was overweight, and heart disease runs in our family. No matter the risks we take, we always consider the end to be too soon, even though in life more than anything else quality should be more important than quantity.

Dean’s pursuits were quixotic. They were impractical and unrealistic, and yet he was romantically devoted to them. And that dedication is what allowed him to help shape his sports for almost 20 years. His death has reminded me to reflect carefully on my own decisions about risk. There’s a constant tension in climbing, and really all exploration, between pushing yourself into the unknown but trying not to push too far. The best any of us can do is to tread that line carefully. Dean was making his choices clear-eyed. He knew the risks in his life, and he was still willing to pursue his dreams. How many of the rest of us live with that kind of intention?

Read next: Cedar Wright: Remembering Climbing Legend Dean Potter

TIME White House

President Obama Weighs In on Chicago Bulls Firing Coach

Obama says he's sad to see the Bulls head coach go

President Obama is sad to see Chicago Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau go, he said Thursday, responding to an off-the-cuff question about basketball during a brief Twitter Q&A.

Chat participant Akshar Patel was anxious to get the president’s thoughts on the breaking news regarding his hometown team, and being an avid Chicago Bulls fan, Obama naturally weighed in.

Obama’s Twitter chat had largely focused on the event’s main topic, climate change, until two participants tossed out questions on basketball, one of the President’s favorite subjects. Before the question on the Bulls, Nathen Vieira asked the President if the Cleveland Cavaliers’ JR Smith can outshoot the Golden State Warriors’ Steph Curry and lead the team to the championship. This was the President’s response:

Sadly, though, the president neglected to answer some equally pressing questions including:

POTUS, the people need answers.

 

TIME Opinion

What FIFA Can Learn From the Biggest Scandal in Baseball History

White Sox Players
Chicago History Museum / Getty Images "Black Sox" players with their attorney in a Chicago courtroom in 1921

The lessons of cleaning up sports in 1921 and 2015

On Wednesday, the new Attorney General of the United States, Loretta Lynch, announced the arrest and indictment of 14 high officials of FIFA, the soccer world’s governing body, and of various regional soccer associations for massive, systemic corruption. Attorney General Lynch, who previously supervised the investigation as U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, took advantage of broad provisions in U.S. laws allowing their application against acts largely, but not entirely, committed overseas. There is no precedent for this situation in international sport, but there is in American sport: the way in which Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis, the first baseball commissioner, cleaned up the game and put it on a sound footing beginning in 1921, after the Black Sox scandal and the fixing of the 1919 World Series had come to light. FIFA and the strongest national associations now have to figure out how to solve somewhat different problems in an equally dramatic way.

Professional sport was in its youth in 1919, but baseball was already a huge presence in American life. Betting on it was, too, and it is clear that gamblers and players had been fixing games for at least a decade by the time an organized crime syndicate led by Arnold Rothstein of New York promised payments to the White Sox to throw the World Series against the Reds. The fix was about as secret as corruption in FIFA has been. An excellent ESPN documentary was just recently released that focused on allegations of huge payments by Russia and Qatar to secure rights to the 2018 and 2022 World Cups—charges that are part of a separate investigation by Swiss authorities—and on the role of FIFA President Sepp Blatter, the most powerful man in world sport, who has so far escaped indictment. Likewise, newspapers led by the New York Times reported the precipitous fall in the odds on the White Sox on the eve of the first game, and many people within baseball knew what was going on the series played out. When it was over, however, everyone wanted to get back to business as usual—as FIFA will—and the one courageous Chicago reporter, Hughie Fullerton, who kept the story alive, was harshly criticized for his zeal.

Thanks in part to feuds among the owners, however, the story began to leak out during 1920—when the White Sox were contending for the pennant—and finally broke in the last week of the 1920 season. Eight White Sox, including potential Hall of Famers Joe Jackson and pitcher Eddie Cicotte, were suspended at once. More importantly, the owners, under great pressure to restore confidence in the game, appointed federal judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis as commissioner, with broad powers to take any action he deemed in the best interests of baseball. Landis eventually banned not only the eight Black Sox, but 14 other players as well, for fixing games. For the rest of his tenure, every ballplayer knew that no contact with gamblers would be tolerated by the commissioner. Remarkably, Landis accomplished this even while civic morality in America’s major cities was collapsing under the impact of prohibition. He set a standard for probity that became an example for politicians like Fiorello LaGuardia, later mayor of New York, prosecutor and Governor Thomas Dewey, and President Franklin Roosevelt. Throughout his tenure, Landis settled virtually every case that came before him with public hearings that helped maintain confidence in him and in the game.

This week, Lynch has stepped forward to play that role on a world scale, taking steps that are very likely to lead to real reform within FIFA. Some national leaders and associations are bound to complain, but as a lifelong soccer fan myself, I have no doubt that the mass of fans all over the world will be totally on her side. They know that the next two World Cups were not awarded to Russia and Qatar because those countries were the best places to hold them, and they know that the FIFA leadership is not acting in the best interests of international soccer.

I suspect that Blatter will decline to accept the new term of office to which he was about to be elected, and FIFA will have a chance to clean house. To restore confidence and prove that things have changed, the organization’s new leadership must emulate Landis and take truly drastic action. For example, just as baseball owners agreed to give great power to a new authority, FIFA could change its power structure, reallocating votes based on population or upon the size and strength of nation’s professional leagues, rather than giving Monsterrat the same vote as Germany, as they do today. Just as Landis made a point of keeping the Commissioner’s office independent, FIFA must also design an utterly transparent and incorruptible process for choosing World Cup venues. Specifically, if evidence of bribery in the choice of the last two World Cups becomes clear, they must rescind the awards to Russia and Qatar, which were ill-advised—and, it now appears, ill-gotten—in the first place. But most of all, the new FIFA leadership, like Judge Landis, has to take this drastic action to prove that crime, in the form of bribery, does not pay, and to prove that things will indeed be different in the future. The real punishment for anyone who would buy a World Cup vote would be to see their investments vanish into thin air like so many credit-default swaps based on subprime mortgages—and without any chance of a bailout.

The indicted FIFA officials face potential jail terms, and meanwhile Lynch has established herself as a major figure not just on the national, but also on the world stage. She has struck a blow for civic virtue and honesty at the upper reaches of sport. The whole world needs leaders who can do the same for finance, industry and government. Perhaps Lynch herself has an even more important role to play in the future.

The Long ViewHistorians explain how the past informs the present

David Kaiser, a historian, has taught at Harvard, Carnegie Mellon, Williams College, and the Naval War College. He is the author of seven books, including, most recently, No End Save Victory: How FDR Led the Nation into War. He lives in Watertown, Mass.

TIME Advertising

Here’s How Major FIFA Sponsors Are Reacting to the Scandal

After nine FIFA officials were arrested, sponsors are in the spotlight

The dollar figures associated with the FIFA are all outsize, including the amount of money it garners every year from marketing partnerships. In 2014, it was $177 million.

The corporations that contribute to that sum immediately became the target of scrutiny on Wednesday when the United States Department of Justice unsealed a 47-count indictment that charged nine FIFA officials and five sports marketing executives with racketing, wire fraud and money-laundering.

The indictment placed FIFA sponsors in a pickle: should they continue to market their products through a sport with millions of fans but whose governing body is allegedly seeping with corruption?

Cue sponsors’ delicate dance.

Visa Inc., which has partnered with FIFA since 2007, told The Wall Street Journal the investigations could cause the company to end its agreement, which runs until 2022. Visa said that it had informed the federation that it “will reassess its sponsorship” if FIFA fails to rebuild “a culture with strong ethical practices to restore the reputation of the games for fans everywhere”

Adidas AG told the Journal that it was monitoring the situation, as did Coca-Cola and McDonald’s. Hyundai Motors said it was “deeply concerned” about the allegations.

It’s safe to say FIFA’s sponsors are in a tough spot. Wednesday’s indictment was scalding, but it’s unlikely to deplete the sport’s massive fan following. An estimated 1 billion people watched at least one minute of the 2010 World Cup final. For comparison, 114.4 million people tuned into this year’s Super Bowl.

Like it or not, FIFA sponsors’ immediate reaction to Wednesday’s news is in line with how sponsors have reacted to other sports scandals. When the National Football League faced criticism this fall for how it handled players’ questionable conduct, companies like Pepsi and Anheuser-Busch voiced concern over the incidents but they never withdrew their sponsorships.

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