FIFA is in the news. Concerned readers have turned to me with the question of the hour: What is a FIFA (pronounced fee-fa)?
As some well-informed readers may know, it is a type of foreign-bred poodle. It wags its tail and barks approvingly if passersby give one of its owners a doggy treat, such as $10 million to stage the next soccer World Cup.
Actually, I embroidered that just a little bit. The bribery is true enough, but FIFA is the world organization that runs what people in other countries insist on calling football, for the annoyingly pedantic reason that players kick the ball with their feet.
FIFA is an acronym of foreign words which, if memory serves, collectively mean: For Whom Should We Write Out This Check?
But let us not obsess over factual details. A better question is: Why should anyone care what FIFA does?
The obvious answer is concern for our nation’s kiddies and, by extension, all the kiddies in the world who can’t stop their dribbling.
Some of us remember a time not long ago in this country when sportswriters regularly disparaged soccer come every World Cup. Then it dawned on them that their kids, their grandkids and everyone else’s kids were playing soccer in huge numbers.
This was shocking. After all, in America we long believed that the word football better describes a game in which a few specialist kickers, slight of build and delicate of manner, are summoned to the field to perform their feats of foot behind a screen of large men sticking their butts in the air.
Now that’s a game, but those old sportswriters knew that the culture had changed. Soccer was here to stay.
In case anybody dared to say otherwise, a group known as Soccer Moms began to patrol the suburbs in giant SUVs carrying whole teams and their halftime treats. Politicians quaked at their arrival.
So say not for whom the FIFA barks, it barks for thee. Indeed, the news is very bad for kiddies and their moms alike — and dads who may not know much about soccer but like to yell at the referees.
The other day, an indictment unsealed in New York charged 14 individuals, including high-ranking officials from FIFA and sports marketing executives, with corruption beyond the dreams of avarice, or at least Congress. Swiss authorities arrested some officials at a five-star hotel in Zurich before FIFA’s annual meeting.
Why is this so threatening to our youth, when Switzerland is beyond the range of most SUVs unless equipped with a snorkel for the ride over?
As a former youth soccer coach, whom parents mistakenly believed to be competent because of my accent, I cannot gloss over the danger: Youngsters everywhere may start to dream of becoming officials.
Officialdom is no career path for a kid; it’s bad enough that some want to grow up to be journalists. Thanks go to our Justice Department for collaring these bad foreign role models.
Apparently it’s not enough that we are the world’s policeman, we have to be the world’s prosecutor, too?
Despite all the public participation, the United States may never be described as a world soccer power. Yet we are the ones investigating the world’s favorite sport.
Why us? Couldn’t the Germans do this? The English? Dutch? Their taxpayers are more invested in the subject than American taxpayers.
Military imperialism has morphed into judicial imperialism.
Imagine the outcry if a team of English police was sent out to investigate American football. “’Ello, ’ello, what we got here then, eh?” a bobby might say in a visit to the Patriots’ locker room. “Deflated footballs?”
Oblivious to foreign sensitivities, America has taken on the job, and maybe for no better reason than it can. U.S. law gives the Justice Department broad power to prosecute foreign suspects, and a slim connection to the United States is enough excuse.
Perhaps the FBI believes all crime has been eliminated in the United States and the G-men must now go overseas to find sufficient criminals.
The whole wide world of foreign sports is ripe for further American investigation.
Croquet should be looked at — you can’t tell me that certain favors are not exchanged for a hot buttered scone. And Australian Rules football is suspect because it famously has no obvious rules. In its case, beer may have been illegally promised.
Sports and judicial fans and kiddies, the game is just getting started.
Contact Mr. Henry at email@example.com.