FIFA – A Microcosm of Humanity

No words were spared or minced when America’s Attorney General Loretta E Lynch stood before the microphones and cameras to announce the arrests of six FIFA executives in Zurich and serious charges against eight others.

We are here to announce the unsealing of charges and the arrests of individuals as part of our long-running investigation into bribery and corruption in the world of organized soccer.

Many of the individuals and organizations we will describe today were entrusted with keeping soccer open and accessible to all. They held important responsibilities at every level, from building soccer fields for children in developing countries to organizing the World Cup. They were expected to uphold the rules that keep soccer honest, and protect the integrity of the game. Instead, they corrupted the business of worldwide soccer to serve their interests and enrich themselves. This Department of Justice is determined to end these practices; to root out corruption; and to bring wrongdoers to justice. (1)

 Just hours earlier, 6300 kilometers away, the front desk staff were on duty at the five star, historically famous, hotel in Zurich, Switzerland. But it wasn’t going to be one of those routine days. Their early morning procedures were interrupted at precisely 6AM. It became a day they and many others won’t forget.

More than a dozen plain clothes Swiss law enforcement officers demanded the room numbers of some of the world’s top soccer executives. They were gathered for the annual congress of the global governing body for the sport of soccer. It wasn’t the wake-up call the guests expected. At least one executive seemed reluctant to respond to the knock on his door. Concierge then placed a call to his room to say either open your door voluntarily or it will be kicked open. (2)

One by one they left their wives or girlfriends behind and were escorted individually out of the 171 year old Baur au Lac Hotel into waiting vehicles. One executive, who was supposed to be elevated to the powerful executive committee at the annual meeting, was hidden from view by a white linen bed sheet as he exited the hotel and was loaded into a police vehicle.

The bed sheet and the hair styling shop signage which read: “Vanity – the Art of Beauty” seemed to say it all: Shame, hiding and vanity – the excessive pride of one’s self.

How much vanity and how much about self? Vanity sin knows no limits to its excesses and growth. It can only be interrupted by an outside source.

The FBI’s key informant to kick-start the FIFA take-down, was a former FIFA executive with small beginnings as a neighborhood coach for his son’s youth soccer team. As he climbed the FIFA ranks, he used his ill-gotten gains to pay for a lavish lifestyle that included dining at the finest restaurants, private jet trips and private island jaunts. In seven years, he spent $29 million on a FIFA American Express card. He rubbed shoulders with Vladimir Putin, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Pope John Paul II and Nelson Mandela, and enjoyed vacation homes in Miami and the Bahamas. He also kept apartments in Trump Towers, including one primarily for his cats. He was America’s best known soccer official. (3)

He was just one executive at a given point in time. An outside intervention was required to deal with a world organization that couldn’t stop itself.

USA Attorney General Lynch and her team presented their 271 page federal indictment that listed 47 charges of racketeering, conspiracy, corruption, bribery, fraud, kickbacks, money laundering and other crimes allegedly committed by nine FIFA officials and five corporate executives.

It seems it was no secret that the sixty year old world soccer organization was riddled with crime in the upper echelonsof power. Stashes of cash, brown envelopes bulging with gift-money being distributed behind closed doors, wire transfers of funds, obscure bank accounts and a lot more seemed to be or maybe better worded, is alleged to have been a way of life.

Words and phrases such as rampant, pervasive, deep-rooted institutionalized crime, systemic corruption, etc. described the seriousness of the alleged illicit practices of FIFA.

It will take months and years to uncover all of FIFA’s alleged filth. Government officials made it clear that these arrests were just the beginnings of a long overdue legal process.

FIVE SPIRITUAL REFLECTIONS FROM THE FIFA STORY

1. Entrusted with high responsibilities. FIFA was established to uphold the rules and the integrity of the game around the world. But instead it has dishonored and disgraced the game of soccer. Spiritually, the Bible tells us about Adam, God’s masterpiece and father of all humanity. Adam was created to represent God’s interests on earth and to lead creation in worshipping and honoring God. You can read God’s facts in Genesis Chapters 2 and 3. Adam rebelled against God and acted in self-interest for his own good.

To understand the seriousness of Adam’s initial sin a Bible verse is helpful: “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned” — (Rom 5:12)

2. Sin brings shame, guilt, fear and an urge to hide. It was a white bed sheet used to hide the FIFA executive but Adam and Eve used fig leaves to cover themselves. In a futile attempt to hide from God’s all-seeing eyes, they hid in the trees of the Garden. (Genesis 3) Some people use acts of charity or even religion to cover their sins – but in God’s records, it alters nothing. Just another scam that doesn’t fool Him.

3. Sins snowballs out of control. Greed and lust can never be satisfied. They always want more. It happens to organizations like FIFA and to individuals like me and you. Have you experienced this reality? People are constantly trying to stop themselves from their habits and desires but the urge is so persistent and unrelenting. It’s the nature of sin. Jesus said that people were slaves to sin. John 8:34

4. Systemic sin but personal guilt. A few executives have been arrested but the authorities have made it clear – the real issue is systemic and pervasive throughout the organization. Spiritually, sin is pervasive and systemic in the human race. Romans 3 says that ‘all’ – not some or not most – but ‘all’ have sinned.

Systemic and institutionalized sin is traced back to ‘original sin’ when Adam introduced the first sin into the human family and we have been plagued by it ever since. (Romans 5:12) Yes, Adam was the original culprit but you will never be judged or kept out of Heaven for Adam’s sin. Like the FIFA executives, you and I are only held accountable by God for our own personal sins.

5. If you are bothered by your sin – don’t hide behind anything any longer. Unlike the justice systems of western society, God is not only a God of absolute holiness and justice, He is also a God of ‘amazing’ grace.

In society, criminals who come out of hiding and turn themselves in to the authorities still have to face the full force of the law. However, sinners who turn themselves in to Judge God, have good news to receive. An innocent One [Jesus] lovingly took the penalty of the crimes of sin when He died on the Cross. Sinners who come to God in repentance, are assured total and complete and instant forgiveness and full acceptance into the circle of God’s eternal favor and family.

  • Have you come out of hiding and faced your own sin before God?
  • Have you experienced His full and complete forgiveness?
  • Are you personally thankful and indebted to the Lord Jesus Christ for dying for your sins?
  • What is your standing before God just now?

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RELEVANT BIBLE VERSES

John 8:34-36
Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin…
So if the Son [Jesus] sets you free, you will be free indeed.”

Romans 3:19-25 (NLT)
“…the entire world is guilty before God. (20) For no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the [God’s] law commands. The law [i.e. Ten Commandments] simply shows us how sinful we are. (21) But now God has shown us a way to be made right with Him without keeping the requirements of the law, as was promised in the writings of Moses and the prophets long ago. (22) We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are. (23) For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. (24) Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when He freed us from the penalty for our sins. (25) For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed His life, shedding His blood.”

Sources:
1. http://www.justice.gov/opa/speech/attorney-general-loretta-e-lynch-delivers-remarks-press-conference-announcing-charges
2. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/28/sports/soccer/in-a-five-star-setting-fifa-officials-are-arrested-the-swiss-way.html?rref=sports/soccer&module=ArrowsNav&contentCollection=Soccer&action=swipe®ion=FixedLeft&pgtype=article
3. http://nypost.com/2015/05/27/how-a-wire-wearing-ex-fifa-honcho-rocked-the-soccer-world/