Red card for film that glorifies Fifa

This you have to understand: the world is full of racists, chauvinists, Nazis, fascists and sneering Englishmen who think 13 rules are plenty to have in football, all of whom need to be taught a lesson. Into this world was born Fifa, a scrappy but noble football federation of heroic sports administrators who did more for world peace than the United Nations and more for tolerance than all the recipients of the Nobel Peace prize put together.

Also, Sepp Blatter – that hard-working, incorruptible warrior – makes girls play better football.

If you have fully grasped these concepts you have no real need to watch United Passions, the Fifa-funded movie about Fifa that Fifa launched at the Cannes film festival in May 2014 and in Serbia the month after.

Perhaps Fifa underestimated just how well beloved it already is, when it made a movie at the cost of just about a full year of its development funding for education, women’s and youth football (around $30-million), and perhaps that great public love is why American audiences disregarded it on its release in that country last week, leading to gross ticket receipts of $918 in its opening weekend.

Those who don’t yet fully comprehend the greatness of Fifa, though, are in for a treat. Here are some of the highlights from the movie that the Hollywood Reporter calls “a cringeworthy, self-aggrandising affair that mainly benefits from its unintentional camp value”.

1998
It is 1998, and Sepp Blatter (played by English actor Tim Roth, perhaps better known as Mr Orange in Reservoir Dogs), newly elected Fifa president, is laying down the law.

“Now the next tournament will take place in both South Korea and Japan, far from Europe,” Blatter tells a Fifa meeting. “Some of you may feel that this is a good opportunity to close lucrative deals with certain lobbies.

“Think again. This sport is spotless. There is simply a lot more money involved now. Which is why, from now on, we’ll be exemplary in all respects. The slightest breach of ethics will be severely punished … I am warning you. All of you. We will play by my rules now.”

All present are suitably cowed, and corruption – not that there ever was any, but presuming there had been – is stamped out forever.

1925
It is 1925 and Uruguayan diplomat Enrique Buero has a pitch for Fifa’s first president, Jules Rimet.

“We have considerable financial resources in Uruguay,” Buero tells Rimet over tea. “In five years’ time Uruguay will celebrate its 100th anniversary and we would like to mark the occasion by organising the first world football championship.”

Rimet is dubious. “But an event like that costs a fortune!” he exclaims.

“Yes, but we are prepared to pay.”

“Fifa is poor, but that doesn’t mean we will sell the one treasure we possess: honour.”

“Please don’t misunderstand me. We would not want to buy anything. Let’s just say we would be especially honoured to have this competition. We have … unlimited funds … unlimited. You need the money, we need a world championship. Let’s do business.”

And so, having made it clear that Fifa is not for sale, Rimet and Buero shake hands, and the World Cup is born.

Why, exactly, Rimet subsequently tells his compatriots that the World Cup will be held in “a country yet to be determined” and seems surprised when that country turns out to be Uruguay is not entirely clear.

1929
It is 1929 and an opinionated American character credited only as “Larsen” corners Annette Rimet, daughter of Fifa president Jules, at a party.

Why, demands Larsen, is the first World Cup being held in Uruguay, “a country no one has ever heard of, which is a stranger to modernity? And why not at the tip of Africa with the Zulus while we’re at it?”

Annette, bless her progressive if ever-so-slightly condescending heart, retorts: “Why not? Indeed. Who knows, the Zulus may be excellent football players. Maybe they just don’t know it yet.”

But Larsen is not to be deterred. “But young lady, the natives of Africa are stupid and undisciplined. It’s just their nature. How could they possibly be expected to appreciate the subtleties of a game invented by whites?”

Mercifully, Daddy Rimet interrupts, and the two Rimets give the nasty American a proper scolding before flouncing off to go lay the groundwork that would allow their spiritual successor, Sepp Blatter, to single-handedly bring the World Cup to Africa.

2002
It is 2002. Having fondled the World Cup trophy for inspiration, and having defied those in Fifa telling unspecified lies about him, Blatter hangs around the outskirts of an extraordinary Fifa elective conference in Seoul.

Blatter looks soulfully at himself in a mirror. Blatter walks through a lobby in slow motion. Blatter smiles at himself as he walks down a corridor. Blatter strides into a room, presidentially. Blatter smiles as he is again elected Fifa president. Blatter gets a standing ovation.

In this way – although the exact mechanism of action is not explained – Blatter causes a girl playing goalie in an otherwise all-boy game in an unspecified slum to snap out of her dismal performance, dribble the ball all the way from her own goal line, shoot, and score.

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever. But it comes at a cost. Advertisers are cancelling campaigns, and our live events have come to an abrupt halt. Our income has been slashed.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years. We’ve survived thanks to the support of our readers, we will need you to help us get through this.

To help us ensure another 35 future years of fiercely independent journalism, please subscribe.

Phillip De Wet
Guest Author
Advertising

READ IT IN FULL: Ramaphosa’s address on the extension of...

This is the full address given by President Cyril Ramaphosa on April 9

Meet the doctor leading Africa’s fight to contain the coronavirus...

Dr Matshidiso Moeti’s father helped to eliminate smallpox. Now she’s leading Africa’s efforts against the coronavirus

Stella set to retain her perks

Communication minister will keep Cabinet perks during her two months of special leave

Covid-19 grounds Nigeria’s medical tourists

The country’s elites, including the president, travelled abroad for treatment but now they must use the country’s neglected health system

Press Releases

Rahima Moosa Hospital nursing college introduces no-touch facial recognition access system

The new system allows the hospital to enrol people’s faces immediately, using artificial intelligence, and integrates easily with existing access control infrastructure, including card readers and biometrics

Everyone’s talking about it. Even Kentucky

Earlier this year South African fried chicken fast-food chain, Chicken Licken®, launched a campaign for their wallet-friendly EasyBucks® meals, based on the idea of ‘Everyone’s talking about it.’

New energy mix on the cards

REI4P already has and will continue to yield thousands of employment opportunities

The online value of executive education in a Covid-19 world

Executive education courses further develop the skills of leaders in the workplace

Sisa Ntshona urges everyone to stay home, and consider travelling later

Sisa Ntshona has urged everyone to limit their movements in line with government’s request

SAB Zenzele’s special AGM postponed until further notice

An arrangement has been announced for shareholders and retailers to receive a 77.5% cash payout

20th Edition of the National Teaching Awards

Teachers are seldom recognised but they are indispensable to the country's education system

Awards affirm the vital work that teachers do

Government is committed to empowering South Africa’s teachers with skills, knowledge and techniques for a changing world