The other day I saw a tweet offering minor praise for Sepp Blatter, who was just re-elected to a fifth term as FIFA president. It was a reporter tweeting his colleague’s article in the New York Times.
Here’s the official NYT account’s tweet of the same article:
My first reaction was that it had to be a joke. This story ran amid the arrests of numerous FIFA officials on charges of rampant corruption. It glosses over his sexist tendencies and “creepier moments.”
The article describes Blatter’s work to promote the women’s game as if he has wholeheartedly and single-handedly championed the cause.
I would argue the opposite. Women’s soccer has come a long way since Blatter first took over as the head of soccer’s governing body, sure. But I propose there are millions of people (billions?) who could’ve led the sport to even higher heights.
Not to mention, the World Cup that starts June 6 would be played on real grass, not artificial turf. It’s hard to forget this image of American star Sydney Leroux’s shins after sliding on what feels like running on cement:
From the Washington Post, Jan. 21, 2015:
FIFA, however, would not back down from whatever agreements it made with the CSA and turf companies, and eventually the women were forced to withdraw the suit.
It’s hard to imagine that the man who rules FIFA intends to grow anything besides his own bank account. Suggesting turf was ignorant. Refusing to budge after the sport’s most respected ambassadors resort to filing a lawsuit is an insult.
Celebrities including Tom Hanks and John Oliver have stepped forward to support women’s soccer (and rail on Blatter).
Oliver referred to the Kobe Bryant tweet above on the most recent episode of Last Week Tonight. In his now familiar shame marketing technique, he offered to do anything if the major World Cup sponsors would “make Sepp Blatter go away.
Oliver has had some luck with his bully pulpit in the past. Just look at his #JeffWeCan campaign.
He might get his wish without having to down a bottle of BudLight Lime or donning a pair of Adidas : today authorities said Blatter’s top deputy Jerome Valcke is allegedly behind payments of $10M in exchange for votes.
Throughout the recent excitement, Blatter has remained defiant.
Just how aloof could one man be, you ask? For all of NFL Commissioner Roger Goddell’s faults, I’m 100% sure he would recognize Peyton Manning if they ran into each other at the MVP awards dinner. Blatter failed to do the same for Team USA’s Alex Morgan in 2012 when she was being honored as one of the 3 best women’s players in the world.
The only truth to Blatter’s self-described role as “the godfather” of women’s soccer is that he happened to be on the throne at the time. There are few people who could’ve done a worse job “promoting” a sport that has seen such meteoric growth.
No, this post was not just an excuse to take my new pivot table skills for a spin*. And I realize the data above includes boys and girls. The split has moved from 55% boys/45% girls in 1995 to 52%/48% in 2008. I remember being the only girl on my youth teams back in the day.
Women’s soccer will keep improving alongside the men’s game. Imagine how much more could be done for the next generation with a truly supportive figure at the helm.
Aside from pressuring brands like Coke and Adidas, what can consumers do?
I’d recommend watching Oliver’s FIFA segment for a dose of inspiration:
*Shoutout to JG!