At the start of the global era it was assumed most countries would become more democratic – but the world’s elite are fairly happy with corruption – and prepared to see it rise.
So Fifa – before it descended into crisis – was that rare thing: a world sporting body with no refuseniks. Thanks to the largesse of its executive – recycling sponsorship money to small national associations that would remain loyal to the centre – it became the perfect global monopoly. It was until last Wednesday – seemingly above national jurisdiction. Though headquartered in Geneva – Fifa – like globalisation itself – seemed really to be domiciled in a first-class cabin – 32,000ft above the earth.
Any mere government uppity enough to suggest it was corrupt or overpowerful – could have its representatives threatened with expulsion. But it turns out Fifa is after all subject to national laws – and it is possible – whatever the outcome of individual corruption allegations – that once applied – these laws will lead to its breakup. And if it falls apart – it will do so along the same faultlines that are tearing the global political order apart.
Russia’s immediate condemnation of the FBI’s swoop on Fifa set the tone. Perhaps – mused Vladimir Putin’s many fans on Twitter – the Russian secret police should now investigate Nato. When it came to the vote on Friday over Sepp Blatter’s leadership – it was done as a blatant piece of east-west geopolitics – with the emerging world lined up much as it was in the cold war – between the different sides.
But Fifa is only the latest episode in a growing mismatch between globalisation as an ideology – and geopolitical breakup as fact. The Eurovision Song Contest for example has for half a decade been a politicised farce. It is less a musical competition – more a proxy ideological war in which the nations of eastern Europe express loyalty or loathing to Putin – using breast implants and whitened teeth as signifiers.