June 12 marks the kickoff of the 2014 World Cup. The tournament, put on by the Fédération Internationale de Football Association, or FIFA as it’s more commonly known, is put on once every four years and is the largest and most important event for the soccer community.
As a soccer enthusiast and Nazionale italiana di calico fan, I can’t lie and say I’m not excited about the whole ordeal. What I can say is that FIFA is a money-starved organization that exploits the poor while romanticizing their dire situations.
This year, the tournament will take place in Brazil, a nation battling economic crisis, poverty and corruption. But to the world, it’s just another exotic location, thanks in part to FIFA and Beats by Dre, who have collaborated to release an absurdly pseudo-religious commercial commemorating the Cup (and the Beats headphones.) Outraged by the frivolous spending and unrepresentative publicity, many in Brazil have protested the event. Meanwhile, ignoring the problems and protests, the rest of the world descends upon Brazil, ready for a month long soccer-fueled vacation.
To soccer fans, the World Cup is meant to be a celebration honoring the love of soccer and the connection it provides between various classes, races and ethnicities across the globe. For FIFA, it’s a four-year fundraiser fueled by scandal and corruption that caps off with a billion dollar tournament of champions.
It’s hardly fair that an organization claiming to foster the passion people feel for the game of soccer is charging more than $150 for an “official match ball.” Meanwhile, a successful portrayal for the love of the game has been achieved through a humbling video brought forward by the New York Times’ opinion desk. The short clip, set in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, aims to tell the story of an African soccer ball.
Unlike the mass-produced, factory-made Adidas “brazuca” ball, the African ball is much simpler, and far more DIY. While the familiar geometric pattern is prevalent, the material itself comes from scraps found around town. Even so, the ball gets the job done, and everyone young and old can enjoy the game.
Through its video game franchise, custom jerseys, high-priced tickets, exotic locations and sponsored products, FIFA has painted the game as an enjoyable pastime for the elite rather than the world’s most beloved game.
Soccer is a simple sport with universal rules and standards that bring together people from all walks of life to play a game they can enjoy without judgement or repercussion. In order for it to once again be celebrated unbiasedly, it is time to ditch FIFA and start fresh, without the billion-dollar industry pressuring the community into evolving into something it’s not — a sport reserved for the elite.
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Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.
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