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By Bashing U.S. Soccer, FIFA Reform Chief François Carrard Dismisses Our Love of the Game

Photo: AP

Sepp? Is that you? Oh no. Please no. Don’t tell me that François Carrard, the Swiss lawyer recently named to lead FIFA’s reform committee, is just as content with keeping the status quo as the old boys club veterans. I demand a reform of FIFA reforms.

By now, you’ve probably heard the news about the François Carrard interview published in Le Matin over the weekend. If you heard his comments in passing, you might mistake his ignorant, arrogant rhetoric for Sepp Blatter. But no, this is the man who’s supposed to lead the governing body of world fútbol into a new golden age, free of pervasive and persistent corruption. Right.

“Why are Americans even involved in FIFA at all when football, baseball, and basketball are so much more popular in the United States?” he said. It’s not a “true American sport” after all; “For the U.S., soccer is just an ethnic sport for girls in schools.”

Excuse me? A “fake” American sport? Since when does anyone have the power to claim that the beautiful game played around the globe is actually not a real sport, in a country with over 24 million futbolistas playing regularly? In fact, the U.S. has the second highest number in the world, as FIFA itself calculated in 2007.

It’s downright offensive, really. The MLS may be young but it’s growing, and in fact, it had the seventh highest attendance numbers in world fútbol last year. Above and beyond these bigger data-based counterpoints is the fact that there are thousands and thousands of us who dedicate our lives to following teams at home and abroad. We show up at supporters’ clubs unreasonably early on Saturdays, drop everything for a midweek 2:45 p.m. “European night” of Champions League action (or stream it in secret from our office cubicles). We’re active participants in an exciting, growing fan culture that’s truly unlike anything else.

What about us, Carrard? How can you possibly justify saying that soccer is not a true American sport? ESPNFC’s Alejandro Moreno noted that Carrard’s comments showed his true “inability to understand the global picture of the game.” Is it something about getting a FIFA name tag gilded in gold that immediately incites uncontrollable egoism and a tendency towards corruption out of the organization’s employees? Who knows. He did say that only “a few rogues” were involved in the scandals, and that without FIFA “soccer would die,” so I guess we’re good to go.

Sadly, it’s unsurprising that a man as inept as Carrard is in the position that he finds himself in today. We’d be kidding ourselves to think that FIFA higher ups aren’t outrageously egotistical, arrogant, greedy, and power-hungry. But to show such blunt disrespect and disregard for a country that’s already taken leaps and bounds to rid the game we all love of the corruption that makes it terrible is mind-boggling.

As Fusion writes, FIFA might also nominate Donald Trump to be president of Mexico’s Football Federation. Okay, maybe not, but at this point this wouldn’t be too shocking, would it?