FIFA Appoints African Woman as Secretary General: A Preliminary Assessment

By | June 6th, 2016 | No Comments

Portrait image of Fatma Samoura

Fatma Samba Diop Samoura of Senegal, a career United Nations diplomat, was recently appointed by FIFA President Gianni Infantino as the world body’s new secretary general. “She will bring a fresh wind to FIFA—someone from outside,” Infantino declared.

Listen to my radio interview with Assumpta Oturu as we discuss the significance of Samoura’s appointment and its possible implications for substantive reforms at scandal-ridden FIFA.

The interview originally aired on KPFK’s “Spotlight Africa” program on June 3, 2016.


Fútbologists Discuss FIFA Corruption Book

By | February 12th, 2016 | No Comments

Two weeks before the FIFA election to select Sepp Blatter’s successor as president, the Football Scholars Forum, an international group based at Michigan State University, discussed The Ugly Game: The Corruption of FIFA and the Qatari Plot to Buy the World Cup by Heidi Blake and Jonathan Calvert.

Qatar’s successful 2022 World Cup bid and the role of the now-disgraced ex-FIFA ExCo member Mohamed Bin Hammam came under close scrutiny. The authors’ reliance on leaked FIFA electronic files called attention to the challenges and opportunities for scholars working with “big data.” There was discussion about discourses of Western bias and even racism against Africans and Asians (especially Arabs) that are sometimes perceived to be embedded in corruption allegations. Another topic tackled during the event was the intriguing question of whether there should be a universal standard of human rights required for nations to host the World Cup.

The session closed with important contributions related to the upcoming FIFA presidential ballot. Will Sheikh Salman or Gianni Infantino win? And what kinds of reforms might the new leadership deliver? What is the likelihood that any changes introduced will meaningfully transform the structure and governance of the much-maligned world body? In a climate plagued by corruption and cynicism, is there any hope for a better future?

An audio recording of the session is available here.

For more information about the Football Scholars Forum, visit

Football Scholars to discuss FIFA corruption

By | February 4th, 2016 | No Comments

the-ugly-game-9781501131493_lgThe FIFA special presidential election will take place on February 26 in Zurich, Switzerland. On Thursday, February 11, at 2pm Eastern U.S. time. the Football Scholars Forum will intellectually and spiritually prepare for this momentous event with an online discussion of The Ugly Game: The Corruption of FIFA and the Qatari Plot to Buy the World Cup by British reporters Heidi Blake and Jonathan Calvert.


The investigative reporting of Blake and Calvert drew extensively on a huge volume of leaked FIFA files they received from a whistleblower within the organization. The book explores the Machiavellian ways in which Qatar won the right to host the 2022 World Cup. The story centers around the actions of now-disgraced FIFA Executive Committee member Mohamed Bin Hammam. The evidence and allegations in the book are striking. In unveiling cash-for-votes schemes and more, the book raises profoundly troubling questions about football governance and the likelihood of the February 26 election yielding meaningful institutional reforms in a post-Blatter FIFA.


For more information about the Football Scholars Forum and to join the February 11 online conversation, email Alex Galarza (galarza DOT alex AT gmail).

FIFA, Blatter and Me (Andrew Jennings)

By | December 11th, 2015 | No Comments

Nearly a decade ago, I devoured English reporter Andrew Jennings’s scathing investigation into “The Secret World of FIFA: Bribes, Vote Rigging and Ticket Scandals.”

Now, in a compelling BBC Panorama documentary, Jennings updates the story by digging deeper into FIFA’s most recent and spiraling crisis. The documentary takes viewers to FIFA headquarters in Zurich, and then to the U.S., Brazil, Trinidad, and South Korea.

One of the most interesting revelations in the BBC piece is that the FBI has in its possession potentially damning written evidence alleging that outgoing FIFA President Sepp Blatter has long been aware of the nature and scope of corruption in world soccer.

Another intriguing insight is that Qatar may have paid $117 million to buy votes and win hosting rights for the 2022 World Cup.

In typically relentless and confrontational fashion, the documentary focuses on Jennings’ probe of the ongoing FBI investigation of corrupt FIFA officials and associates from North America, the Caribbean, and Latin America.

He discusses mounting evidence of kickbacks and bribes paid to acquire TV and sponsorship rights—the charges at the heart of the U.S. Department of Justice’s indictment of high-ranking FIFA men, two of whom have already pleaded guilty to racketeering. Several other FIFA Executive Committee members are in the process of being extradited to the United States.

With the Court of Arbitration for Sport’s decision this week to uphold the 90-day FIFA suspension of both Blatter and Michel Platini (head of European soccer body UEFA), it is no wonder that Jennings believes the scheduled February 2016 FIFA presidential election is “descending into farce.”

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FIFA, Blatter and Africa: a Special Relationship

By | June 4th, 2015 | 1 Comment

Sepp Blatter, Ali Bongo Ondimba, Thomas Boni Yayi, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo and Issa Hayatou wave before the final match of the 2012 African Cup of Nations in Librevill

On Tuesday, June 2, Sepp Blatter announced his intention to resign as FIFA president just four days after winning reelection to a fifth term — an electoral victory that simply could not have happened without the support of FIFA’s African members.

According to unofficial calculations, the 133 votes secretly cast for Blatter came from Africa (53), Asia (46), and North America (minus the United States) and the Caribbean (34).

Why did Africans unanimously support the leader of a troubled, even loathed, organization which two days earlier witnessed the arrest of seven of its executives in Zurich on US bribery and corruption charges?

As an academic who has been researching, publishing and teaching the history and culture of African football for two decades, I want to offer a possible answer to this challenging question.

Read full text here at The Conversation.

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Blatteropoly: The ESPN Documentary

By | May 20th, 2015 | 1 Comment


Exquisitely timed for release just ahead of the May 29th FIFA presidential election, ESPN aired an excellent E60 documentary on Sepp Blatter’s governance of world football.

Jeremy Schaap’s piercing investigation deftly uses on-camera interviews with whistleblower Phaedra Almajid, ex-FIFA men like Guido Tognoni, Swiss government officials, and others to probe the murky bid process that granted Qatar hosting rights to the 2022 World Cup. The story digs vigorously into a culture of corruption, fear, intimidation, patronage, and politricks within football’s world body.

Watch the entire show by clicking on each link below:

Part 1: Blatter’s power and Qatar’s World Cup

Part 2: Beginnings of the legend of Blatter

Part 3: Controversy surrounds Blatter’s reign at FIFA

Part 4: Criticism in the UK

Part 5: Challenging Blatter’s power

As an after-viewing treat, I would highly recommend listening to this interview by Sports Illustrated’s Grant Wahl with Jeremy Schaap about making the documentary, lessons learned, and a lot more.

And if you still haven’t had enough, then go ahead and enjoy Last Week Tonight‘s John Oliver lambast the most powerful man in sports! (click here to watch).

The Women’s Game: Global Perspectives

By | December 8th, 2014 | No Comments



Last Saturday’s 2015 Women’s World Cup draw in Ottawa briefly took the global media spotlight away from the men’s game. And from the players’ gender discrimination lawsuit against FIFA and the Canadian Soccer Association for staging matches on artificial turf rather than natural grass.


The prominence of the women’s game in the sport-media-industrial complex happens so rarely, and tends to be so fleeting, that the Football Scholars Forum, the online fútbol think tank based at Michigan State University, decided to devote its final event before the holiday break to a thorough discussion of the state of the women’s game internationally, both on the pitch and in the scholarly literature.


This veritable intellectual pelada (pickup game) takes place on Thursday, December 11, at 2pm Eastern U.S. Time (-5 GMT). To jumpstart the Skype discussion, eminent scholars of the game have written pre-circulated blog posts on the FSF website.


Click here to read “When Two Elephants Fight, It is the Grass That Suffers” by Jean Williams (DeMontfort University, @JeanMWilliams).


Click here to read “Marimachos: On Women’s Football in Latin America” by Brenda Elsey (Hofstra University, @politicultura) and Joshua Nadel (North Carolina Central University, @jhnadel).


Click here to read “The National Teams We Know Nothing About” by Gwen Oxenham.


Click here to read “A Pitch of Her Own” by Martha Saavedra (@tricontinental)


This is not the first time that FSF has delved into aspects of the study and play of women’s football. In 2011, just before the last Women’s World Cup, Cynthia Pelak and Jennifer Doyle facilitated a vigorous session (click here for details and audio). A second gathering a year later pivoted around Jun Stinson’s short documentary film, The 90th Minute (click here to listen to my interview with the filmmaker), and featured an intervention by Gwen Oxenham, author of Finding the Game (click here for audio).


To participate in the December 11 FSF event via Skype, please contact Alex Galarza on Twitter (@galarzaalex) or by email at galarza.alex AT gmail. See you on the virtual pitch!

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