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Soccer troubles

Imagine an organisation with more members than the UN, where the boss presides over 208 national associations in support of an industry worth billions of dollars. And it's about all a game - which you call soccer, and everybody else calls football.


The International Football Federation - Fifa - has just re-elected its president. The word election, however, doesn't do justice to the way Mr. Sepp Blatter regained his title this week. Fifa's idea of democracy would have gone down well in the old Soviet Union. There was an election - but with no other candidates.  There had been one -- but he was suspended after allegations of corruption. So why do the people who run this so-called beautiful game keep picking a bald, overweight seventy-five year old, who once played soccer for a Swiss team nobody has ever heard of? Mr. Blatter has been on the payroll at Fifa for at least thirty five years - for the past twelve as its president.

Fifa elections often produce dark tales of intrigue. There are reports of envelopes stuffed with banknotes changing hands before the 1998 election. Mr. Blatter won. Four years later, despite facing corruption charges in the Swiss courts, Mr. Blatter triumphed again.  Those charges were eventually dropped.

The Swiss authorities went on to investigate a multi-million dollar bribery scandal involving some executive members of Fifa. But once again, the case was abandoned.

Last year, in a classic Fleet Street sting operation, a British newspaper offered hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes to two more big time Fifa members. Surprise surprise these pillars of sporting integrity took the bait. But the biggest scandal of all - perhaps - was the way Fifa recently picked the tiny state of Qatar in the Middle East as the venue for the 2022 soccer world cup. There are now allegations that huge sums of money changed hands to persuade a few members of the executive to vote for a country where it is far too hot to play anything out of doors. We Brits care about all this corruption because we're decent and we like to play it honest.

Unfortunately not all of the other 207 national associations agree. Mr. Blatter has now taken his unprecedented election victory as a mandate to clean up international soccer. Even though the worst of the corruption happened on his watch. He's even asked Henry Kissinger to join a new 'solution committee'.  I'm sure Mr. Kissinger's experiences with President Nixon will be of great help in this difficult task. This is Ed Boyle for CBS News in London.

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