FIFA Uncovered Review 2022 Tv Show Series Season Cast Crew
Modern football – that is, a spectacle you feel a nagging shame from participating in, because like so many other things it seems less about joy and more about money with every passing day – began in 1974. The global sport’s governing body, Fifa, had previously been a parochial little outfit, a handful of men in suits happily organising World Cups that were simply football tournaments. But, under a new president, João Havelange, funds for the global expansion of the game were promised and, with no cash in Fifa’s account, sponsorship deals were signed.
Football just as sport for its own sake? That option no longer existed. Now it was brought to you in association with Coca-Cola and Adidas. Fifa Uncovered (Netflix), a four-part documentary, starts its story with the Havelange overhaul and peaks with the FBI making multiple arrests for corruption and racketeering a few decades later.
Havelange steadfastly endorsed the 1978 World Cup, hosted by Argentina despite the country having recently fallen to a vicious military dictatorship. Here was a new kind of man in suit, who also saw the opportunity to expand and exploit the sport’s marketing and broadcast potential. By the early 1980s, Adidas boss Horst Dassler had set up a special company, International Sport and Leisure, to which all Fifa’s rights management was outsourced. Neither Fifa nor its member nations saw their fair share of the increasingly huge amount of money involved, but Havelange made sure he himself was lavishly rewarded.
Into this pit slid Fifa Uncovered’s main character, Sepp Blatter, a protege of Havelange’s who finally levered him out of his chair in 1998 and remained as president until the house of cards fell in 2015. The standard mix of news archive and interviews with both observers and insiders is employed to explain how, under Blatter, Fifa became if not institutionally corrupt, then certainly very attractive to corrupt men. As well as having too much wonga sloshing about, Fifa’s internal politics made it vulnerable to the self-interested: when presidents or World Cup venues were chosen, smaller nations had the same voting rights as major football hubs, without a strong football culture at home to keep them in check. Men such as Jack Warner , the president of Concacaf (the Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football), and his fantastically monikered sidekick, the American sports administrator Chuck Blazer, took full advantage.
Although it drags in its overdetailed final episode and could have been trimmed from four hours to three, Fifa Uncovered for the most part is a queasily thrilling chronicle of allegations and fishy coincidences, with cash appearing in brown envelopes when a big vote is taking place, and disappearing when it ought to be going to worthy development projects. The brazen wrongdoing of some of the individuals involved gives the programme the addictive repulsiveness of a true-crime documentary.
That said, the series scores an audience with several big players, then does little with them. The section on how the repressive desert petrostate of Qatar, selected to host the 2022 World Cup, happened to invest heavily in several countries that backed its bid, should climax with its representative being grilled – but the interviewer stumbles at the crucial moment. Blatter, ever keen to reshape his image via what he imagines is a suave air of authority, keeps popping up to offer irrelevant platitudes rather than confront key questions. Eventually, it is suggested to him that he must bear some guilt for presiding over an executive committee that was so overwhelmingly bent that only one of the 22 members in place when Russia and Qatar were awarded the 2018 and 2022 World Cups is still in post. He expresses regret but denies moral responsibility, while tossing in the idea that he can’t be expected to answer for committee members from “other countries and other cultures”. Bearing in mind that the worst scandals involved delegates from African, Middle Eastern and Caribbean nations, one wonders whether this is insignificant waffle or a patronising sentiment from a perpetually cynical ghoul. With Blatter, it is always so hard to tell.
Where Fifa Uncovered does score highly is in its canny portrayal of Fifa under Blatter as representing a wider, late-20th-century malaise: powerful men, compromised by business interests but protected by systems that ensure accountability is an illusion. As the Guardian journalist David Conn suggests that being co-opted by dictatorships is perhaps even worse than taking bribes, we see footage of Gianni Infantino, who succeeded Blatter on a clean-money ticket, glad-handing Vladimir Putin and the Qatari ruling elite.
It is a bleak picture, summed up by one of the series’ premier whistleblowers, former Fifa media director Guido Tognoni. “If you ask if Fifa can ever get away from corruption, you have to ask if the world can ever get away from corruption,” he says. “No, it can’t. As it is structured now: no. Not possible.”