Soccer, Cash and Politics

Yet another destructive tweet from the White House’s current tenant. Should we be surprised? Of course not, especially as the 45th president of the United States has made Twitter his chosen method of communication. In fact, his untimely interference in the world of soccer is right in line with how he envisions the United States’ relationship with the rest of the world. For Donald Trump, who is not a man of politics but rather a man of business, it is clear: The United States is the world “superpower” and everything should revolve around them.

With die-hard pragmatism, Trump clings to the principle of “business is business” and every dollar spent by the United States should serve its interests. These are the founding principles that he defined in his presidential campaign under the slogan “America First.” Also, his intrusion in a field that is not his own, soccer − which has its own rules that place it outside the USA − is not fortuitous and goes beyond just the United States welcoming the World Cup in 2026. By intervening in soccer, Trump is pursuing what he has undertaken since his arrival at the White House: making the United States “respected.”

This “respect” manifests itself in a threat against U.N. countries that do not follow Washington’s injunctions; in the withdrawal from the Paris Accord on climate change; and in taxes on steel and aluminum in international trade. Also, positioning himself in the business of soccer is, for Trump, a way of marking his territory with what is, nevertheless, a long-term vision (in 2026, Trump will no longer be president of the United States.)

Some have shown the “red card” to Trump, who meddles in things he doesn’t understand, but has he really committed a “technical foul”? Indeed. In fact, it can be asked what made the president of the United States put his foot in his mouth, especially as there is no contest between the solid case for the United States-Mexico-Canada trio – a group candidature for the World in 2026 – and that of their Moroccan contender.

Morocco was almost eliminated because of FIFA’s new specifications, which Rabat doesn’t seem to be in a position to meet. Furthermore, some of FIFA’s directors haven’t hidden their fondness for the trio led by the United States, presenting more guarantees to organize a soccer World Cup in which, for the first time, 48 countries will take part. This will require vast technical, infrastructural and human resources.

That being said, the American president’s interference in the football business has other objectives. In fact, while receiving Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari at the White House last Monday, Trump asked that African countries (those “shithole” countries, as the White House’s current tenant calls them) support America’s candidature over that of Africa’s representative: Morocco. Cynical? Consider the unnatural “union” between the United States and Mexico that President Trump is dragging through the mud. Especially since “Trump’s Wall” − on Sunday he reiterated that the wall will be built −will probably be partially completed by 2026. Also, it raises a question: How can two countries separated by a wall 2,000 miles long organize a World Cup together? This poses an obvious problem.

Furthermore, there’s Trump’s anti-immigrant order. In fact, unless the anti-immigrant order, which prevents immigrants from seven countries from entering the United States, is repealed before 2026, it will disqualify the country from organizing an international sporting event. Imagine if one of the countries targeted by Trump’s order qualifies for the 2026 World Cup. What would FIFA do? Could the country’s athletes and fans enter the United States?

In addition to this, immigrants from several countries – notably those in Africa and Asia – could also see themselves prevented from entering the United States to follow the World Cup. That is one of the parameters that FIFA should have taken into consideration before agreeing to a grouped candidature of those three countries. Next June 13, the 2026 World Cup organizer will be designated; will FIFA take the new order into consideration?

To make a long story short, considering the capricious American president’s previous potshots, the United States’ candidature should have been rejected by FIFA from the start. It is obvious that what the United States guarantees (sports, infrastructure, communications, transportation) is not enough when human rights are called into question. Since his arrival in power, Trump has generally shown his closeness to extremists, a closeness that could flow into racism. Also, President Trump’s controversial and non-mainstream policies weigh uncertainly on an event anticipated by the entire world. Will money take precedence over financial fair play and the athletes that FIFA so celebrates?

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