The story of corruption surrounding the awarding of the 2022 World Cup, “worth billions of dollars and priceless prestige to the victor.”
By this point, there are few who doubt that the international governing body of soccer, FIFA, is utterly, uncontrollably, uncontrovertibly, and undoubtedly corrupt. It is an organization without scruples, larger than the United Nations in membership and beholden to a small number of willful men. The granting of the 2022 World Cup to the tiny desert nation of Qatar was an act of both folly and hubris. Readers would be hard-pressed to find anyone who pays attention to global soccer to believe that awarding the country the world’s most popular sport’s premier event was anything but a triumph of graft over merit. It is this story that Buzzfeed U.K. investigations editor Blake and Sunday Times Insight team editor Calvert investigate, and a good portion of the narrative is compelling. However, their reportage hangs on such a thin and fragile reed of evidence that even if it rings true, it does not carry the fundamental burden of proving the truth. Relying on the testimony of shady anonymous interlocutors, drawing on broad but unverifiable inferences, providing no footnotes or endnotes or even a bibliography, the authors tell the world what it wants to hear without proving why it is worth hearing. FIFA is an easy target, and the authors take plenty of justifiable shots at the organization. But it will be up to future writers and scholars not just to take aim at the giant bull’s-eye, but to hit it with greater accuracy. Thinking one knows the truth is not enough, no matter how many anonymous sources tell you otherwise.
Being right is important. Being able to document that rightness (or righteousness) is vital. This book lives up to the former but disappoints on the latter.