New FIFA Program, Same FIFA Problems
CONCACAF has been the test subject in the launch of a new FIFA initiative this past week. Seven CONCACAF nations have participated in a two day workshop in Puerto Rico. In short, FIFA 11 for Health is another initiative to promote an active lifestyle and create ambassadors for the game, but it appears to miss the mark in a few places.
The seminar, attended by representatives from the Cayman Islands, Curaçao, Grenada, Jamaica, Martinique, Puerto Rico and St. Lucia, focused on implementing the program, the necessary budget, and delegating responsibilities. CONCACAF President, Jeffrey Webb, welcomed the program:
“CONCACAF welcomes this project to the Caribbean region, as it is designed to infiltrate society from a grassroots level, ensuring that our population remains fit and healthy through the power of football. ”
FIFA are tailoring the eleven objectives for each region. For CONCACAF, the following was identified:
- Play football
- Respect girls and women
- Protect yourself from HIV and STDs
- Avoid drugs, alcohol and tobacco
- Control your weight
- Wash your hands
- Drink clean water
- Eat a balanced diet
- Get vaccinated
- Take your prescribed medication
- Fair play
Point four is classic FIFA. They will gladly accept up to $25m per year from Anheuser-Busch InBev NV, brewers of Budweiser. FIFA even colluded with the Qatar Tourism Authority in order to circumvent the Arab state’s ban on alcohol.
The plan is to build cruise ships to house up to 12,000 fans for the duration of the tournament. 12,000 fans filling up with the official beer of the FIFA World Cup, off the coast of a dry nation, before being herded on to the mainland where citizens are forbidden to be exposed to alcohol by their religion. I find it slightly disturbing that whilst gladly accepting up to $100m per World Cup cycle, and finding ways to ignore a host nation’s laws, along with plastering it with Bud branding, FIFA will urge people to avoid their own endorsed product among the other unhealthy vices.
Whilst we talk about a lack of respect for Muslims and religious beliefs, let's go to item 2. ‘Respect girls and women’ is certainly something that is vital. Part of respecting females of any age, is surely to be inclusive and promote equality among all fans, rather than singling out females as the damsels in distress.
If we are preaching equality and respect, are transgender persons exempt? Given that some Caribbean nations, much like the next two World Cup hosts, have a reputation for homophobia, should that not also be on the agenda? Presumably racism will feature on a potential UEFA list, unless Sepp Blatter continues to deny its existence.
Going back to a sponsor that sells alcohol, FIFA also gladly take money from certain purveyors of junk foods.
I wonder how often FIFA's Chief Medical Officer, Prof. Jiri Dvorak, is reminded that his salary is paid by sponsorship money from Anheuser-Busch InBev NV, Coca-Cola and McDonald's. I don't think that such a respected medical mind produces health advice, that could be found on a generic workplace safety poster, without some gentle prodding.
The list, as a whole, is akin to those ‘If you say your prayers and eat your vitamins, you’ll be a real American’ lines that Hulk Hogan would utter on television many years ago. I’d really like to see just how creative people can be, with the comments section used to put together a special FIFA 11 for Health for the glorious leaders in Zürich.
Let’s start with a couple:
- The World Cup should be awarded, not bought
- People should be treated equally, regardless of gender, race, religion, sexuality etc.
- Be respectful of your host's culture, you're their guest after all