Sadly, I was doing this, too…and I’m German! I only caught the tail end of the match, which I half-watched on the little kitchen TV while I prepared some snow peas from my garden for the freezer. I did NOT feel like celebrating when I saw the final score, either. I was really, sincerely embarrassed by what reeked of overkill. And my heart ached for the Brazilian fans, too. They were too sad to riot, and I honestly think the police could have done without all the light-flashing paddywagons outside the stadium. (Really. Do they think their own people are uncivilized? Ugh. Arrest some foreign hooligans already, you guys.)
But you know what else embarrasses me as a German? THIS.
Ray Whelan, confidant of Sepp Blatter and director of the company with the exclusive right to sell packages of World Cup tickets, spent last night in a police station, accused of heading an illegal ticket sales ring.
The director of Match Hospitality was arrested at the Copacabana Palace hotel in Rio de Janeiro, the same where all the FIFA heads are staying. This as part of a police investigation in which 11 other persons have already been detained. After paying a fine and surrendering his passport, he was let go.
Whelan, who is not an employee of FIFA, acted as the visible head of Match, a company based in Switzerland and controlled by the Mexican brothers, Jaime and Enrique Byrom. In 2007, Match paid 240 million euros to FIFA for the exclusive right to sell World Cup tickets and travel packages for the 2010 and 2014 tournaments, many of them for VIP clients.
According to police spokesman Fabio Barucke, the investigation took place without the recognition or the co-operation of FIFA. Days ago, also as part of Operation Jules Rimet, Mohamadou Lamine Fofana, executive director of Atlanta Sportif, a business which had signed an agreement with Match for the World Cup, was arrested. It appears that the Algerian businessman is one of the key players in this illegal trafficking network.
It bears recalling that in 2012, Match admitted that the sale of local concessions had already permitted it to recoup its 240 million euro investment, and that from then on, a profit margin was guaranteed. A few weeks later, FIFA renewed its contract with the Byrom brothers, who will also administrate the tickets sales for Russia in 2018 and Qatar in 2022.
The ties between FIFA and the Byroms date back to the 1986 World Cup in Mexico, even though it was not until eight years later that they began to collaborate as an official agency. One of the principal investors of Match Hospitality is Infront Sports and MEdia, whose executive director is Philippe Blatter, nephew of the FIFA president.
FIFA spokesperson Delia Fischer lamented what had happened, and assured that “anyone who commits a crime will be sanctioned, no matter who it may be.”
Her declaration came at a time when it became known that Philippe Blatter is owner of a business with a minority stake in Match Hospitality.
Several days ago, the Rio de Janeiro police arrested 39 people for illegal buying and selling of tickets around Maracaná stadium during the the quarter-final match between France and Germany.
Sepp Blatter, of course, is German, as is his nephew. FIFA’s corruption is much talked about in general, and his blunders in particular. And this latest disgrace, though unrelated to today’s bloodletting on the pitch, is just terribly painful. It’s things like this that make me ashamed of even that tiny common thread I hold. The lovely, warm-hearted Brazilians deserve better than this from FIFA, after all the millions and billions of dollars that they themselves invested in the hosting of the event…and all the blood they’ve shed in making it happen.