FIFA


The Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) is the world's governing body for soccer. FIFA sets the rules for the world's most popular sport and also organizes the World Cup, one of the world's largest sporting events.

I grew up playing baseball, basketball and American football. I've never played soccer and have yet to watch a whole game of it. However, there's got to be something to the game as over 200 million people play it.

FIFA has been in the news quite a bit lately thanks to controversy surrounding Joseph Blatter, its president. Stories have come out accusing Blatter of running FIFA as his personal fiefdom. Revenues in 2001 for this not-for-profit association were $490 million.

So, where in Zurich do you think one would find the offices for FIFA? Maybe they rent prime space in the city center? Occupy a low-key building near the airport? Or share a building near Zurich's central train station? Nope, one has to make a pilgrimage up to the top of a steep hillside to find FIFA as its palatial setting overlooks the city. A beautiful four-story villa anchors the site along FIFA's own restaurant and expansive terrace that is open to the public. The view is spectacular with the city center and Lake Zurich directly below.

My first visit is a disaster. As I'm making my way up the hill I pass a cement truck on the side of the road, you know, one of those big trucks that pours cement. The driver must have just delivered his load and was using a hose to wash off that 10-foot section on the back of the truck that the cement travels down. As I'm passing the truck, the idiot driver sprays the 10-foot section with water and it ends up splattering the bike and myself with a mixture of cement and water. It isn't funny. I'm covered with white cement and so is my bike. I stop and spend 20 MINUTES wiping the bike and myself off before the cements hardens. I repeatedly curse the idiot driver who doesn't apologize.

So, thanks to that idiot driver my shorts and shirts have a polka dot pattern as I walk into FIFA's reception area at 11:15 am. I explain what I do and how I sent a letter of introduction a month earlier to Joseph Blatter. The indifferent receptionist says everyone is in a big staff meeting from 11 AM to 12:30 PM in the auditorium. She says EVERYONE is in this meeting and there's no possibility of her trying to contact anyone. I leave.

Several days later I return and thankfully find the indifferent receptionist from the previous visit tied up on the phone and explain myself to the second receptionist. I learn that neither Blatter nor his secretary is in and, "it isn't possible to speak with someone without an appointment". The receptionist goes on to say that if I wait 30 minutes a man from communications might have 10 minutes for me. I agree to wait.

Off to the side of the reception area there's a large room containing exhibits. There's a time line from FIFA's founding in 1904 to the present. FIFA has been located in Zurich since 1932-though the exhibit doesn't explain why. There's also a display containing a collection of soccer shoes showing their evolution through the years. Off to the side of the exhibit area are several meeting rooms named after soccer terminology: the Corner and Pitch rooms.

When I showed up it was 2:15 PM. and it's now 3 PM. The receptionist offers me something to drink. It's now 3:30 PM and I've heard zilch. When my watch hits the 3:40 PM mark I decide to leave. I don't bother saying anything to the receptionists because both are occupied making social calls on the phone and neither couldn't care less about my waiting.

Yep, it's quite the fancy place with beautiful grounds and a regal setting. The sort of setting where a king could rule his fiefdom from.