FIFA kicks Guatemala while they’re down
Every four years, the world collectively screams at the TV while watching the forces of good and evil battle it out on national television. We pledge allegiance to any country to which we have a vague ethnic tie, jump on the Football World Cup bandwagon, and scream and yell our hearts out for the best part of a month. While you’re out there Googling the names of players on your national team so you can seem up with it before they get eliminated in the group stages (yet again Australia, yet again….), spare a thought for the millions of Guatemalans who live and breathe football but aren’t even allowed to complete in the world’s biggest international sporting spectacle! But never fear, your mates at XelaWho HQ have got the goods on Guatemala and the World’s Game… “football” not “soccer” that is, as your oh so culturally savvy mate who is obviously better than you might remind you incessantly.
As you’ve probably noticed, most Guatemalans (at least the dudes) develop a healthy obsession with all things football from the moment they leave the womb. (you might call that moment their first header). Despite this, the Guatemalan national team has performed notoriously poorly for as long as anyone cares to remember. The team has never qualified for a major international tournament like the World Cup. They did, however, come 6th in the 1968 Olympics!
To add insult to this injury to national pride, FIFA, an organization the Washington Post described as “the world’s most powerful and loathed sports organization” banned the Guatemalan national soccer federation, Fedefut in 2016 from participating in the World Cup. The ban followed years of FBI and FIFA investigations into former Fedefut President, Brayan Jimenez Hernandez for racketeering to profit from the sale of foot- ball television rights.
The irony of being called “too-corrupt” by one of the most corrupt organisations in the world is not lost on many Guatemalans. As US Attorney Kieth Edelman put it during a U.S. Justice Department investigation into rampant corruption by FIFA officials at the highest levels, “they [took bribes] year after year, tournament after tournament, bribe after bribe.” Accused of taking around $150 million in bribes over 24 years to award telecast and sponsorship rights, FIFA cronies even resorted to threatening to kill witnesses cooperating with federal investigators.
And where is the next World Cup? Yep, Qatar 2022. A scorching hot emirate with such appalling working conditions for the 80,000 migrant workers building facilities for the Cup that over 1,200 have died so far. That’s a the rate of 1 worker death every two days. Many observers estimate the death toll could reach 7,000 by kickoff 2022. So what did it take for Qatar to win the Cup? Just about $1 million per voting FIFA official and a couple of $100+ million television rights deals.
So this is all from the organization that called Guatemala “too corrupt” to participate in the Cup. Talk about the pot calling the kettle black. But! We’re back baby! Just before the 2018 Cup started in June, FIFA said Guatemala can participate in the 2026 Cup and even vote on future World Cup hosting rights (cha-ching for any voting official!). So never fear, young chapin, you’ll only have to support Brazilian pretty boys who scream bloody murder for a free kick if someone so much as tickles their bum-fluff for another 8 years!
Enjoy the Cup Xela! And vamos Guate in 2026!