The problem isn’t Sepp Blatter; it’s FIFA
Within the murky waters that surround the FIFA executive committee wherever it roams, there was a bright moment three years ago when Sepp Blatter, in the midst of campaigning for a fourth-term as president of FIFA, vowed that if elected, he would not seek a fifth term. The same Sepp Blatter who has consistently been trailed by allegations of financial misappropriation, accusations of corruption, blatant sexism, enabling homophobia and racism, and altogether an antiquated view of modern society, promised to hand over the most powerful position in football at the height of the sport’s global expansion, and more or less, fans of the game stomached the promise and looked ahead to a light at the end of the tunnel.
Fast-forward three years and we’re still wading through muddy water with no end in site. On Monday morning, Sepp Blatter confirmed his bid for a fifth term as President of FIFA with a bold assertion that perfectly embodies Blatter’s view of his own place within the history of the game. Rather than quietly announce his campaign, Blatter portrayed his bid as a reluctant one, brought on by downtrodden federation representatives who had practically begged him to carry on. “Please go on, be our president also in future,” Blatter recounted, presumably with a smirk and an open checkbook not far away.
Understandably, the response was swift, with everyone from journalists to pundits and fans alike decrying Blatter’s re-election campaign as another example of the nepotism within FIFA’s ranks. Fingers were pointed, vitriol thrown and a few curse words muttered, all directed towards Blatter himself. And let’s be honest: if anyone deserves to be vilified, it’s Sepp Blatter. But for all the caustic response to Blatter’s decision, most onlookers seemed to discount one major fact: there’s no corrupt FIFA-branded rule book (that we know of) that forces FIFA electors to vote for Sepp Blatter come election time; federation representatives are free to launch their own campaigns or vote for an alternative.
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This is a significant point. Blatter’s deplorable character is well known, but he’s not a self-perpetuating force in and of himself; each of the six FIFA federations enable his behavior by regularly re-electing him to the sport’s most prominent position. The anger so regularly directed towards Blatter is certainly justifiable, but it misses the larger point.
The problem isn’t Sepp Blatter the individual, so much as FIFA’s structure as a whole. While Blatter is sure to benefit from his perch above world football, and certainly makes the most of his position to prolong his career, have no doubt that confederation representatives cast a vote for Blatter free from any type of reluctance. From FIFA-funded local programs in isolated nations to supporting African and Asian calls for more representation at the World Cup, Blatter works for his supporters in what always was and continues to be a mutually beneficial relationship.
And yet while calls for Blatter’s dismissal seem to follow each revolution of the news cycle, regular columns written in opposition to Blatter supporters are increasingly rare. Especially when the reality of the situation is that a vote in favor of Blatter is quiet acquiescence for ongoing corruption and narrow-mindedness in the sport. 
At the 61st FIFA Congress in 2011, Sepp Blatter was awarded the presidency after earning 186 votes out of a total of 203. 186 representatives tacitly supported the Blatter regime rather than voice their opposition by abstaining. 
While the relationship between the highest levels of FIFA and confederation representatives is akin to a feudal lord supporting his peasants, some claim quiet acquiescence is the only way to attempt to change the sport internally. That’s an honorable goal, but the reality is that so long as one attempts to play the game, the game will continue unhindered. A Sepp Blatter presidency ensures continued corruption, financial malfeasance and a rejection of social progress, even if there happens to be a reform-minded ExCo member who’s worked through the system to get a seat at the table. Silence begets silence.
I’m looking at you, Sunil Gulati.
This all paints a bleak image, but if there’s any hope for the future, it begins by affecting the process from a local, grassroots level by demanding change from our domestic federations. That anger and frustration you feel towards Sepp Blatter? Redirect it towards your federation and demand change. Pressure your local representatives with the same amount of coverage that Blatter earns. Use those in-depth investigations of the ExCo as a guide for tracking your federation. Abstain until your federation makes its opposition public; until it takes a stand on the international stage.
Sepp Blatter and the FIFA Executive Committee perpetuate corruption and graft in the sport, but it’s local, regional representatives who give them the power to do so, and FIFA’s framework that awards them. It’s time we redirect our focus. [Posted by Maxi]

The problem isn’t Sepp Blatter; it’s FIFA

Within the murky waters that surround the FIFA executive committee wherever it roams, there was a bright moment three years ago when Sepp Blatter, in the midst of campaigning for a fourth-term as president of FIFA, vowed that if elected, he would not seek a fifth term. The same Sepp Blatter who has consistently been trailed by allegations of financial misappropriation, accusations of corruption, blatant sexism, enabling homophobia and racism, and altogether an antiquated view of modern society, promised to hand over the most powerful position in football at the height of the sport’s global expansion, and more or less, fans of the game stomached the promise and looked ahead to a light at the end of the tunnel.

Fast-forward three years and we’re still wading through muddy water with no end in site. On Monday morning, Sepp Blatter confirmed his bid for a fifth term as President of FIFA with a bold assertion that perfectly embodies Blatter’s view of his own place within the history of the game. Rather than quietly announce his campaign, Blatter portrayed his bid as a reluctant one, brought on by downtrodden federation representatives who had practically begged him to carry on. “Please go on, be our president also in future,” Blatter recounted, presumably with a smirk and an open checkbook not far away.

Understandably, the response was swift, with everyone from journalists to pundits and fans alike decrying Blatter’s re-election campaign as another example of the nepotism within FIFA’s ranks. Fingers were pointed, vitriol thrown and a few curse words muttered, all directed towards Blatter himself. And let’s be honest: if anyone deserves to be vilified, it’s Sepp Blatter. But for all the caustic response to Blatter’s decision, most onlookers seemed to discount one major fact: there’s no corrupt FIFA-branded rule book (that we know of) that forces FIFA electors to vote for Sepp Blatter come election time; federation representatives are free to launch their own campaigns or vote for an alternative.

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Crossing the Chasm: The Polder Cup

Whether it’s a controversy over goal-line technology, a linesman plastered across newspapers after a dubious call, or a referee put to the sword after falling prey to a bit of simulation in the box, football is a sport preoccupied with its own minutiae. So much so, that for all the vitriol and passion that trails every small incident on the pitch, it’s often easy to forget that at the end of the day, football is just a game.

San Sebastian-based artist Maider López built upon that premise with her Polder Cup project, where she hosted a football tournament in Southern Holland across a series of mismatched pitches. From jagged boundary lines to hollows and bumps littering the field and even ditches of water splitting fields in two, Maider parodied the rigid official rule-set by creating a situation in which players had to adapt their strategy and interpretation of the rules to the environment around them.

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"Wake Up!"

Words and Photos by Eric Beard and Julie Logan, from the NWSL Final between the Seattle Reign and FC Kansas City at Starfire Stadium

There’s something immeasurably inspiring about witnessing a winner lose. It silences a stadium full of ardent supporters. Amongst immediate despair, there’s a fire that has yet to be fully extinguished. It’s an unnatural air of defeat in the lungs of those who know what it means to transcend second best. Above all, it’s a wake-up call.

Because anyone can step up at any time. New champions can always be made. And they aren’t playing to provide a reminder to always bring your best; they’re emphatically declaring that your best isn’t good enough anymore.

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Ground From Above - Terrão de Cima by Renato Stockler

"A ‘terrão’ (earthen field) is an oasis in the urban landscape. The reddish tone of a soccer field turns into a stage for resistance of popular soccer. These fields are increasingly rare to be seen because of property speculation and land occupation, and they standing as a spirit of resilience." - Renato Stockler

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An Ode to Wembley

Wembley may be the crown jewel of English football, but its real soul resides further east in London.  

In the shadow of the Olympic Stadium — England’s other, beaming and gleaming monument to sport — lies Hackney Marshes. 

There, the grass may be thicker, higher, and muddier than Wembley’s pristine green, but the passion exhibited for the beautiful game is right on par. 

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A look back before stepping forward

By Zack Goldman and Maxi Rodriguez

The Premier League season is upon us.

At long last, the world’s most popular circus of sport has returned, pitching a tent in our front yards and living rooms for the next nine months.

There will be passion, drama and genius painted on the pitch and the terraces, across the screens of our televisions and the pages of our dailies.

Premiership football will again return to Anfield, to Goodison, to Eastlands…

But let us not forget where it’s already been this summer.

From Los Angeles, to Sydney, to North Ferriby, the Premier League has traveled — and traveled in style.

Sold-out six-figure crowds abroad and domestic late-night television audiences turned out and tuned in to catch a glimpse of new signings and old friends, easing back into the whirlpool of club football after a summer spent in the deep end of the World Cup.

Overseas supporters, marooned a few flights and a few worlds away from their favorite clubs, could previously only root from afar and dream of watching their heroes play live.

This July, those dreams, for many, became reality.

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Where The Average Weekend Is Anything But: Portland and The Timbers Army

Photos captured by Jordan Beard

Over the past week, Portland, Oregon was situated right on the middle of the global game’s map. From Thierry Henry to Mario Götze, icons and phenoms were filling the streets as the MLS All-Stars welcomed Bayern Munich to town. We were at Providence Park for that match, and it was great. But it wasn’t Portland.

The stadium was packed to the brim and full of fans from overseas, but it wasn’t Portland. So, we returned to see this city’s side play Chivas USA to take in an "average game" and witness the atmosphere that the Timbers Army and company could create.

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Through Ryu’s Lens: Embracing the game in Basel

Not every match can be a World Cup final, and it won’t be that way for another four years. So while we brace for a new season in Europe’s major leagues, Ryu Voelkel is already back in action, traveling the continent to capture the game unseen by most. He recently visited Switzerland to see Basel take on Luzern, and the kids, fans, and vibrant stadium stole the show.

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Welcome Home

As another summer winds to a close, club football returns to English cities and towns. And while much of what makes that significant happens on the pitch, the signs of the beautiful game’s return can be seen even more poignantly in the elements that surround the match.

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