Hail to the Thieves

Why FIFA’s Problems are so Intractable

Children play football in front of an abandoned train compartment next to a railway track in Dhaka, May 29, 2014. Andrew Biraj / Reuters

As I finished my tour of FIFA’s stunning new $255 million headquarters close to my home in Zurich, FIFA President Sepp Blatter signed a FIFA-designed soccer ball and said, “Give it to your son as a present from me.” Out came Blatter’s hand, grasping mine firmly, followed by a carefully choreographed pat on the back with all of the warmness one would expect from an uncle. With that, I walked toward the door, where the next guest was already waiting to pay his respects to the man in charge of the world’s most popular sport. This was three years ago, on a sunny spring day, at the pinnacle of Blatter’s power, and a few months prior to the launch of my book about how Switzerland made itself into an economic powerhouse in a hypercompetitive world.

The son of a blue-collar chemical plant worker, Sepp Blatter grew up

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