I have something to say, and it's going to shock you: I'm part of the reason why Jack Warner and Mohammed Bin Hammam are either banned from soccer or 'fired' from their positions.
No, I didn't suddenly turn into a full time soccer writer with the time to do in-depth reporting on an issue like FIFA corruption. It was not by my hand, or writing skills, that the two former FIFA bigwigs were cracked down upon by the soccer organization's oversight committee. In fact, I've never met, talked to or pontificated about either former executive.
However, according to Warner, I'm to blame for his multitude of problems with FIFA. His and friend Bin Hammam's problems, to be exact.
As revealed to American and English soccer fans by Simon Evans of Reuters, Warner decided to employ one of the world's oldest excuses for evading and deflecting personal fault in a situation: blame the Jews.
"I will talk about the Zionism, which probably is the most important reason why this acrid attack on Bin Hammam and me was mounted," Warner told the the Trinidad Guardian.
Throughout history there has been numerous occasions where attacking a minority group made it easy for a person or group of people to avoid facing deserved punishment for his or her own actions. But in recent times, it's not just the blaming that has become the problem for the victims in the situation, it's also about the content of the blame itself.
If Warner had come out and said that Jews were the problem for his troubles, then most of the soccer world, if not all of it, would have been up in arms about him violating FIFA's "Say No to Racism" movement (although anti-Semitism isn't racism, for these purposes it falls under that banner). By masking his comments under the guise of Zionism, a word that is perceived in many different ways throughout the world, Warner played upon a modern hate that has yet to fully be considered politically, socially, morally or ethically incorrect.
Zionism has long stood as a word that has allowed anti-Semitism to remain mainstream. When Mahmoud Ahmadinejad speaks out against Israel, he never says anything that can be construed directly as anti-Semitic. Instead he uses the word "Zionism" or "Zionist" to describe the elements or people that he believes are a threat to him, Iran and, according to Ahmadinejad, the world.
Despite Zionism being a political movement that works for the right for a Jewish homeland, the meaning of the word has mutated into a real life 'Two Minutes Hate.' Just as the government in George Orwell's '1984' chose to portray its adversary as a Jew, and the centerpiece of the previously mentioned daily 'Time Minutes Hate,' Warner specifically chose a common group of blame for people, as a last gasp resort because he had no leg with which to stand upon.
Inherently, Jews are directly connected to Zionism, be they actual Zionists or in fact being anti-Zionists. Not every Jew in the world wants there to be a Jewish homeland, and not every Zionist is Jewish. Still, the word has clear connotations depending on where you go throughout the world and who you ask.
When the story broke that Warner blamed Zionism, I received a couple of messages from friends making jokes about how I was part of the blame, based on what the Trinidadian said. As the headline of this story shows, I do indeed find such jokes funny, because of how outrageous the entire situation has become.
The fact that I received such jokes indicates that there is a direct link between Zionism and Jews, even if they don't associate with the movement. Just as whenever there is a new event in the long back-and-forth history of Israel and the Palestinian people brings along a comment of "You" or "Your people" to Jews, so does Zionism in cases like this one.
What is scary about Warner declaring Zionism to be the root of his problems is that it proves that there is a dark side to soccer beyond just racism. Prejudices are hard to over come, as is seen from the "Say No to Racism" movement's short history, especially when people in leadership positions hold those beliefs.
FIFA is already heavily criticized for failing to clamp down on racism, disrespect against match officials and sectarian violence, alongside the organization's clear problems with corruption. anti-Semitism has not been the publicized problem for FIFA because of the small percentage of Jewish soccer players throughout the world, but Warner's comments come on the heels of Chelsea, an English Premier League powerhouse, having to complain to the Malaysian Football Association about anti-Semitic abused hurled at Yossi Benayoun, an Israeli international attacking midfielder, during the team's preseason stop in the country.
It seems to be worst in Europe, where anti-Semitism has a long, dark and violent history. While countries throughout Europe have strict anti-Semitism laws, cases pop up year-after-year in places with some of the worst histories of anti-Semitism in the world. A search on Google for "anti-Semitism soccer" has seven of the first ten results as European based cases. Religion is a touchy issue in Europe, with soccer sometimes being at the forefront of battles over rival groups of people (Rangers and Celtic in Scotland is a prime example of sectarian violence).
Worrying about FIFA is that there is a culture of slow or no response to everything that the organization seemingly pretends to stand up for or about. On multiple occasions, FIFA has had the opportunity to step in and lay down punishments that would make fans, teams and country football associations (FA) think before attacking players, or other supporter groups, verbally, or physically, because of race, creed, gender, religion, etc. Instead, FIFA has taken a step back and left it up to a country's FA, which in the case of Roberto Carlos resulted in the Russian FA doing nothing after a banana was thrown at him.
As a worldwide sport, one that plays itself off as the world's largest and most influential, soccer should be a bastion of neutrality on all issues. Not a single person involved with soccer should feel discriminated against, threatened or otherwise. Soccer is soccer, something to be enjoyed whilst feeling safe from all outside forces. FIFA has failed to properly curtail the tide of bias and prejudice throughout its membership bodies and that is truly a thing to fear.
One must wonder what executives throughout the world think if Warner believes it prudent to blame Zionism as the culprit for him resigning from his position as CONCACAF president. As Prospect Magazine wrote in 2010, FIFA has a past history of allowing anti-Semitism within its own executive committee.
Julio Grondona, also a member of the Fifa executive committee, survives despite saying, in 2003: "I do not believe a Jew can ever be a referee at that level [Argentine Premier League] because it's hard work and, you know, Jews don't like hard work."
Argentina has its own weird history with Jews, Nazis and anti-Semitism, so that in itself is wholly different (not a defense of Grondona's actions). Warner also comes from a Western background, growing up and living in Trinidad and Tobago, which has become a country that has had worries about growing anti-Semitism in recent years. The worst thing that could happen in this situation would be for a person that holds such power, with some in the country comparing his influence to the country's governmental leaders' own influence, to make public comments that give credence to growing biases.
In the end, all it takes is Sepp Blatter condemning Warner to diffuse this situation and prove that FIFA does care about halting he spread of something like anti-Semitism. Chances are that FIFA will only comment about Warner's continued statements about being forced out of his position and having dirt on the organization. If that is the outcome, FIFA should be ashamed, but they never feel that way about anything.
I guess I'll just have to go back to controlling world sports then.