“FIFA, football and corruption”, the Netflix docu-series on the dark side of FIFA

Netflix puts online, this Wednesday, the docu-series “ FIFA, football and corruption » which immerses the viewer in the controversial conditions of awarding the World Cup to Qatar in December 2010, but also in the whole of a system worthy of the Camorra, dissected and denounced in four one-hour episodes directed by Daniel Gordon. Since production began in 2019, the film’s teams have viewed thousands of hours of archives and shot between 300 and 400 hours of interviews.

“500 or 600 people, in our opinion, could be interestingexplains Miles Coleman, co-producer. We ended up talking to hundreds of them on and off camera: people “in the room”, who saw it all happen up close, but also observers inside FIFA and the dozens of journalists top-notch investigative teams who have covered FIFA for years. » Ken Bensinger of New York Times and David Conn of Guardian appear regularly on the screen. They brought their expertise but also their contacts.

The film’s hook grabs viewers with the dramatic arrests of 14 FIFA officials in Zurich on May 27, 2015, “Suddenly all the football fans who had always had suspicions about FIFA saw their fears confirmed”slips Miles Coleman, before explaining why the designers have chosen to also evoke a whole historical section on the instance and the genesis of its dark side. “You cannot understand FIFA under Blatter or in 2022 without going back to the archives and the years (Stanley) Rous and (Joao) Havelange. We were constantly amazed at the parallels. For example, Blatter positions himself as a loyal and functional Swiss football official, second fiddle to a more charismatic leader (Havelange), to then take the top job. (Gianni) Infantino did the same years later. »

Weighty testimonials

If the doc does not reveal a major scoop, the story brings together the different cases at the heart of the same story which takes on all its sad meaning. It is also based on weighty testimonies (Sepp Blatter, Jérôme Valcke, Mohamed Bin Hammam, Alexandra Wrage, Phaedra Almajid, Gianni Infantino, Hassan al Thawadi), some of which have never been recorded in front of the camera.

“There are quite a few details and revealing storiesbelieves Miles Coleman. For example, a story told by Blatter (corroborated by others on and off camera) and never confirmed before. When Bin Hammam was challenging Blatter for the presidency of FIFA, Blatter confirmed to us that he held a meeting with him and the son of the then Emir, now Emir of Qatar. It was then agreed that Bin Hammam would withdraw his candidacy in exchange for Blatter stopping his threats against the World Cup in Qatar. This is an extremely important moment: this very week, Blatter explained how the allocation to Qatar was a “mistake”. He often talks about it as if it had nothing to do with him, because he preferred the United States’ candidacy. But in our series, he confirms that he made a very active decision to keep the tournament in Qatar, for his continued power. »

“Michel Platini did not want to give interviews until he cleared his name”

Miles Coleman, co-producer

However, two key players are missing from the cast: Jack Warner (influential president of CONCACAF from 1990 to 2011) and Michel Platini. Miles Coleman does not hide his disappointment: “Michel Platini didn’t want to give interviews until he cleared his name. But he participated in various interviews with other media. We offered him the possibility of recording an interview under embargo until the outcome of the trial, we also offered to film it after the trial. Neither solution was accepted. » The producers therefore relied on archive footage from Platini and insight from Jean-Philippe Leclaire, deputy editorial director of The Team and author of “Platoche, glory and setbacks of a French hero” (ed. Flammarion).

Other witnesses recanted. “We traveled with our whole team to Cameroon to shoot with Issa Hayatou (the former president of CAF and interim president of FIFA in 2015), says Coleman. About fifteen minutes before he arrived at the studio we had rented, with all the equipment ready, he canceled. He had to reschedule the interview, he never did. A former FIFA official from South Africa canceled him one morning because he was sick. At noon, he held a business meeting in the restaurant of our hotel, he seemed to me to be in good shape! And there were many other such incidents. »

Some Netflix subscribers may want to wait until the World Cup is over before diving into this documentary. “We have the right to ask why fans should care about corruption in sport”launches in the film Guido Tognoni, former adviser to Sepp Blatter. We should care because we continue to make the world believe that sport is something beautiful, fair, entertaining, clean. This is false, but the illusion remains. »

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