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True Crime Docuseries Review: FIFA Uncovered

In late May of 2015, the news was dominated by a massive corruption case against FIFA, the world's governing body of soccer (yes, I know it's called football, but here in North America, we know it as soccer). The FBI had been investigating corruption, bribery and money laundering that had happened using the US financial system. This was a massive shock to many. 

Or was it?

There are certain things in the world that are accepted as fact, even though there is no internal evidence provided. Video game maker EA makes its video games not around creating the best product, but to squeeze absurd amounts of money from gamers. The Golden Globes aren't always a true representation of the finest achievements in film and television, but rather are a platform to acknowledge productions that have treated the Hollywood Foreign Press Association well. FIFA is corrupt.

This final example is what the docuseries FIFA Uncovered focuses on. While the massive arrests and investigations against people within FIFA were ground shaking, the surprise wasn't in the revelations of wrongdoing, but rather in the fact that something was actually being done about it.

Directed by Daniel Gordon, FIFA Uncovered is a four-part series on Netflix that sheds a deeper light on FIFA as it transitioned from being an organizing body to one that was all about the money. The former president of FIFA, Sepp Blatter, was the steady voice for years saying that there was no corruption within FIFA, but I doubt that anyone actually ever believed his words. Interestingly, Blatter is one of the people providing an interview for this series, and I think it shines a light on just how disconnected he is from reality. According to him, he is blameless and a victim.

This was the most interesting aspect of the series for me, as Blatter and other individuals probably should have avoided participation in this production. For them, it was a chance to once again say there was nothing untoward about what was going on. However, for every defender interviewed, there seemed to be four others who were actually speaking the truth. One argues that envelopes of cash were never handed out as a bribe for a vote within FIFA, only to have others say otherwise (including someone who was actually in the room when it happened). 

Sure, the general secretary of one of FIFA's major associations reports about it once he hears of the bribe as well, because there was actual photographs of the money and the admittance of some who had been offered the cash, but really is that proof? They some how still find a way to dispute it. The denial seen here is at times unbelievable.

Gordon does a great job of walking chronologically through the past few decades at how the culture at FIFA turned to one of politicking and padding personal bank accounts. This, of course, is denied by Blatter and others who don't seem to recognize that while they were operating a non-profit organization that they had lavish events and lifestyles. Normally when a non-profit has its members living in extreme wealth there should be questions asked, but not here. Everything is denied as those involved in the misdeeds were so accustomed to it that they could not understand the optics of what they were doing while they were denying everything.

FIFA Uncovered has a solid range of talking heads that provide a great deal of information and context into everything. For fans of true crime, this is a good one to watch. It is mind-boggling in terms of the delusions of some people and the refusal to accept not just responsibility but acknowledgement over actual facts.

The most telling moment of the entire FIFA saga of 2015, and my personal favourite, was not brought up in the docuseries. Released just weeks after the arrests took place and as Blatter and FIFA were trying to put out the fires brought on by corruption allegations and chargers, United Passions hit theatres in North America. It was a film that was almost entirely funded by FIFA that told the triumphant history of the organization. The entire motion picture came across as a self-congratulatory pat on the back, with FIFA revelling in just how great they are. If Blatter and company deny financial obsessions within FIFA, you will see that the movie highlights FIFA's success as how much money they make. They made this film, and they defined this as success. As corrupt as FIFA was, they were equally unable to read the room, and this lack of proper comprehension is what makes the entire story of FIFA so interesting as well as sad.

Rating - 3 out of 4 stars