Football

Published on December 17th, 2017 | by Paco Polit

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Why politics could see Spain ruled out of Russia 2018

FIFA might be making the ultimate sacrifice by removing Spain from the 2018 World Cup for what they see as unwanted government meddling

While Real Madrid were taking part in the 2017 Club World Cup, Barça dominated the La Liga standings and three of the league’s teams moved into the knock-out rounds of the Champions League, bureaucratic business took over the Spanish football canvas: FIFA has warned the Spanish government that the national team could be kicked out of the 2018 World Cup.

The reasoning behind this is actually quite surprising: according to FIFA’s regulations (Article 13), “every member must manage their business in an independent way, making sure there’s no outside interference.” In FIFA’s opinion, an ongoing power struggle between Spanish government officials and Spanish Federation (RFEF) representatives is breaking the rules.

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The Spanish government has been probing corruption claims and evidence that ultimately sent RFEF President Ángel María Villar and his son Gorza Villar to jail earlier this year. He was suspended from his position and Juan Luis Larrea took over the chair, but Villar is still ‘officially’ the President and Larrea will play the part until 2020 unless the Government succeeds in rerunning the elections. They believe the election process was rigged and the ongoing investigation has pieced together enough evidence to prove it. But this is seen by FIFA as unwanted interference.

This isn’t the first time FIFA has threatened Spain for breaking their rules. In fact, the historic Euro 2008 win in Austria could have been ruined before even starting, as FIFA pressured former Prime Minister, Jose Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, with the threat of expulsion if they didn’t allow the elections that had to be held that year to take place months after the date appointed by the authorities. Zapatero, backed into a corner (imagine the uproar within the Spanish fans) had no other option than to yield.

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Those are the facts: with that out of the way, let’s take a closer look. Is FIFA really ready to kick one of the top teams out of the World Cup? Many seriously doubt it, although Italian officials are very interested in the outcome of this conflict. Just in case, you know, there happens to be an unexpected free spot at the World Cup…

But anyway, what puzzles everyone is FIFA’s suddenly upholding of strict policies and regulations to keep a large shadow casted on most of their dealings. The Spanish Government, with their strong tackling of corruption, is actually doing a fine job of unearthing all the dirt stored up for thirty years inside the RFEF, even if the process is murky and taking many twists and turns.

The sudden stance taken by FIFA (which aren’t champions of transparency themselves), siding with RFEF and threatening drastic measures if things don’t go their way, could be interpreted as an effort to keep dirty stuff hidden away. And that would be both problematic and very, very scary.

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About the Author

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Paco Polit is a Valencia-based journalist with over ten years experience reporting La Liga, covering both Valencia CF and Levante's news, signings, ups and downs. Madrid and Barcelona are huge, indeed, but the Spanish La Liga is much, much more: regarded as the top football competition in the world, he enjoys explaining why to every reader from abroad.



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