While the rest of the western world was excited about the release of Star Wars this weekend and rushed to movie theaters, I during my travels in India engaged in other cinematic pursuit. Instead of Star Wars I saw “United Passions.”
For those not familiar, United Passions grossed $918 in its opening weekend of release in North America – this coincided with the initial wave of arrests in the FIFA scandal which included a major Florida angle. It was never released in theaters in the United Kingdom. It is ostensibly a movie about twentieth century world history, global soccer, fascism, Nazism, racism and imperialism. 90% funded by FIFA with an impressive cast of actors it ended becoming a propaganda film on the lines of Birth of a Nation, released 100 years earlier to revise the established narrative about reconstruction in the south and Ku Klux Klan. This movie is similar in its efforts to rewrite history and rehabilitate the images of historical figures.
The great irony is I watched this film hours before one of the movie’s primary subjects Sepp Blatter was banned for eight years from all football related activities. Having just watched the movie’s underlying anti-Anglo narrative, it made his rambling press conference in Zurich make all the more sense.
John Oliver who I have to assume every reader of TFS loves as much as I do said of this film upon its release:
“The movie, like FIFA itself, looks terrible.”
“Who makes a sports film where the heroes are the executives?”
The film had been panned by critics, created a whole monologue on Oliver’s HBO show and had become the subject of mockery in social media. Thus, my initial view was to not to bother with it. But two of the fans I respect the most in the US soccer community, Carolyn Haack and Amy Fee Garner watched the movie last week and told me I should see it – not because it was well-done or historically accurate – on the contrary, but because it was so poorly done but would give an insight into the revisionist history of FIFA.
United Passions has to be considered to be one of the worst films of all time. The acting even with a strong cast is substandard, the accents over the top, the history all wrong and the product placement for FIFA sponsors Coke and Adidas just comical (Adidas has a history of this in non-FIFA funded movies also).
The history presented was simply laughable. FIFA fought against fascism and Nazism, stood up to British imperialism and racism, brought peace to the world, respected minorities and women. Sepp Blatter is man of integrity who rooted out corruption and paid staff out of his own pocket when FIFA was broke. The Olympics are about politics while the World Cup is about the people.
A particular emphasis was made about the alleged racism and imperialism of Britain which has been the country where FIFA’s excesses and corruption have long been a sore point. This is a complete canard because black footballers will attest that since 2000, Britain has represented the most race-neutral country in world football, and when clubs from the UK with black players of African or Caribbean origin travel to other parts of Europe for continental matches, racial abuse is frequent. FIFA has done little about this, even awarding the World Cup in 2018 to Russia, one of the countries with the worst record of racial abuse toward footballers over England who as I have noted along with its other British Home Nations (and the neighboring Republic of Ireland) have probably the best track record on racial matters in recent years.
The club I support, Manchester City have had players racially abused in recent years in Russia and Portugal. In February, City will have to play a game in Ukraine in front of no fans because the club hosting the match is serving a ban for racial abuse. Manchester City’s Yaya Toure the reigning African Player of the Year and one of the best footballers ever produced by the continent has suggested that boycotting the World Cup in Russia is not out of the question.
Another consistent theme was that the Anglo-American media does not appreciate organizations that empower minorities, women and non-whites from developing countries and thus obsesses around “morality.” The victimization portrayed here has become commonplace as many fans from Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa and Asia have sided with FIFA and Blatter against the DOJ indictment and what they see as Anglo-American overreach.
Again, different cultural standards and the legacy of colonialism and the Cold War are consistently being used to justify corruption at a high level. We even see it at times in Miami-Dade County when we’re told “politics is different in Latin America, you just have to appreciate that,” (funny thing, I used to hear the same thing about Louisiana – you have to tolerate corruption there because it’s different than the neighboring states or the rest of the country) and while I am not one for the Anglicized world to be employing its moral standard on everyone, I do believe when it comes to corruption at the level it has been practiced in world football and by companies like Traffic Sports doing business on American soil, no excuse can be given.
As for the movie, watch it but expect to be outraged but also amused by the fantasy like revisionist story line. It’s important that people realize how the minds at FIFA work, and why the game is rotten to its core – this film provides ample evidence of that.