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Justice Department To Investigate Another FIFA Exec


This week, the head of the organizing committee for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil has been handed over to U.S. authorities for extradition in Switzerland. Jose Maria Marin is accused of taking bribes worth millions of dollars. That gives us a good reason to check in with Roger Bennett, the host of "Men In Blazers" and NBC's soccer gent - joins us from New York. Roger, thanks so much for being with us.

ROGER BENNETT, BYLINE: It's a delight to be back with you, Scott.

SIMON: Now, is this just another drip in the FIFA scandal or does this suggest that the Justice Department is any closer to sorting all of this out?

BENNETT: Well, the noose is tightening. Similar scenes in Brazil have gone on in Germany. It's kind of like the end of the "Godfather" movies where the dominoes are all falling, one by one. Sepp Blatter, the farcical little man who's run FIFA for the past couple of decades - FIFA, the nonprofit of a billion-and-a-half cash reserve. It's a wonderful - they're my favorite kind of nonprofit.

SIMON: It's the kind of nonprofit NPR should be, but go ahead, yes.

BENNETT: (Laughter) And for those who don't remember him from the news in June, he's kind of - just picture if Scaramanga had a [expletive] offspring with "All The King's Men" Huey Long. He has been suspended from operations, finally reduced to erratic press interviews like the one he gave last week with Russian outlet TASS, in which he talked with anger about the American conspiracy against him - huge American commercial interest rising up to take him down. He's out of the question. In February 26, 2016, FIFA are going to have an election for a new head.

SIMON: Yeah.

BENNETT: There's seven runners - and the - I mean, amidst all the talk of reform and reconstruction, all the guys who are running - and they are all guys - they have more baggage than a Louis Vuitton commercial, Scott.

SIMON: (Laughter).

BENNETT: I'd say change is a long way away. These are people like Sheikh Salman, fresh off his anti-democracy crackdown in Bahrain, in which he imprisoned 150 athletes. I'm sure that's the platform that he's actually running on.

SIMON: Will there be debates like what we're seeing now in the U.S.? I would tune into that, Roger.

BENNETT: I mean, the debates in America at least create the notion of democracy. FIFA doesn't believe in that. They also don't believe in systemic reform. And so until someone like a Julie Andrews kind of character or a Julie Foudy, the great U.S. women's national team player or even Abby Wambach steps up, I think we're a long way away from the - a time when the new boss will not be just like the old boss.

SIMON: At the same time, Roger, you're going to hold an event, I guess, next weekend in Brooklyn...

BENNETT: Oh, yes.

SIMON: ...That's going to speak to the fact that in - you - in the United States, we used to talk about soccer would be the great sport of the future...

BENNETT: (Laughter).

SIMON: ...The future seems to be getting here, doesn't it?

BENNETT: Well, we've always joked on "Men In Blazers," Scott, that soccer has been America's sport of the future since 1972. But that future is very much now. So next Friday, next Saturday we are holding BlazerCon, which is kind of a Comic-Con but for football. You could say it's like Comic-Con but nerdier, where football fans from across America will come together in Brooklyn and meet with some of the elite global thinkers who are shaping the tectonic plates of football from the Premier League Chairman Richard Scudamore, Christian Siefert, who runs Bundesliga, the gentleman that runs Liverpool, Manchester City, Everton Football Club, as well as the U.S. women's national team players, MLS owners. It's going to be an absolute cacophony of really exploring joyously the future of football globally, but more importantly, I guess for us, how this game is going to evolve in America in the next decade.

SIMON: Roger Bennett, host of "Men In Blazers," thanks so much. Hope to talk to you soon, Roger.

BENNETT: Thank you, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.