In This Episode
Michael Page: We have something like 1.2 million fans expected to visit Qatar. What happens for LGBT people who are visiting? Are they going to be safe?
Megan Rapinoe: The regret of not saying anything is what is going to kill you and what’s going to eat you alive.
Tommy Vietor: Welcome back to World Corrupt. This is our fourth episode back in the studio. Rog, good to see you.
Roger Bennett: Oh, Thomas, you and me, like, oh, geopolitical Burt and footballing Ernie. It’s so good to see you, you gorgeous human being.
Tommy Vietor: Men in Blazers, Roger Bennett. We’re doing kind of a buddy comedy thing now, are you Turner to my Hooch?
Roger Bennett: I suspect, as our listeners are already completely, abundantly aware by now, I think we’re projecting more of a Dumb and Dumber vibe. I have to legally say this. So you’re saying there’s a chance. [laugh]
Tommy Vietor: So here we are for the fourth installment of our six part podcast series that explores the 2022 World Cup, the corruption and how it was awarded. The absurdity of having a host country with no infrastructure and dangerously hot weather, and a human rights record that goes against all the values that FIFA claims to hold dear.
Roger Bennett: But are you ready for some football? Oh, football washes all the pain away Tommy. It’s a Monday night party. Woot woot!
Tommy Vietor: Different football, Rog. But whether we are ready to confront it or not, the tournament is coming. It is speeding towards us like a Roger Clemens fastball during the peak steroid era. Mixed metaphors be damned. We’re just 22 days away.
Roger Bennett: If this is your first time listening to this podcast, we should say welcome friend, though we’ve been expecting you.
Tommy Vietor: Welcome indeed. But we would encourage you to go back to the source of this, this Sonic River, a.k.a. the first three episodes. So you get all the history, all the context, all the dad jokes that got us to this point.
Roger Bennett: How FIFA, global soccer’s governing body transformed really from Liverpool, start up to Facebook like behemoth. They’ll stop at nothing to line its pockets.
Tommy Vietor: Even if your heart runs off with the QAnon shaman Mark Zuckerberg. Another guy I think would make an excellent FIFA president one day.
Roger Bennett: Oh, Tommy, stop trying to make me miss Sepp Blatter.
Tommy Vietor: Sorry. Okay. In this episode Rog, we’re going to take a deeper look at what has happened since the Qataris won the bid to host this World Cup way back in 2010. And we’re gonna talk about the political climate in this desert petrostate, how the country treats women, the LGBTQ community and its migrant workers, a reported 6,500 of whom have died since Sepp Blatter announced this World Cup was headed to Qatar.
Roger Bennett: We’re also going to hear from footballers and not just any footballers. We’ve got two time World Cup champion and Presidential Medal of Freedom winner Megan Rapinoe will talk to us about the courage it does take to speak out when so much of the world is calling on you to, you know, shut up and dribble.
Tommy Vietor: Wouldn’t it be shut up and keep yuppie? But anyway, finally, Rog, we’ll hear from a FIFA executive who stuck her head in the mouth of the lion that is FIFA and why she says she’s been looking over her shoulder ever since. So here we go. Rog. Episode four.
Roger Bennett: Mouth of a lion, what are we? Siegfried and Roy now? Vamos!
[clip of Sepp Blatter]: For 2018 and 2022, we go to new lands.
Roger Bennett: Because that creepy old voice may sound just like a South Park character that, you know, wracking your brain to remember who is but is actually an old friend to listeners of this show. And I’m using the word friend incredibly loosely. The aforementioned FIFA president, Sepp Blatter opening his big gob again back in 2010 when he boasted about how the World Cup would head to the Middle East for the first time with the zeal and obtuseness of someone extolling the virtues of manifest destiny.
Tommy Vietor: If there’s one thing I’ve learned from doing this podcast, it’s that where Sepp Blatter goes. Bags of cash and trouble follow.
Roger Bennett: I love that image. Just blowing bags of cash, just a trail. [laugh] Leaving behind me, what’s corruption? Are those bags of cash? Oh who knows? [laughter] But if you’ve learned that Blatter is a Batman style baddie, I’ve learned through our journey thus far, the Qatar is, let’s just say, politically, deeply problematic.
Tommy Vietor: Mm hmm.
Roger Bennett: And today we want to gain an understanding of what life there is really like.
Tommy Vietor: To do so we brought in another friend to really drill down on that topic.
Roger Bennett: And we mean the word friend honestly this time. [laugh]
Michael Page: Hi, my name is Michael Page. I’m the deputy director in the Middle East Division at Human Rights Watch.
Roger Bennett: That’s Michael Page. Somewhere, I think, between Marcel Proust and Matthew Perry in terms of all time great M.P.s.
Tommy Vietor: I did not know that Chandler from Friends was an MP, but you learn something every day. Michael, though, is one of several experts you’ll hear from in this episode. He works at Human Rights Watch, an amazing organization that investigates and reports on human rights abuses all over the globe. Later, we’ll hear from Nick McGeehan, who works for an organization called Fair Square, which focuses on human rights, specifically workers rights. I sat down with Michael in New York City back in August and started by asking him some basic questions about life in Qatar.
Michael Page: Qatar certainly is a non-democratic state. It has serious abuses and that spans a spectrum. And I think it goes everything from migrant rights, women’s rights, LGBT rights, freedom of expression, all those are major problems. Women can’t pass on nationality to their children. Unmarried women under the age of 25 need permission to travel abroad. You need male guardianship. Permission to marry who you want to marry. There’s a letter of the law in which, in general, same sex relations punishable by up to seven years in prison. And I think there’s serious concern as well, because we have something like 1.2 million fans expected to visit Qatar. What happens for LGBT people who are visiting? Are they going to be safe?
Roger Bennett: When we heard Sepp Blatter say new lands earlier, what I did not realize he meant was, we’re headed right back to the 1600s.
Tommy Vietor: Given how Qatar treats the migrant laborers who make up about 95% of their labor force. That description is spot on some real feudalism vibes there. Here’s Michael again.
Michael Page: If you want to host a World Cup, you need to build stadiums. But you also need to build a lot more hotels. You need to expand your airport and expand your metro rail. Over the past decade plus, migrant workers have been essential building and preparing for these games. And they have this kafala system that makes it very difficult for workers even to escape abuse. I think the 101 on the kafala system, it’s an Arabic word and it means a sponsorship system that just gives disproportionate power to your employer. Right. So your employer has an incredible amount of control over your entry into the country, your working hours, your ability to leave your job. Right. And it is often compared or said a contemporary form of slavery. It’s a nightmare scenario in which you have lost all power. They’re already in debt. And then they’re not able to pay it off.
Tommy Vietor: The point Michael’s making there is about debt, and it’s an important one Rog. Because even though we are talking about brutal, exploitative working conditions, these migrant laborers often have to pay to get these jobs in the first place. Here’s Nick McGeehan from Fair Square.
Nick McGeehan: They’ve given vast sums of money, the recruitment fees the Bangladeshis pay would be up to $4,000. It’s insane. And they pawn off their land, they sell their jewelry, they take loans from local loan sharks because the Gulf is the dream, because some people do make it.
Tommy Vietor: We can, of course, understand chasing the dream and doing everything it takes to lift your family out of poverty.
Roger Bennett: But the sad reality is these stories, they often end in tragedy. Here’s Michael again.
Michael Page: They’re sometimes working in incredibly dangerous conditions like it’s 122 degrees Fahrenheit, you know, in Qatar. I mean, even people who are in like good health, it is a toll on your body. And I think what we’ve learned is how much heat can affect the human body, including kidney failure, heart attacks, death. That is been one of the major issues with migrant workers that are working in Qatar, in which there are been thousands of unexplained deaths during this period in which the World Cup has been prepared for and built. And there’s not been accountability, and there’s also not been any kind of compensation for the people who have lost their loved ones, might be in debt, have lost the ability to send their children to school. And so it’s just a horrible tragedy, but it’s also such a serious abuse. It can goes back to the question of why is FIFA not responsible for doing something about it?
Tommy Vietor: And there you have it Rog. Essentially, the main reason we are having this conversation and we are doing this podcast, a reported 6,500 migrant workers have died since the World Cup was awarded to Qatar.
Roger Bennett: Now, we mentioned this report, which was originally in The Guardian in England a few times. It was seismic when it broke back in February 2021. And they also included the, quote, More than 6,500 migrant workers from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka have died in Qatar since it won the right to host the World Cup. And we should note the Qatar government has pushed back hard on this story, saying that these deaths can’t specifically be attributed to the building of the World Cup infrastructure, but that in and of itself, it’s part the scandal. The Qatari government doesn’t even collect the data. Here’s Nick McGeehan the gent from Fair Square again.
Nick McGeehan: The true scandal is that about 60% of those deaths are unexplained, some people say as high as 69%. The rate of unexplained deaths in the U.S. just now will be about 1%.
Tommy Vietor: The point Nick is making here is that in most well-resourced health care systems, less than 1% of deaths are categorized as unexplained. That number is increased in the U.S. thanks to COVID, but the broader point still stands. Back to Nick.
Nick McGeehan: Can we see for sure how many workers died from negligence in Qatar related to the World Cup? Not really. But can we say that there was gross negligence on a grand scale? Absolutely. And there’s a compelling body of evidence to support that. And that’s the scandal.
Roger Bennett: And back in September of this year, journalist Nick Harris did a piece for The Mail on Sunday, another British newspaper where he dug into the official number of workers that Qatar’s Supreme Committee claims have died. And I’ve got to say, it’s a little farcical. Brace yourself Tommy. It’s the number three.
Tommy Vietor: Three?
Roger Bennett: Harris tweeted out that, quote, obfuscation, spin and in some cases, plain falsehoods are being used to juke these stats. But then Nick Harris proceeded to deliver this statistic that since 2011 and this one, this one’s truly awful. The foreigners in Qatar have killed themselves statistically at 79 times the rate of Qataris.
Tommy Vietor: There’s just no writing that off as some sort of statistical anomaly. It’s worth noting that the Catholicism isn’t just in Qatar. It is happening in countries all across the Gulf, and it has its roots in an even more brutal system, colonialism. Here’s Nick again.
Nick McGeehan: The Gulf Peninsula was the British colony and the British controlled Bahrain, which at the time in 1930 was famous for pearl diving as Qatar was actually that was the main source of income. And they were bringing in a lot of Indian workers at the time. And the British colonial rulers wanted a way to control these workers. So they decided to make every worker responsible or beholden to a local sponsor or [?] as the word was. So they saw it as a great way of regulating labor, essentially subcontracting the job of regulating these foreign workers to locals, the Bahrainis. When the Gulf States eventually went through the fifties and sixties and that of nationalism and to get their independence in the sixties and seventies, they held onto this labor system. They quite liked it. They thought, you know, hold on. This thing that was bequeathed to us by the British is actually a really good way of controlling this foreign workforce.
Roger Bennett: As if we needed to give our British listeners and I’m counting myself for this part amongst them, still just another reason to feel a sense of shame.
Tommy Vietor: You’re very welcome here. Here’s another one, Liz Truss. [music break]
Tommy Vietor: Rog, those abuses are why there is pressure on all of us to act. Those of us watching at home, people who travel to Qatar and stay in hotels built and staffed by migrant labor, or traveling on the metros that were constructed in 120 degree heat. But few will experience that pressure more acutely than the players on the field.
Roger Bennett: We can only imagine the level of pressure that’s already on these athletes shoulders to perform. It’s how they feed their families. And almost all of the men and women I’ve ever interviewed did not start kicking a football and loving the game so that they could later use it as a platform to address and try right geopolitical wrongs. But there are athletes and thank goodness for this, who refuse to worship at the altar of professional sports, pre-ordained order, and are willing to use their platforms to be a light in the darkness. And one of them just so happens to be a friend of both of ours.
Megan Rapinoe: I mean, it’s two of my favorite podcasts in the whole world, Men in Blazers and Crooked Media with Pod Save. I mean, I’m in heaven here.
Tommy Vietor: High, but frankly, unworthy praise there [laugh] from an American footballing legend, Megan Rapinoe. She has won Olympic gold two World Cups and was literally named FIFA’s women’s player of the year in 2019.
Roger Bennett: A human being who truly has it all Tommy. Except for good taste in podcasts, apparently.
Tommy Vietor: Rog, one of the reasons we both admire Megan so much is that she’s one of those athletes who’s had the courage to really try and effect change.
Roger Bennett: Tommy, you know, I love a little bit of courage more than anything in life. And just to remind our audience for those who may not be aware. Megan Rapinoe has been willing to put herself out there and she’s done it. Because of a spotlight that was originally shown on her thanks to World Cup glory. And she’s made the decision to use that platform and be a force of good.
Tommy Vietor: Think back to September of 2016. It was shortly after NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick refused to stand for the national anthem in protest of police brutality and America’s treatment of Black people. Megan joined him. She was kneeling on the sidelines of an NWSL game, saying at the time, quote, being a gay American, I know what it means to look at the flag and not have it protect all of your liberties. So we asked her about sports relationship with activism.
Megan Rapinoe: I mean, sports is such an interesting thing because it is oftentimes one of the drivers of progressive thoughts or equality protests, pulse of the culture. But the actual infrastructure of sports is always a thousand years behind. And I think particularly with soccer and particularly globally, I mean, obviously not necessarily with the teams that I’ve played on, but I think just in general, it’s just a very old school conservative, massive, multi-billion dollar industry that’s controlled by a few people that have been historically wildly corrupt. The culture around it is one of silence.
Roger Bennett: So the need to speak up, it takes some courage.
Megan Rapinoe: I think it does. I think it can be really stressful. I mean, it was it was definitely [laugh] really stressful for me. You know, I was comfortable with it and it’s what I wanted to do. But, you know, I think people do worry in a genuine way, like, what is this going to mean for your career? What is this going to mean for your sponsors? And it’s like at the end of the day, I think we need to take a step back and say what is most important and like go from that place because the sponsorships are not the most important or keeping everyone, quote unquote, happy or not rocking the boat. I think the most important thing is to do what you can with the point of life, which is to live it to its fullest.
Roger Bennett: And then we asked Megan, a player, remember, who stared FIFA President Gianni Infantino straight in the eye while accepting a 2019 World Cup winners medal? That’s only World Cup medal number two for all of you at home who were keeping score.
Tommy Vietor: Thank you. I was.
Roger Bennett: Oh, I know you are at all times. Tommy. We asked for her opinion on the global body that governs football.
Megan Rapinoe: FIFA is one of the most important entities in the most powerful entities in the world. Full stop. Whether that’s political or governments or sport, and I’ve said this before, that FIFA doesn’t care because they don’t. And it’s very clear what they do care about. FIFA is about corruptly making as much money as possible.
Tommy Vietor: Megan essentially summed up the first three and a half episodes of this podcast more eloquently in a fraction of the time. Damn, she’s good.
Roger Bennett: That is true. And sometimes the truth hurts. And it doesn’t in this case. Because if you think that’s good, dear listener wait until they hear what Megan said when we asked her what message she’d like to send to the footballers heading to Qatar to compete in this World Cup.
Megan Rapinoe: I mean, I think I would say to them, like, the regret of not saying anything is what is going to kill you and what’s going to eat you alive.
Roger Bennett: This country and this sport, and especially this podcast, is so lucky to have Megan Rapinoe. What an American original.
Tommy Vietor: She is indeed. But look, Rog, bad news for all of us is Megan is not going to be at this World Cup. We’re going to have to wait until next summer to watch her play when the back to back World Cup champs head to Australia and New Zealand.
Roger Bennett: Oh, the Women’s World Cup or what we refer in Men in Blazers to as the real World Cup.
Tommy Vietor: That’s right.
Roger Bennett: But it’s important to know Megan’s not alone in a willingness to delve into social issues and to talk about them publicly. And we went out to look for a footballer who confronted these complexities presented by Qatar directly. And to be honest, it wasn’t easy, but we found him.
Tim Sparv: I am Tim Sparv originally from Finland. I’m 35 years old. I stopped playing football six months ago. I was the Finnish national team captain for a number of years and that is definitely a big part of my identity. I love my country. I love representing my country.
Roger Bennett: To be clear, Tim is what we call in football a journeyman. He’s played in England, Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark, Finland lived out a 15 year career in some of Europe’s top leagues.
Tim Sparv: When I was young, I just didn’t understand the impact that we can have in society as professional athletes doing media, for example. It was just boring in my opinion, and it was very naive thinking. Of course, you know, every time you have a microphone in front of you, you have a chance to speak to thousands of people, thousands of young people who listen to you. When I got maybe 24 or 25, 26, I was a bit more mature. I start to think about, hey, what kind of role can I play in this? You know, I want to do more than just play football games. I want to be more than just a footballer.
Tommy Vietor: I got to tell you Rog. There is a strong possibility that a 24 year old me would have been very content just being a footballer. That sounds incredible, to be honest with you.
Roger Bennett: Bite your arm off to just be a footballer. But Tim Sparv, he’s Baltic Finnish Tommy and those people love their saunas, their number one slot in the world happiness register, and also perpetually living on the moral high ground. But even this deeply intelligent and empathetic human being, even he wasn’t totally in tune with the situation in Qatar until a teammate pointed it out to him.
Tommy Vietor: Do I sense what what they calling in the film business an inciting incident Rog? Is this the first time that reading saved the cat five years ago is actually going to come in handy? [laugh]
Roger Bennett: Exterior, day, Finland, 2019. And Tim’s teammate Riku Riski refused to travel to a winter training camp in the warm weather of Qatar, and he did so for ethical reasons. And now Tommy, this is what they call in football circles, and I want to apologize for the technical term I’m about to drop on you, it’s a big effing deal.
Tommy Vietor: I’ll write that down.
Roger Bennett: You can use it at will. This is a player refusing a call up for his or her own national team on moral grounds. It simply doesn’t happen. But that refusal sparked a significant reaction.
Tim Sparv: For a number of years, we have been going to Qatar and Dubai and Abu Dhabi for training camps. Without actually questioning why we were going in there. We could only see the fantastic football pitches, great facilities, good hotels, nice weather. We were oblivious to what was actually going on around us and for Riku Riski going to Qatar, that was against his values, how they treat their migrant workers, for example, how they see women and women’s role, being a second class citizen in a way, how they see gay people, lesbian people. It’s just against everything that he stood for. He wanted to make a point that this is not something he can support. He made us all think and it all ended up us not going there anymore for these training camps. Because these were training camps that we could influence ourselves. We didn’t have to go there in January. We could actually go somewhere else.
Roger Bennett: The Finnish national team has not trained in Qatar since. Now here’s the bad news. We’ve got to point this out. The Finnish national team did not qualify for this World Cup. They fell to France on the final match day of qualifying. Oh, always the French. And that prevented them from any chance of going to it.
Tommy Vietor: I think our audience should ignore what you just said and just buy Tim’s jersey anyway.
Roger Bennett: And you should all still do that Tommy, cuz the Finnish jersey it’s très fetch.
Tommy Vietor: Oh boy.
Roger Bennett: That to the side, back to Tim. [laugh] You did say dad jokes. For him learning about what’s happening in Qatar sparked a deeper curiosity inside of him.
Tim Sparv: In the end, I thought the next step was actually having a conversation with migrant workers myself. I got to do that. The first time was through Zoom and then after I finished my career, I actually had the chance to go to Qatar and meet them face to face. So that was really powerful.
Roger Bennett: You’ve talked about how there was one meeting in particular with a female worker nammed Maggie, who was working to organize the housekeepers.
Tim Sparv: That was definitely the conversation that shook me. She spoke about sexual torture and living in an environment where if you’re getting abused and you run away, you still don’t really have any rights. You’re still, you know, stuck in a really, really awful place. They are incredibly strong. You know, a lot of them. They’ve been through a lot, things that we can’t even realize, but they still get up every day and fight for their friends, fight for their colleagues. So it was powerful to be down there and listen to their stories.
Roger Bennett: Tim, there’s going to be several hundred players representing their nations in Qatar the night before they play the game. Just imagine they’re looking out of their hotel window at the lights in the Rub’ al Khali desert expanse below, agonizing about what they should do, whether they should do something, what should they say, whether they should say anything? What do you urge them to do in their hearts? In that moment?
Tim Sparv: They should definitely be proud of representing their country at the biggest stage. I would also urge them to think about who built those stadiums, who built those roads, who built those hotels? And think about how a football tournament has impacted thousands of lives and how it has impacted their families, and what you can do to make sure that doesn’t happen again.
Roger Bennett: Making sure that it doesn’t happen again, that is the key.
Tommy Vietor: That’s right. Because we obviously can’t turn back the clock and undo all the damage from this year’s World Cup. But we can send a message to FIFA, to sport watchers everywhere that we are paying attention and we’re not going to let this happen again.
Roger Bennett: Tim ultimately wrote a powerful article, We Need to Talk About Qatar when it ran in the Players’ Tribune and it made a lot of noise upon its release. But one of the ways to create real change, and you may know a little something about this Tommy, is by putting the right people in positions of power. And up to this point in the podcast, we painted all of FIFA as craven, self-serving pantomime villains, twisting their mustaches and laughing, cackling evily. But here’s some news. Not every member of football’s global governing body fits that description.
Tommy Vietor: Rog, you saying that not every FIFA member has a apartment for their cats?
Roger Bennett: Not all of them Tommy, or at least well, not least Lise Klaveness.
Lise Klaveness: I am Lise. I’m the mother of three boys. I’m married to a woman called Ingrid. I’m also the president of the Norwegian Football Federation and a former national team player.
Roger Bennett: When you retired, you did what so many professional footballers do. You became a criminal lawyer and a judge.
Lise Klaveness: That is the track, you know, [laughter] and that’s where we end up. Everyone.
Roger Bennett: By way of background, Tommy, Norway’s Football Federation, it’s one that’s always tried to lead on the human rights issues. The Norwegian players wore tee shirts before their opening 2022 World Cup qualifier against Gibraltar that proclaimed human rights on and off the pitch. And the Federation actually debated long and hard about boycotting the tournament if they would have qualified.
Tommy Vietor: They just debated it.
Roger Bennett: Sadly, it became a moot point and they didn’t qualify.
Tommy Vietor: Uh, man. The good guys are not racking up a lot of wins in this podcast, Rog. [laugh]
Roger Bennett: Oh, Tommy that pains me. But remember, you are an Everton fan.
Tommy Vietor: That’s right.
Roger Bennett: You should’ve learn this fat long before the podcast. The good guys don’t win. But enough about us. Back to Lise, who was elected first as president of the Norwegian FA back in March 2022, and less than a month later headed off to the 72nd FIFA Congress in Doha. Which I’ve always like to try and imagine as being like the Dunder-Mifflin shareholders meeting [laugh] only more poorly run. But Lise. She requested to speak at this Congress. It’s a shiny bauble of a gathering and took a lot of guts to get on that stage. Just steps from FIFA President Gianni Infantino and proceed to drop this truth bomb.
[clip of Lise Klaveness]: In 2010 World Cups were awarded by FIFA in unacceptable ways with unacceptable consequences. The migrant workers injured or families of those who died in the build up to the World Cup must be cared for. There is no room for employers who do not secure the freedom and safety of World Cup workers. No room for leaders that cannot host the women’s game. No room for a host that cannot legally guarantee the safety and respect of LGBTQ plus people coming to this theater of dreams. And the time to act is now FIFA. All of us must do what we are tasked to do to lead, to have sustainable values govern every decision, truly implement transparency, zero tolerance towards corruption.
Tommy Vietor: And the courage to put your own colleagues on blast in that moment to their faces while the world is watching. That is simply remarkable. It got a standing ovation from everybody else, Rog. Right? Everyone was awed by her courage.
Roger Bennett: I’ll let you hear this from Lise herself.
Lise Klaveness: My recollection was that it was just quiet.
Roger Bennett: And not only was she met with silence, Tommy, but the very next speaker, a gentleman Jorge Salomon, who some of your listeners will know as the president of the Honduran Football Association, he felt fit to go on stage, speak briefly and say this is not the place to discuss such issues.
Tommy Vietor: Eh gross.
Roger Bennett: And then Hassan al-Thawadi, the secretary general for Qatar 2022. He then got up on stage and essentially accused Lise of failing to research the country’s human rights record.
[clip of Hassan al-Thawadi]: Before I move on I’d just like to express a disappointment. Madam President, visited our country and made no request for a meeting, did not attempt to contact us, and did not attempt to to engage in dialog before addressing Congress today.
Roger Bennett: And that was a startling moment to me, as Qatar had been on the defensive for a number of years in the run up to the World Cup. This moment though was really setting a new note of really stepping in onto the front four and just going on the attack. Well, we’re going to talk more about in our next episode. But for now, let’s keep the focus on Lise here. Do you feel like you paid a price for this?
Lise Klaveness: Yeah, of course. In many situations I’m a bit isolated. You know, before I did this, I would have a lot of conversation with people in the FIFA system, which I don’t anymore. But the biggest price, I think, is that I look over my shoulder, not physically, but mentally.
Roger Bennett: There are certain people at FIFA who won’t engage with you after the speech, even though?
Lise Klaveness: I don’t think they would confirm this. Why should they talk to a Norwegian president? But before the speech, they did in very many regards. And after the speech, they really don’t. The price is on very many levels of emotional feeling, of being exposed and my personal freedom when I travel, I think differently than I did before. The core thing I’ve learned is that if you’re going to take high risk in something, you have to have a high inner reward, you know what I mean? So this probably won’t change anything. It’s still worth it. It has its own value. I did not reflect upon the world watching this. I’ve never watched the Congress before who has, you know. But then I realized afterwards that the world did watch. So many has reached out to me. Gay people in Argentina, women, the female sports, journalists in Africa. These conversations alone makes it worth it.
Roger Bennett: Lise, [speaks Norwegian]
Lise Klaveness: [speaks Norwegian]
Roger Bennett: I wanna be clear on a personal tip. We have so much admiration for Lise on this podcast, so much admiration for Lise in life and in terms of the only way FIFA can possibly fix itself is via more people like Lise Klaveness.
Tommy Vietor: By the way Rog, look at you there, you’re like soccer’s Pete Buttigieg firing off a little perfect Norwegian for no discernible reason but still very impressive everybody.
Roger Bennett: Just a little side project, T.V. I essentially feel a little inadequate after talking to all the guests on today’s pod. I did get a little carried away, got knee deep, stuck into the Duolingo. [laugh] But just a quick shout out here for the gent who connected us with Lise, the U.S. soccer cult hero and Norwegian American Mix Diskerud. He is now plying his trade in Cyprus in the top flight, he is a great mate of ours. He connected us to Lise and we want give him a producer credit on this project.
Tommy Vietor: Also, everyone on this show has much cooler names than us, but buck up, Rog, because next episode we are going to get a chance to recalibrate our moral compass based on everything we’ve heard in these first four episodes.
Roger Bennett: We’ve talked a lot about the history of sports washing in this year. We’ve lifted up the floorboards and seen the moral decay that’s eating house FIFA. We’ve also pondered why Qatar would even want the tournament, and next episode it’s time to move from talk to action.
Tommy Vietor: Time for some action. Are you talking about my favorite Red Man song? No, you are. You are clearly not. You were talking about more talking into the microphones. Again, that is what we do here.
Roger Bennett: You know, Tommy, what Edward Bulwer-Lytton said in his historical play, Cardinal Richelieu, back in 1839.
Tommy Vietor: Of course.
Roger Bennett: The middling podcast is mightier than the sword.
Tommy Vietor: A tale as old as time. But in episode five, we are going to really take stock of what we’ve learned and make a decision about what to do going forward.
Roger Bennett: That’s right Tommy. How we will consume this World Cup and how we expect we might feel as we watch our heroes take the field in the stadia in this moment, the construction of which is taking a very real human toll.
Tommy Vietor: And look, I know that sounds a little heavy because frankly, it is. But we have formulated a plan. We are going to talk about what we and you, dear listener, can do to make sure that the families of the people harmed are compensated. We’re also going to hear from activists, about how we can make sure we don’t just keep these efforts going during the World Cup and then let it drop in the wake of the tournament. The goal here is real, lasting change.
Roger Bennett: It’s been a hell of a journey through these first four podcasts and I’m excited to, if not, make a difference ourselves to help process all of this with our listeners so that they can work out what they want to do both during this World Cup and as they consume sports moving forward.
Tommy Vietor: Rog, you seem a little down today, buddy, so I’m to give you a one word pump up speech, courage.
Roger Bennett: The names not Rog anymore Tommy. I’m actually changing it to Mix for episode five.
Tommy Vietor: World Corrupt is an original podcast collaboration from Men in Blazers and Crooked Media’s Pod Save The World alongside Roger Bennett. I’m your host, Tommy Vietor.
Roger Bennett: The executive producers and writers of World Corrupt are me, Roger Bennett, my great friend Tommy Vietor, and Men in Blazers’ Jonathan Williamson who incredibly edited and sound designed the episodes below. A bit like Phil Collins drumming and singing at the very same time in.
Tommy Vietor: [laugh] A talented man. From the Crooked Media side. Our executive producers are Michael Martinez, Sandy Girard and Giancarlo Bizzaro. Our producers are Ryan Wallerson and Haley Muse, and our associate producer is Saul Rubin.
Roger Bennett: For Men in Blazers, our producer is Miranda Davis and Martin S.
Tommy Vietor: This episode was fact checked by Nikki Shaner-Bradford. Music by Vasilis Fotopoulos.
Roger Bennett: With editing assistance from Nick Firchau.
Tommy Vietor: Additional production support from Crooked Media’s Zuri Irvin, Kyle Seglin and Ari Schwartz.
Roger Bennett: And Men in Blazers Mix Diskerud.
Tommy Vietor: Special thanks to Crooked Media, Julia Beach, Amelia Montooth and Matt DeGroot.
Roger Bennett: As well as Men in Blazers’ Scott Debson, Michael Milberger and Alex Sale for their promotional social support and love.