Corruption Aside, The 2015 Women's World Cup Marks A New FIFA Era

by Adam Silvers

On Tuesday, Sepp Blatter announced he will be stepping down as president of FIFA.

An employee of soccer’s global governing body since 1975, and president for the last 17 years, Blatter felt his glass house shake following the arrest of seven FIFA executive committee members last Wednesday.

Despite being elected to a fifth presidential term last Friday, Blatter could see it was only a matter of time until the US Department of Justice, the media and the public followed the long and winding trail of corruption back to his office.

Following his announcement on Tuesday, there is a growing belief Blatter’s resignation presents a chance for FIFA to show a renewed commitment to the principals that started the organization in the first place.

For the game. For the world. For most of us, that slogan has never rung truer.

In less than a week, decades of corruption have been brought to light, FIFA has been brought to its knees and finally, as John Oliver suggested, the head of the snake has been severed.

So, where do we go from here?

In one of his last acts as president, Blatter will call an extraordinary congress to elect his successor. That vote, however, won’t take place for at least four months from now.

But we don’t have to wait four months to welcome in the next era of the global game; that’s going to happen in two days.

When the Women’s World Cup kicks off on June 6 in Edmonton, it will not only signal the next chapter in the women’s game, but soccer’s story as a whole.

With more teams, more media and more dollar signs than ever before, the 2015 Women’s World Cup will probably be, as US women’s national team head coach Jill Ellis put it,

The biggest female sporting event in terms of exposure, but also in terms of level of play.

And it was slated to be something special long before a group of plainclothes officers stormed into a Zurich hotel, and a 79-year-old man finally came down from his ivory tower.

The women of the World Cup will not let corruption overshadow their moment in the sun.

You, and several members of the media, may want to focus on the fact that FIFA just got hit harder than a boxer who’s more than a few years past his prime, but that would be a disservice to the women who are competing in Canada.

Last week, I attended the United States women’s national team’s media day in midtown Manhattan.

And despite repeated attempts by journalists to goat the squad into commenting on the ongoing corruption scandal, the ladies were determined to keep the conversation centered on how excited they are for the upcoming tournament.

US head coach Jill Ellis was adamant that focus – not only for the US squad – was solely on the tournament.

She said,

This sport is about 11 players on a field. Nothing is going to distract from any of the teams, any of the players, from being in that moment and having the opportunity to represent their country. It’s bigger than an organization; this is passion, this is life, this is our sport.

Abby Wambach, the United States’ all-time leading goal scorer, shared similar thoughts.

She said,

It’s important to know that whatever happens, in Switzerland or in Brazil, we have no idea what goes on, nor do we have any control. We want to talk about Women’s World Cup; how we are preparing, what we are all doing. That’s why we’re all sitting here; it’s not because of what they’re doing in Switzerland or what they’re doing behind backchannels.

Regardless of who you support, this tournament figures to be one of the most competitive in recent history.

Whether your home country is playing in the 2015 World Cup or not, this event is going to be just as exciting for the neutral sports fan.

For the first time in Women’s World Cup history, the field has been expanded to 24 teams. More teams means more games, which means more action and more excitement.

US defender Lori Chalupny, who is making a return to international competition after a five-year hiatus, wants developing female athletes to learn from watching the games, but she also thinks the tournament has enough appeal to feature on TV screens in bars and living rooms across the globe.

She told Elite Daily,

The Women’s World Cup is full of powerful, strong, independent women. I think a lot of young girls growing up can take a lot from watching the sport. But I think the average sports fan will enjoy it. It’s fast-paced, a little bit different from the men’s game, forward thinking, and I think everyone will enjoy watching.

Three-time Olympic gold medalist Heather O’Reilly doesn’t shy away from the fact that the United States’ goal is to lift the World Cup trophy on Sunday, July 5, at BC Place Stadium in Vancouver.

But when asked to take a step back and reflect on what this tournament means on a larger scale, she’s quick to acknowledge just how far the women’s game has come.

O’Reilly said,

You can’t just beat teams anymore by being faster and stronger; there’s a more sophisticated aspect to it. The development of more technical players and more tactically savvy players. I think mostly it’s societal shifts: that women can play, can be good and can be a professional soccer player. It’s not just a man’s game. Perhaps every year that goes by, that these events are on television, there’s some young girls across the world watching and saying, ‘I want to do that, too.’

We must uncover how deep the FIFA corruption scandal runs, but to take focus away from the WWC would be a step back for the global game.

Last Friday, Sepp Blatter addressed the FIFA congress and the world as the “president of everybody.” Now, he’s a lame duck who’s treading water.

This Friday, the soccer world’s attention will shift to the 2015 Women’s World Cup. The event, to the best of our knowledge, is corruption free – something of a rarity it appears – and will offer a respite from the mire and the muck in which FIFA currently finds itself.

For the next month, press conferences, arrests and indictments will be replaced by wonder goals, late drama and passion-fueled celebrations.

The sullen, aging face of FIFA will be swapped for a youthful smile.

And a million angry voices will turn into a cascade of cheers.

FIFA will wait at least four months for a new leader; we’ve been waiting four years for the 2015 Women’s World Cup.

With a “profound restructuring” on the way, let’s all take a month to put the bullshit aside and remember why it’s called the "beautiful game."