Aivar Pohlak: Not only about the FIFA congress, not only about football ({{commentsTotal}})

President of the Estonian Football Association, Aivar Pohlak, weighs in on the World Football Federation (FIFA) congress, which was marred by corruption arrests and accusations.


For me, the events at the FIFA congress are connected to the wider affairs of the world and especially with things heating up.

There was too much politics and propaganda in Zurich.

Democracy is in a crisis as hiding one's real position has become an inevitable part of life – the body language created by a sheepskin vest [Pohlak's trademark garment] guarantees more trust and many admitted to me that they say one thing but act another way; voting by one's conscience to voice an opinion no longer works as a democratic principle, as the presumptions forming the basis of the decision are created artificially.

Peace is not an elementary basis for the functioning of the world, and football, with all its possibilities, seems to be holding back those who wish to further war.


On the break during the congress - afforded by a bomb threat - an Estonian representative of a well-know US newspaper called me.

The call was unusual and I was more canny and substantive with my answers, so as not to tie us with the corrupt or to be used in another fashion. My only surprise was that my personal traits were so unknown to those behind the call that they were hoping to motivate me to change my position with a simple method of making me identify with someone else.

At the end of the interview I asked to see the text before publishing and taken aback when told that international media rules do not allow this. This was even more odd, given that the caller admitted to being a novice on the topic and that this journalist was simply asked to call and write up a story.

I was emotional and an association head of a Western European nation asked me what had happened, as I hung up the phone. He sighed after I told him, explaining that a similar dance is going on around them - the leaders of the association are pressured through all sorts of channels and have wondered amongst themselves which organizations have been employed to create such an enormous amount of pressure.


A famous Swiss sports minister was one of the speakers at the opening of the congress. Commenting on the arrests, he said that Swiss prosecution did what was required of them by international law, meaning the truth is on the side which said security services were used to rig FIFA presidential elections.

Although none of these people who say this are protecting those facing corruption charges, and it is highly probable the arrests were fair and just, the arrests should have been done at a different time and place, as it is clear the actions were aimed at influencing the opinions of those who had gathered to elect the FIFA President in Zurich.

The basis for democracy is accepting the will of the majority. The opinion of the majority on the question of the FIFA President was clear long ago to the congress and the Western world, which often highlights the meaning of democracy, should be able to uphold it itself. The fact that Sepp Blatter has been, and still is, a democratically elected FIFA President cannot be denied.


The second important topic besides the presidential election was the relations between the football associations of Palestine and Israel, with the former proposing the latter be stripped of FIFA membership.

Palestine withdrew its proposal and the tense dialogue between the heads of the two associations, of whom one is a very powerful orator, a general and a former security chief of [Yasser] Arafat, ended with a handshake of peace – I cannot imagine anything similar can be achieved between the representatives of these two communities in any other walk of life.

The Handshake for Peace was a separate item on the congress's agenda, and this was something I referred to in my pre-congress statements as an important project, something that goes beyond football and with which we are connected to. It is being implemented through the direct participation of the FIFA President.

I was surprised that I was approached in Zurich about the possible negative effects of the peace project. These arguments were weak, so I will say it out loud: it seems to me that someone, somehwere needs war, and football, especially the 2018 World Cup in Russia, is standing in their way. I will reiterate, only due to the World Cup being organized by our eastern neighbors is it entirely impossible to pull Russia into a war, as the competition is highly important for the nation.


I hope UEFA does not amplify the FIFA crisis as it would deal a great blow to the meaning of solidarity in football and could bring down one of the last remaining great value bearing systems.

Luckily, the possibility of avoiding such a scenario has significantly improved compared to Friday night.

Editor: J.M. Laats

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