The International Federation of Association Football is the governing body of soccer, as well as the organizer for many of the sport's international tournaments. The association was created in the early 1900s to provide a single body to oversee soccer, as the sport's popularity and wealth rose during the turn of the 20th century.
Based in Zurich, FIFA is designated legally as a nonprofit association, even though it brings in profits upwards of hundreds of millions of dollars each year.
FIFA continues to face heavy scrutiny as the 2018 World Cup begins, after investigations in 2015 brought forward allegations of corruption and bribery against many of the highest-ranking FIFA officials. The U.S. Department of Justice in 2015 indicted 41 FIFA officials, government leaders — including the then-current or past presidents of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama — and corporate executives with charges of racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering, for being involved "in a 24-year scheme to enrich themselves through the corruption of international soccer." The FBI has continued to investigate FIFA for the past three years.
Part of the allegations against FIFA include awarding Russia with the 2018 World Cup and Qatar with the 2022 competition. The association completed an internal investigation in 2014, which it did not release despite declaring in a summary of the investigation that its findings exonerated FIFA. Those declarations were described by even the lead investigator hired by FIFA, U.S. federal prosecutor Michael Garcia, as "materially incomplete."
Criticism extends beyond Russia's shady bid for the World Cup to how it enriches its president, Vladimir Putin, and his friends. One example of corrupt leaders becoming tournament benefactors is Ramzan Kadyrov, the Chechen republic's autocratic leader and an ally of Putin. The New York Times and nonprofit Human Rights Watch looked closely at how the Egyptian national soccer team and its global superstar player, Mohamed Salah, were being used by Kadyrov to boost the latter's thuggish image.
The U.S. froze Kadyrov's assets in December, listing him in sanctions regarding human rights abuses. His rule of Chechnya is one "where extrajudicial killings, torture, enforced disappearances are common," Human Rights Watch said, and he exerts a "near-total repression of critics, journalists and L.G.B.T. people."
When The New York Times asked FIFA about why a World Cup team would train in Chechnya, a FIFA representative told the newspaper in an email, that "through its activities, FIFA does not legitimize any regimes."