El Salvador Football Federation on Verge of FIFA Ban

El Salvador’s Football Federation (FESFUT) has been receiving pressures to change their leadership from INDES, the Salvadoran Sporting Federation of which President Bukele’s half-brother is the president of.

INDES is a governmental institution in charge of most of the major sports federations since 1980, but the sports federations are supposed to be almost completely autonomous and INDES is supposed to be highly decentralized. However, just recently, a disciplinary or ethics court tied to INDES held a session where they suspended 7 Executive Committee Directors of FESFUT for not adapting to the new Salvadoran governmental statutes that require sports federations and organizations like FESFUT to comply with governmental orders. As a result, INDES has replaced these directors with their own Normalizing Commission.

This is tied to an investigation by El Salvador’s Attorney General on money laundering allegations waged at FESFUT. Police have even entered the premises of FESFUT offices.

The Salvadoran Football Federation sees these undue pressures as political interference, as does CONCACAF and FIFA.

CONCACAF and FIFA also only recognize the 7 Directors who were suspended, and not INDES’s Normalizing Commission.

Therefore, INDES has only until 25 July 2022 to re-institute the 7 directors, and let go of their Normalization Committee, or else FIFA will hold their own investigation that might lead to the suspension of El Salvador from international football!

Whether or not the Attorney General has to stop their criminal investigations too is not yet known.

FIFA and CONCACAF both have made absolutely clear that member federations must be outside of political pressures, similar to a country’s Red Cross/Red Crescent organization.

This means that the football federations should really act as an independent extension of the nation outside the purviews of the government or political organization in the nation in question. In other words, the national team is not just an extension of the President or King or Supreme Leader.

But, INDES’s president stated that the disciplinary or ethics court is completely independent of the El Salvador Government and INDES was merely only responded to this independent court’s decisions. FIFA and CONCACAF would probably disagree on this court’s independence as well.

Furthermore, already, three straight days of top division football matches have been canceled as referees do not have the endorsement to officiate and thus they have not showed up. INDES has set up their own under-21 league with exceptions for three over-21 players as a response.

One must understand too that El Salvador has had issues with corruption due to money before in 2018 when their national team coach was suspended by FIFA for match fixing, although it was not to throw a game, rather it was to incentivize El Salvador to win or not lose by a lot via a third party to help his native Honduras who would benefit from a good El Salvador performance. And, earlier in last decade, El Salvador suspended 22 players for match fixing such as a 0-5 loss to Mexico in the 2011 Gold Cup and a 1-2 loss to the USA in 2010.

So, El Salvador already has a history in investigating criminal behavior with people in their Football Federation.

However, a few deep questions must be asked from both sides.

One, is this part of the growing political tensions by the USA to put pressure on El Salvador to re-engage with the economic community and the IMF and World Bank under the US Dollar, as well as to stop cozying up to the People’s Republic of China which is paying for El Salvador’s new national football team’s stadium? If true, this would suggest that FIFA has now become a political wing of the USA itself which many allege following the US-led arrests of officials like Sepp Blatter, the ignoring of President Trump’s political pressures on the rest of the national federations to vote for the USA-Mexico-Canada 2026 FIFA World Cup bid, and the latest suspension of Russia from the 2022 FIFA World Cup despite football federations having supposedly been free and independent of the politics in a country. It appears that if this theory is correct, that the USA may be trying to crush the soft power a national football team brings a nation. Considering that El Salvador is embarking on a new path with Bitcoin and new allies, as well as are competing better in numerous of sports most notably their favorite sport of football, it would be mightily astute of the USA to try and put a stop to the improvements of El Salvador’s football program because it would decrease President Bukele’s popular appeal giving the two political parties the USA has balanced so well for so long a boost to regain a lead in the polls for the next election and subsequent elections. Just think of the campaigns: “President Bukele’s failed Bitcoin experiment, increasing authoritarianism, and nepotism was bad enough, but now he has kicked our La Selecta out of football! Not even football is free from the grasps of the Bukele Clan!”

Two, is this part of the growing trend of authoritarianism of President Bukele? This is a real question many people in the region will want to ask and if true, FIFA and CONCACAF are making the right move. President Bukele is known to have brought in soldiers into Parliament to get a bill passed, has overiden precedents by stocking up the court which has changed the term limits from only one term in a row, to two consecutive terms of five years each allowed, and has recently been instigating a crack down on gangs that many consider to be another rendition of government brutality and overreach as allegations suggest these are violent and indiscriminate!

But, these first two questions are probably not as likely as the third question that must be asked, as these first two questions are riddled in conspiracy and potential hearsay, even if they are the more fun and partisan questions to ponder.

This third question is, is this really just part of President Bukele’s crackdown on crime thus shining a further question onto the gray areas in sports federation laws?

IOCs and FIFA federations are most notable and most popular in this field and we often see federations punished for political interference all the time, but it often comes with much controversy. For example, with this case, many Salvadorans who overwhelmingly support President Bukele understand that for centuries, El Salvador has been pillaged by corrupt officials and monopolistic business dealings that have concentrated wealth at the top and left none for most of the other people. And, the international community has facilitated this under the USA’s Monroe Doctrine since 1843, allowing the USA to dictate policy in the area. When the USA has not, the Soviets and other Marxists like Venezuela and Cuba took a crack, and they promoted quite awful and corrupt policies that exist in their countries today and Nicaragua under the Ortega regime which they created.

Therefore, is FIFA being part of the problem here if the Salvadoran Football Federation really is corrupt and really is stealing money from the people?

Sure, every countries’ Red Cross, IOC, FIFA federation, and even their ITTF Federation for you table tennis fans is supposed to free of political intervention, but not criminal intervention! If Osama Bin Laden was the leader of the Saudi Arabian Federation, and all the money from the Saudi League was being funneled to Al-Qaeda who continued to bomb places in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere, I think that would be appropriate for Saudi Arabia to investigate and suspend the leaders of the Saudi Federation. This case is of course a fictitious example.

But, likewise, if the Russian Government was forcing its players to make pro-War signs against Ukraine and firing people based off of their opinions on President Putin, that would be a case where the Russian Government should stay out of the way of the federation. This is also a fictitious example.

Therefore, I think what is most appropriate in this tense case is for there to be two investigations.

One, El Salvador’s government should be able to continue to investigate the Salvadoran Football Federation as if they are committing crimes like money laundering, that is really bad for an already impoverished country.

Two, FIFA should be able to investigate this investigation to see if it is political or if it is criminal.

Then, if FIFA comes to a conclusion, they should tell El Salvador whether they can continue their investigation and keep their FIFA membership, or whether they have to re-institute the 7 suspended members and stop their political pressures if FIFA determines El Salvador’s government is interfering politically into the Salvadoran Football Federation.

If El Salvador does not comply and they are found guilty by FIFA for interfering politically, then El Salvador’s federation should either be suspended and re-instituted right away to allow for competitive play, or simply be suspended for a year past the 2022 FIFA World Cup, and then re-instituted with changes possibly in time for them to finish their group play in the 2022-2023 CONCACAF Nations League.

All parties have a vested interest in keeping El Salvador FIFA-approved. El Salvador’s reasoning is simple, they want to contend for the World Cup and other events like the Gold Cup and Nations League like any other nation. FIFA’s reasons are because they want more nations to play to grow the sport and make more money, and to do this, they also have to make sure most nations which are highly corrupt and borderline authoritarian have a way to compete in the World Cup so that the World Cup really is the world’s cup. Plus, FIFA strives on underdogs and El Salvador is one of the nations expected to Qualify for the 2026 World Cup for just the third time in their nations’ history and given their small population and their struggles they have gone through specifically during the Civil War in the 1980s, El Salvador in the World Cup would create a great story line giving more countries hope to keep pumping in more money to try for World Cup glory. Plus, there are over 2 million Salvadoran-Americans and therefore, an El Salvador at the 2026 World Cup would probably feature high attendance. For CONCACAF, they should want El Salvador competing because they are one of CONCACAF’s strongest nations both historically and presently. In the 2021 Gold Cup for example, El Salvador played very well against the Asian Champions, Qatar, and probably should have tied but had bad calls against them. In 4 years time, El Salvador is expected to be much better, especially with the rise in Salvadoran diaspora recruitment happening mostly with American-born Salvadorans who often play in leagues like the USL Championship, the second division of US Soccer, and the MLS, the highest division.

Hopefully this issue gets resolved because it appears to be very important to all parties, but they need to all work together to make sure El Salvador is well for their quests for 2026, as well as other competitions even sooner.

Plus, we must remember women’s football, different age groups, and futsal and especially El Salvador’s very good beach soccer team this might effect. With rising trends in Salvadoran beach tourism and their own prestigious beach soccer cup they host, the growth of beach soccer would be severely elevated with more integration into El Salvador, but a suspension would do the opposite. Plus, crypto-currency companies are a big advertiser in professional football and right now, El Salvador and Miami are the main places holding it up, and coincidentally, Miami is where CONCACAF’s headquarters are. So, for football as a whole, it is better for El Salvador to stay in the World Football Community.

Published by CK 22

I like history, politics, foreign diplomacy, sports, and more. Basically, the most popular things, plus also geography.

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