The Call for Wahl

Thursday, February 17, 2011 | View Comments
- Jason Davis

It's lunchtime in America (or was when I started this), and soccer fans everywhere are lining up to support Grant Wahl's newly announced candidacy for FIFA president. It's time for a new voice. An outsider. A guy whose name doesn't rhyme with "splatter" or "pin yuh mom." A guy with an amusing campaign video and a shiny bald head. Really, anyone but the usual suspects will do, making Grant Wahl a perfect candidate.

Wahl says he's serious, that it's not a joke candidacy,  isn't a wacky bit in the vein of the Morning Zoo DJ who ran for mayor. Journalists have ascended to the heights of sports governing bodies before (as he mentiones), so why not Grant, a man with years of experience covering soccer for Sports Illustrated, as FIFA president? No offense to our own Chris Ballard, who is offering cookies as part of his  platform, but Wahl has the chops to make this (somewhat) believable.

Somewhat believable, therefore legitimate. Depending on how you define "legitimate." This campaign is riddled with gray area. I have no doubts Wahl would follow through on his bid for FIFA president if he was somehow able to secure a nomination, but since that seems about as likely Qatar voluntarily relinquishing the 2022 hosting gig, I don't think Wahl is entirely serious. The aforementioned campaign video seems to back me up on that. It's not entirely serious, but neither is it a total put-on.

Wahl is much closer to winning the FIFA presidency than you or I, but that doesn't mean he's all that close. It's a relative thing.

The response has been fascinating. An overwhelming percentage of fans are lining up behind Wahl, tweeting their support, starting Facebook groups, and launching online petitions (I can tell you from experience that the latter is a total waste of time). Whether that's because they're of the "anyone but Sepp" opinion, or because they're fans of Wahl, I couldn't tell you. Grant is a fairly popular guy in soccer circles, has the Beckham book under his belt, and stands out as a premier soccer journalist in a country that doesn't have too many. His status is earned, but obviously benefits from the masthead he works under and the bestselling book he wrote.

Celebrities on Twitter have flocked to Wahl's cause. Steve Nash. Chad Ochocinco. Drew Carey.

There are dissenters, somewhat amazingly. Not everyone thinks Wahl would make a good FIFA president. As he has zero administrative experience in the world of international sport, I'm tempted to agree, but since I don't believe he has any chance of winning, I fail to see the point coming out "against" him. Less worthwhile would be countering his "campaign promises", none of which are intrinsically bad and all of which are issues FIFA should address, in an oddly serious manner.

There are certainly individuals in soccer better equipped to take the reigns of FIFA. None of them are stepping up.

Which brings me to what seems to be the point of all this, at least from where I sit. Wahl won't be the next FIFA president. He won't be on the ballot either, though I'm tempted to allow for a microscopic chance of that happening should Papua New Guinea or Equatorial Guinea decide they'd like to make a splash. In the end, his candidacy will fail. But perhaps he'll have made a point or two, about FIFA's lack of transparency, its exclusionary and sexist makeup, the failure to allow technology in to improve the fairness of the game, or all of the above. It's an only somewhat serious/not entirely ridiculous stunt that could bring a bit more pressure to bear on good ol' Sepp and the boys in Zurich.

Whether you're on board the call for Wahl or not, that's something we can all get behind.

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