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You’ve heard about the Russia investigation. Meddling, the Magnitsky Act, Mueller.
But Christopher Steele, the author of the infamous dossier, looked into Russian interference long before the 2016 presidential election. In 2010, he started looking into Russia’s efforts to host the 2018 World Cup.
Putin was “determined, sources said, to win the bid at any cost”. But getting the tournament seemed like a weak bet: There wasn’t a strong soccer tradition in Russia and the country lacked the infrastructure to accommodate the tournament. Moreover, Britain seemed like the obvious choice. But FIFA, soccer’s governing body, chose Russia.
Steele passed along what he had heard about Putin’s desires to an FBI official. After that, the FBI and IRS worked for years to expose generations of corruption at FIFA. In 2015, they got results. And it was successful — the formerly “untouchable” FIFA president Sepp Blatter stepped down.
The world’s most popular game was shaken to its core: Multiple generations of FIFA administrators were brought down, accused of collectively taking hundreds of millions of dollars in bribes.
But any mention of Russia is conspicuously absent in the court filings around this case. What happened? What can the investigation into FIFA tell us about the current Russia investigation?
Ken Bensinger, an investigative reporter from BuzzFeed News, has some answers. He’s the author of the forthcoming book “Red Card: How the U.S. Blew the Whistle on the World’s Biggest Sports Scandal.” (Read Bensinger’s op-ed in the New York Times about this topic here.)
A New Fan's Guide To The World Cup
The United States men’s soccer team didn’t qualify for the World Cup.
That’s okay. There will be plenty of exciting soccer in the tournament. 1A‘s Gabi Healy has this guide for how to find a team and root for them like a lifelong fan. You’ll be talking about a squad playing football on the pitch in no time.
Let Science Pick Your Team
Well, maybe it’s “science.” The statisticians at FiveThirtyEight put together a simple quiz. Answer some questions and the site will tell you which team to support. They’ll also give you charts and graphs with stats you can memorize and use later to impress your friends. Our producer Morgan Givens took the quiz and got Costa Rica. I got Peru. I said I wanted a squad that emphasizes teamwork and a team that “could make some noise.”
If you want another option, the BBC put together a quiz that takes stock of your snack, television and vacation preferences in choosing your team.
With this quiz, senior digital producer Gabe Bullard got France (the second time he took it). Our executive producer Rupert Allman(who is British), got Argentina. “Oh dear,” he said. The hand of God moves in mysterious ways, it seems.
Get Ready For The Games
NPR did a preview of the tournament with the Men in Blazers, Roger Bennett and Michael Davies.
Vox also put together an explainer (which answers that pesky question about why the U.S. Men’s National Team is not in the tournament).
The New York Times also did a team-by-team analysis. Of course, I wanted to know what Peru’s chances were. “Getting out of the group would be a cause for celebration.” Okie dokie.
Follow Along At Work Without Getting In Trouble
If you can’t sneak away for 90 minutes at a time or stream video at your desk, then Twitter can be your friend.
Grant Wahl tweets games and he hosts a World Cup Daily podcast for Sports Illustrated.
Amy Lawrence writes for the The Guardian.
Following the television networks that cover the tournament, like Fox Soccer should cover you. There are almost too many great soccer journalists to count, and a Google search will yield plenty of results.
Go Beyond The Pitch
So you don’t want to be glued to the television for 90 minutes, and you don’t need to keep up with the blow-by-blow of every match. Fine. We still have soccer content that’s worth your time. If sports-adjacent podcasts are more your speed, we recommend American Fiasco from WYNC. It’s hosted by Roger Bennett of the Men in Blazers, which we also recommend.
There’s also the Gimlet Media podcast “We Came to Win,” which takes the listener through some of the best World Cup moments in recent memory. Before he was Victoria Beckham’s husband, David Beckham was an English soccer player, and he was ejected from a key World Cup match in 1998. Watch that moment here at 2:46.
“We Came to Win” tells that story.
Just Follow The Highlights
Just want to see great goals? Fair enough. Here you go:
And a recap of some goals from the last World Cup.
Are you watching the World Cup this year? Let us know who you’re supporting and where you’ll be watching. Tweet us @1a or follow us on Facebook @the1ashow.
Here’s one of the greatest moments in sports history, from the Women’s World Cup in 2011). Picture this: the United States down by one in the final seconds of a deciding match in overtime, against Brazil. Start this video at 2:23.