The FIFA Sexist Trickle-Down, From President Blatter On Down

Last week, EA Games announced that the next edition of the popular FIFA video game series (FIFA ’16) will include women’s teams for the first time. This announcement spurred Twitter misogynists to take to their keyboards to make collectively unprofound statements expressing their consternation.

The video game is scheduled to be released in September.

The Twitter reaction to EA’s new game is just one variant in the globally sexist world associated with Fédération Internationale de Football Association. FIFA’s entire culture is fundamentally sexist, from its chauvinist president (who announced on June 2 that he was resigning) to its executive committee officials (none of whom are women), all the way down to the dudes who play their video games.

Recently, nine FIFA officials and five associates were arrested in Zurich on racketeering conspiracy and corruption charges. Immediately after what many are calling FIFA’S worst indignity ever, Head Nutjob-in-Charge/FIFA President Sepp Blatter was re-elected.

The first words out of his mouth: “I am the president now, the president of everybody.”

Thankfully, due to a fuming outcry of international proportions, Blatter has agreed to step back down. This is wonderful news, as he is someone that doesn’t try to hide his misogyny very well, if at all.

The BBC recently reminded folks of Blatter’s terrible remarks on women’s football in 2004: “[The women footballers] could, for example, have tighter shorts. Female players are pretty, if you excuse me for saying so, and they already have some different rules to men — such as playing with a lighter ball. That decision was taken to create a more female aesthetic, so why not do it in fashion?”


While this statement caused a mighty backlash from global football fans and footballers worldwide, it wasn’t enough of a misstep to remove Blatter from his position. It’s taken a conspiracy scandal of global proportions to render him powerless (in the soon-ish future; no replacement has been announced as of yet).

Blatter has disrespected several women players in the recent past. In September, 2014, U.S. forward Abby Wambach told Sports Illustrated about the time she and her wife, fellow player and midfielder Sarah Huffman, attended the World Player of the Year awards in Zurich, Switzerland:

“‘[FIFA president] Sepp Blatter came into our little area, and he walked straight up to Sarah and thought she was [Brazilian star] Marta,’ says Wambach.

‘Marta!’ Blatter said, hugging a bewildered Huffman, who doesn’t look much like Marta. ‘You are the best! The very best!’

‘He had no idea who Marta was, and she’s won the award five times,’ says Wambach. ‘For me, that’s just a slap in the face because it shows he doesn’t really care about the women’s game.'”

via Thomas Eisenhuth/ISI Photos

via Thomas Eisenhuth/ISI Photos

Just recently, Blatter made the same mistake with U.S. star forward Alex Morgan — who, alongside many of her teammates on the No. 2 globally-ranked U.S. women’s soccer team, is a fairly recognizable celebrity. Morgan told Time Magazine:

“I have experienced sexism multiple times, and I’m sure I will a lot more. I feel like I’m fighting for female athletes. At the FIFA World Player of the Year event, FIFA executives and FIFA president Sepp Blatter didn’t know who I was. And I was being honored as top three in the world. That was pretty shocking.”

That is pretty shocking. As was Blatter’s reinstatement amid all the corruption charges.

And speaking of corruption charges: Alexandra Wrage, the president of TRACE International, an anti-bribery non-profit, told about an exchange she had with two senior FIFA executives as she was having lunch at the dining hall of the Budapest Congress:

“One said: Can you stop putting forward female candidates for these governance positions?” Wrage recalls. “He named them: the adjudicatory and investigative [committees]. He said you need to stop putting forward female candidates, because a female candidate will never be acceptable in one of these slots. I’m paraphrasing, but I’m very close. I was looking down at my meal and across at the people sitting next to me. I actually looked up to him and said: ‘Did you really just say that to me?’

Wrage called the blatant sexism “breathtaking” in her interview with MSN. And she’s holding Blatter rightfully accountable:

“The fundamental premise of good governance is that the leadership sets a tone,” says Wrage. “And when the leadership is making the kinds of comments that Mr. Blatter does, it’s a bit of a trainwreck for gender issues in an organization. Because everyone takes their cues from him. He could change the culture with respect to gender issues at FIFA very quickly if he took a strong and committed position. It’s true of any leader at any organization. But he is so much a part of the problem that it isn’t going to happen on his watch.”

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Abby Higgs

Abby Higgs lives in Baltimore, Maryland, which is not as bad of a place as National Geographic makes it out to be. In 2012, she received her MFA in Creative Writing & Publishing Arts from The University of Baltimore. When she's not writing, she's carefully applying anti-bacterial hand gel up and down her extremities to ward off all of the germs. More of her words appear here:

Abby has written 4 articles for us.


  1. I just, wow. WOW. Seriously? I don’t even care about soccer but I have this one tumblr follower who likes Abby Wambach so I was like “I’ll read this thing!” and I did and now I want to watch some women’s soccer so I know who everyone is and also fly to wherever Mr. Blatter lives and punch him in the face? Does that sound good? It sounds good to me.

  2. Sexism in sports. Sexism in business. Sexism everywhere just gets me so mad. The response to the new game is disgusting. I’m gonna go and try to cheer myself up now.

  3. I love football. I hate FIFA. Just… I’m not sure there’s anything more I can say.

  4. I hope none of those dudes complaining about how women can’t play soccer were American (or Canadian), considering how much better the CANWNT and USWNT are compared to their male counterparts. They win medals. Hell, they actually qualify for international tournaments.

  5. I read something like this yesterday…I got sooo mad..really nuts, throwing fire through my mouth.
    Fucking ass&%-@.. Excuse my vocabulary, but is the ugly thruth.

    I’m obsessed with women’s world cup, I’ve watched almost every match.
    I’m amazed and proud, all of those women are so powerful and brave. They have to live every single day surounded by sexism.

    I hate men’s soccer..they’re so fanatic, like a stupid religion.
    They just see us as boobs, ass and femenine toys…never as human beings.

    I hope USA team win the 2015 world cup. It’s my dream team.

  6. Football has a long and inglorious history of sexism. This goes back at least to 1921 when the FA in England banned women from playing on FA affiliated club grounds. Previous to that women footballers had been drawing large crowds, 55,000 for one match at Goodison Park, and was out performing men’s football in popularity. That ban stayed in place for 50 years until 1971! Women didn’t stop playing but they’re audience became more difficult to find. The Rugby Football League, itself a rebel organisation, helped by making its grounds available, indeed two professional English teams still play their home matches at Rugby League grounds, but most of the audience was used to going to football grounds and there are reports of violent intimidation of people trying to get to matches.

    It is therefore I suggest no surprise given the history that sexism is rampant in the game. The question is what to do about it.

    The next president of FIFA must be someone who is committed to equalities, and not just anti-racism, which Blatter was committed to once he found there were votes in it. There I think lies the beginning of the answer: we must get to a point where there are votes in equalities and that will be easier said than done. The current male hegemony will continue for the time being but can I suggest that a start could be made by writing to each of the candidates for president to ask what their position is on equality issues and ask what, as president, they propose to do.

  7. FIFA technically has 3 executive committee members:
    Lydia Nsekera
    Moya Dodd
    Sonia Bien Aime

    Nsekera’s position is a 4-year term and Dodd and Bien Aime are co-opted members with yearly terms. Dodd has been a fantastic advocate for the women’s game, but obviously she is one voice in a sea of gross old dudes.

    I am less familiar with the work of Nsekera and Bien Aime, but I just wanted to point out that technically the FIFA ExCo is slightly less gross than this article states it to be. So like, 98% gross instead of 100% gross.

  8. Wow, thanks for this comprehensive article. I’m a casual fan, so I miss a lot of the politics of soccer. One question. Do the women play with a lighter ball? I’ve seen some people quote Blatter and say that he was wrong, and it showcases how out of touch he was, but I’m not really sure.

  9. Clearly I follow the right people on Twitter, because when it was announced that women’s national teams would be in FIFA 16 I didn’t see any of this backlash. Like, really what is the point of those comments at all except to be a sack of shit?

    Ugh whatever I’m excited about it, because I can finally fulfill my dream of being Abby Wambach.

  10. I mentioned FIFA 16 having women play in it to a guy that’s pretty into men’s soccer and his response was “I wonder if there will be a cheat code where they play naked” and then didn’t understand why I was immediately offended and called him sexist considering I also like women. Turns out I should also want to be shallow and disrespectful.

  11. Whilst not particularly a follower of football, I am an athlete and a gamer… love sport, love video games (among other types of game)… it is SUCH a fight out there with sexism so widely protected in both areas, clearly. Football would be quite a stark example. My own field of pro wrestling is definitely another. And video games? Rrrrrrghhhrhrhhmmmmlhhhhnnnng. Infuriating.

    I would SO love to see a sports video game come out that treats women as the default and men as the ‘incredible feature extras!’ (who aren’t allowed to do as many things as the women because their long hair is too darn fiddly to program for (all men have long hair, right?) and we don’t want to encourage domestic violence (two ACTUAL reasons given in past WWE games, the latest of which arbitrarily removed the ability to create female wrestlers AT ALL)).

    That kind of game would be a lot worse fun of an actual game than one where you just treat all the athletes on level respects, of course. But it would be much more of a much needed damn kick in the throat to lazy, disgusting attitudes the people who run these sports and make these games seem to have conveniently convinced themselves there’s no alternative to. If someone just gave them that big shock high-end alternative… showed them all up… oh how sweet would that be.

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