Still the beautiful game

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The allure of international soccer tournaments typically consists of several interesting matchups, pitting powerhouse nations against one another, and David vs. Goliath matches that regularly motivate me to side with the underdog — I love a good Cinderella run. The 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup is set to kick off June 6, and I will be closely following the United States, Germany and Brazil, because they will likely be the Goliaths in plenty of these memorable matches.

The U.S. women’s national team, or USWNT, will be led by Cal alumna Alex Morgan, ace Abby Wambach and 1999 World Cup champion Christie Rampone as they pursue the nation’s third World Cup title. Although the USWNT is ranked No. 2 in the world and is a favorite to win the event, advancing from Group D to the knockout round may not be a walk in the park. The team will face tough opposition from No. 33 Nigeria, No. 10 Australia and No. 5 Sweden.

It will be interesting to see if the USWNT can redeem itself after its unexpected loss at the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup to Japan, as the Americans hope to end their 16-year championship drought.

Unfortunately, the recent FIFA corruption charges have cast a dark shadow onto international soccer and are taking away much of the spotlight from the women’s professional soccer event of the year.

If you’re unaware of what I’m referring to, I will attempt to condense the situation before continuing.

It all came to a head early Tuesday morning when Swiss authorities arrived at the Zurich’s Baur au Lac Hotel in Switzerland. The authorities arrested several high-ranking FIFA officials on charges of alleged widespread corruption that have spanned the past 20 years among soccer’s governing body. The charges claim that bribes were accepted for World Cup bids, as well as marketing and broadcast deals.

Seven FIFA officials, including two of the organization’s vice presidents, were arrested and indicted. Later on, nine football officials and five sports-marketing executives were also identified in the indictment, and they face charges of wire fraud, racketeering and money laundering. Early Wednesday morning, Swiss federal prosecutors initiated criminal proceedings related to the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bids that were awarded to Russia and Qatar, respectively.

Despite the string of events that transpired in the past few days and UEFA’s request to postpone the FIFA presidential election, the election process was still carried out Friday, as originally planned. Sepp Blatter was re-elected for his fifth term after Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein, who was strongly backed by UEFA and the United States, withdrew from the race before the second round of voting was carried out.

Throughout the past days, iconic soccer figures have shared their opinions on the FIFA corruption charges and Blatter’s role in the affair, including current UEFA President Michel Platini and former soccer great Diego Maradona. Russian President Vladimir Putin said the United States is probing FIFA’s affairs as an attempt to strip the 2018 World Cup from his nation.

The 2015 edition of the Women’s World Cup should serve as a reminder of what the beautiful game can be, as audiences don their nations’ colors and jerseys while they — the 12th players in the lineup — passionately cheer for their team.

A successful and well-received World Cup tournament will help remind fans that soccer is about more than just fame and money. It’s about the memorable moments soccer can provide. It’s about the ability to unite people of different cultural backgrounds as they all avoid going into work, speed to get back home, search for sports bars, fervently listen to the radio and constantly check online updates in order to keep up with their nation’s progress.

Why go to a museum or an art gallery when you can watch the creation of several works of art and masterpieces on the pitch this summer?

Manny Flores is the assistant sports editor. Contact him at [email protected].