Soccer and cinema are not always seen as comfortable bedfellows, to the extent that films released during the World Cup, at least in soccer-mad nations, tend to be ‘counter-programmed’ for those who have no interest in the sport. But it ain’t necessarily so, at least not in the case of "United Passions", the notorious fictionalized account of the history of FIFA, world football’s governing body.
Not a narrative that strikes you as built for the silver screen? You’re not exactly alone in that thought. Indeed, most people have reacted with bafflement to the idea of "FIFA: The Movie" since its conception, and even those prepared to give it the benefit of the doubt may have thought twice once they saw the trailer.
We admit, we haven’t seen the finished film. But then, almost nobody has, as you will read below. All the same, this seems like a case where it might be OK to judge a book by its utterly disastrous-looking cover. Here are five reasons why.
1. $27 million of the $32 million budget was supplied by FIFA
Which, as has been pointed out elsewhere, is far greater than the annual turnover of many of their member bodies. Not only is the sum alarming, it seems that even those among FIFA’s main decision-making committee were not aware that such a sum was being invested – their independent audit revealed that it was a ‘single line entry’ without a purpose being specified.
2. The whole project is a see-through attempt to improve the image of Sepp Blatter, one of the most hated figures in world soccer
If you are not aware of just why people are so angry about FIFA and the man who controls it, you may want to start by reading up on the death toll among construction workers for the 2022 Qatar World Cup, or the serious allegations of corruption and bribery that led to the country being awarded the competition in the first place. It’s a state of affairs that has led to major figures in world football being openly hostile towards Blatter and his organisation, so the idea that there might be any appetite for a multi-million pound production in which he appears as some sort of visionary maverick is ludicrous to almost everyone… except, it seems, one man.
3. The trailer seems like a parody
If you don’t believe us, see for yourself below. The inclusion of the line "Blatter is apparently good at finding money" is so deeply ironic, it makes one wonder if the trailer cutter was in on the joke. But given the surrounding pomposity, we can only dream of the presence of any such subversion in this project.
4. Star Tim Roth is distancing himself from the film
Roth, who plays Sepp Blatter but did not attend the Cannes premiere, essentially admitted his true opinion of the film in an interview with the Times. "I was like, ‘Where’s all the corruption in the script?’" he was quoted as saying. "Where is all the back-stabbing, the deals? So it was a tough one. I tried to slide in a sense of it, as much as I could get in there". Translation: "I know as well as you do that this is a ridiculously sanitized version of events. So I did my best, but you can’t polish a turd".
5. The film’s release has been timed to coincide with the world cup… in Serbia
It would seem entirely logical for a film of this nature to be released during or close to the World Cup, in order to maximise audience interest. Despite this, the film has so far only seen a release in one country: Serbia. Despite suggestions that a further roll-out will occur, it seems quite clear that even FIFA have realised "United Passions" is the almighty turkey it was always likely to be. Let’s just hope that retribution comes in the form of a proper investigation into their shady dealings, and not just a truckload of Razzies.
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