Book Review: Whatever It Takes: The Inside Story of the FIFA Way

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The competition between nations to host the World Cup may be fiercer than the action on the field itself.

When it comes to winning the rights, the rule book is thrown out the window with some countries using whatever means necessary to host the prestigious event.

Whatever It Takes: The Inside Story of the FIFA Way

By Bonita Mersiades

Mersiades’ story spans a twelve-year period starting in June 2006 when then FFA chairman Frank Lowy flagged his intent to bring the World Cup to Australia.

Lowy told reporters he would do “whatever it takes” to secure the hosting rights; a pledge that saw the FFA follow a path of underhanded deal-making and illegal bribery that ultimately embarrassed Australia on the world stage.

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Told through a series of first-hand recollections, Mersaides outlines how Australia’s bid evolved and the aftermath when they only secured one vote after investing over $50 million of taxpayer’s money.

She introduces the infamous men behind Australia’s bid that lead FFA astray, while providing fascinating insights into the lifestyles of world football’s elite and the innermost workings of FIFA headquarters.

The story details her inner conflict throughout the bidding process, and how her constant questioning of whether Australia was ‘playing by the rules,’ put her offside with the rest of the bid team ending in her dismissal.

A recurring character throughout is the now ill-famed former FIFA President Sepp Blatter.

Mersiades paints a colourful picture of one of football’s most powerful men, emphasising his charisma and charm while also outlining his pitfalls as he enabled – and inadvertently encouraged – football to descend into anarchy under his watch, with the business of brown-paper bags becoming part and parcel of the industry.

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The second half of the story explores the aftermath of Qatar’s victory in 2010; the attempts from Lowy to have the World Cup removed from the small peninsula state and the ensuing investigations into FIFA ethics.

Impressively, Mersiades does not come across as a bitter former FFA employee but rather a trailblazer for truth and an advocate for reform to world football.

As a reader you are inclined to believe her recollection of events and identify with her desire for a cleansing of the football world.

The story also tugs on your heartstrings as it explains that there are no medals for pursuing the path of morality; the only solace is knowing you are on the right side of history.

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At times it can be a little tricky to keep track of who’s who in the wider story as more and more names appear and the story becomes more complex. However this may just be a by-product of the author’s dedication to detail and desire to give an accurate representation of everything that happened.

For a nation with such a proud history of integrity, honour and fair play with regards to sport, Whatever It Takes is a fascinating tale of how when it comes to hosting the World Cup, those values will not get you very far.

Rating: 4.5/5

You can purchase this book right now at Fairplay Publishing by clicking here.

To view all book reviews on The Football Sack, please click here.

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Michael Patane
Student at Monash University and lover of all things football covering Melbourne City in 2019/20.