Ken Bensinger’s Red Card is an explosive look into the corruption scandal that rocked FIFA, the governing body of international soccer, and the entire sports world in 2015. In a book that reads like Eichenwald’s The Informant or Lewis’s The Big Short, Bensinger follows the threads of investigation into bribes used to control the sponsorships, broadcast rights, and ultimately the bids to host World Cup tournaments. The narrative focuses on Steve Berryman, an FBI agent with the drive, number know-how, and love of the sport needed to methodically pick apart the case. He is brought to the investigation when he catches wind of the possible buying of votes for the hosting bids of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. By following a decades-long money trail, he reveals millions of dollars of elicit kickbacks and a corruption that twists through all levels of the sport’s bureaucracy.
I was continually impressed with Bensigner’s writing. He slices the narrative effectively to create great tension and suspense. He also includes a short but important history of FIFA, which helps the reader see the evolution of the organization from its humble origins to a world-wide giant. His knack for fleshing out the colorful characters of the soccer world, especially Trinidadian Jack Warner and American Chuck Blazer, give you a full picture of the ugly excess these people were able to enjoy.
Bensinger’s Red Card has everything you could want in a book about scandal: moneyed power brokers who take from poor and give to the rich, strong lawmen and women who strive to right the wrongs, and a satisfying take-down in the end. This book provides a strong vote of confidence for the FBI and law enforcement everywhere. It is an excellent piece of journalism. I also want to note that I have never played a official game of soccer in my life, no youth leagues, no intramurals, no co-ed rec leagues. I don’t even remember the last time I kicked a ball, but I sped through this riveting book in just a couple days.
5 out of 5 stars
Comes out on June 12th, 2018.
Thank you to NetGalley, Simon and Schuster, and Mr. Bensinger for the advanced copy for review.