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UEFA Champions League Final amid FIFA scandal

The Catalan and Italian clubs are set to face off in Saturday’s Champions League final surrounded by the scrutiny of world soccer.

FIFA+President+Joseph+Sepp+Blatter+speaks+during+the+65th+FIFA+Congress+with+the+president%26apos%3Bs+election+on+May+29%2C+2015+at+the+Hallenstadion+in+Zurich%2C+Switzerland.+
FIFA President Joseph Sepp Blatter speaks during the 65th FIFA Congress with the president's election on May 29, 2015 at the Hallenstadion in Zurich, Switzerland.

FIFA President Joseph Sepp Blatter speaks during the 65th FIFA Congress with the president's election on May 29, 2015 at the Hallenstadion in Zurich, Switzerland.

Melanie Duchene/EQ Images/Zuma Press/TNS

Melanie Duchene/EQ Images/Zuma Press/TNS

FIFA President Joseph Sepp Blatter speaks during the 65th FIFA Congress with the president's election on May 29, 2015 at the Hallenstadion in Zurich, Switzerland.

Josh Barajas, Sports Editor

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The most talked about event in world football this week was supposed to be the weekend’s clash between Spain’s FC Barcelona and Italy’s Juventus FC, not the actions of a controversial, 79-year-old man.

Soccer fans around the globe are normally preparing for the most prestigious club soccer game in late May, early June. This year’s edition features two of the most storied clubs in Europe.

Juventus are the underdogs and an unpopular choice to take part in the final, especially when the alternative could have been a Clasico between Real Madrid and Barcelona.

Nicknamed “the old lady,” Juve plays in a traditional Italian fashion: defense first, the rest should come easy. Their soccer isn’t very attractive, but it was enough to beat the world’s richest club, Real Madrid, in the semi-final.

Barcelona, on the other hand, commands one of the largest fan bases in the world. According to Forbes, they are the second richest club on the planet with a value of 3.16 billion dollars.

Barça’s style of play is the complete opposite of Juventus’. The Catalans defend well, but are much more vertical and rely heavily on their trident in attack consisting of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar to create opportunities.

Any other year, this game commands total attention in the weeks leading up to it. This year, Joseph “Sepp” Blatter unexpectedly stepped down from his post as head of soccer’s governing body on Tuesday after 17 years in charge of FIFA.

The shocking resignation came only four days after Blatter won his fourth re-election. Two days prior to the vote, the FBI indicted nine FIFA officials and five corporate executives for racketeering conspiracy and corruption. The scandal should have crippled Blatter’s presidential campaign, but all it did was delay the inevitable.

After Blatter secured his fifth straight term, he vowed to root out all corruption in world soccer and would disallow the denigration of FIFA to continue. The many who oppose Blatter and his iron grip on FIFA felt his promises were empty.

One of his staunchest rivals is ex-soccer star and UEFA President Michel Platini. In an interview with L’Equipe, Platini said that Blatter assured him he would run for president for the last time in the 2011 election. The Frenchman called Blatter a friend, but that he couldn’t support him any longer.

When Blatter stepped down, world soccer mostly rejoiced, but doubts still linger over who will take over as the new FIFA chief. The public’s fear is that Blatter might handpick his replacement leaving world soccer with more of the same.

Regardless of who takes over, the FBI announced hours after the resignation that FIFA and Blatter are still under investigation.

It’s no secret that the corruption in world soccer is often unchecked. Yet people keep watching the television broadcasts by the millions, they keep buying the videogames year in and year out and they still pay astronomical figures to attend live matches.

According to World Soccer Talk, 1.9 million Americans watched the 2014 Champions League final between Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid on Fox. According to FIFA, around 200,000 tickets to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil were sold in the United States.

Most people use the duration of a match as an escape from reality and the rotting structure surrounding the game of soccer. That is why Saturday’s Barcelona vs. Juventus will be like an oasis in the middle of a brutal desert.

Amid world soccer’s turmoil, Saturday’s Champions League final in Berlin is set to start at 11:45 a.m. local time.

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