- IMAGE: DOLORES OCHOA/ASSOCIATED PRESS
- IMAGE: ANDREAS GEBERT/ASSOCIATED PRESS
- IMAGE: IVAN SEKRETAREV/ASSOCIATED PRESS
- IMAGE: RICARDO MAZALAN/ASSOCIATED PRESS
- IMAGE: WONG MAYE-E/ASSOCIATED PRESS
- IMAGE: JOHN PHILLIPS/ASSOCIATED PRESS
- IMAGE: SILVIA IZQUIERDO/ASSOCIATED PRESS
- IMAGE: SERGEI GRITS/ASSOCIATED PRESS
- IMAGE: HASSAN AMMAR/ASSOCIATED PRESS
- IMAGE: THANASSIS STAVRAKIS/ASSOCIATED PRESS
- IMAGE: AP PHOTO/JULIO CORTEZ/ASSOCIATED PRESS
- IMAGE: VANDERLEI ALMEIDA/AFP/GETTY IMAGES
Colombia soccer fans cheer after their team's World Cup victory over Ivory Coast in Bogota, Colombia, Thursday, June 19, 2014. Colombia won 2-1.
RIO DE JANEIRO — Far from the board rooms and voting sessions that have besmirched the reputation of FIFA, world soccer's governing body, in the eyes of many fans lately, a group of men and women carry out a monumental task that has nothing to do with awarding World Cups or massive infrastructure profits — but cuts right to the soul of the game itself.
The goal of FIFA's digital team is simple: Deliver the World Cup, the planet's most popular sporting event, to fans everywhere.
Achieving that goal is anything but simple.
For the World Cup, FIFA has no fewer than 68 members of its digital team stationed in Brazil. A dozen editors are stationed at each of the tournament's 12 venues, and 12 photographers are fanned out across the country as well. The remaining dozens of programmers, writers, photographers and strategists work from the seaside Forte de Copacabana here in this iconic city that will host the World Cup final on July 13.
FIFA publishes digital content — via its websites, official app and social channels — for fans in six languages: English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, German and Arabic. Here, for example, is FIFA's Arabic site:
With many of the digital workers gathered in one place at the Forte for the World Cup — an extremely rare occurrence, since they usually work from posts around the globe — the team's workspace resembles the tournament itself. Teams who work in different languages gather at their respective pods of desks, and national flags hang from the walls.
"The goal is to use the access we get for the benefit of football fans," a spokesperson told me during my visit to the operation this week.
FIFA employees get a level of access to teams, players, pitches and venues that would make any reporter jealous. The resulting content — news, features, trivia, profiles, photos — is delivered across a range of platform.
Some of the most recent additions are an official app and a brand-new World Cup Instagram account that already has 500,000 followers about two weeks after being launched.
It shouldn't come as a total surprise that the biggest event for the world's most popular sport leads to some tremendous engagement for that sport's most recognizable brand. Still, the numbers are staggering.
Between June 12, when the World Cup began, and June 17, fans around the world spent a cumulative total of 2,282 years on FIFA's digital platforms, according to FIFA. The organization's Twitter accounts gained a total of 485,000 new followers on the tournament's first day, and its World Cup-specific Facebook page has gained more than 8 million likes since the tournament began.
That time span also produced a total of 2.5 billion page views across platforms — a quarter of the total number of pages fans viewed online during the 2010 World Cup in South Africa in just five days of a month-long tournament.
With more than three weeks to go until the World Cup final, expect more eye-popping numbers to to emerge. Next time you browse a FIFA site or favorite a FIFA tweet, spare a thought for the dedicated football fanatics giving many soccer obsessives their daily fix.