First, I want to thank Earbud DJ, for his guest post on Federer and Nadal. I was a well written post, and I am appreciative of his periodic contributions on tennis. Second, I am fully aware that I haven’t written anything for nearly a month, and nothing substantive for at least 6 weeks, and I promise I will be back to posting more regularly after I finish my classes this semester. While, I probably don’t have the time to be writing this (with a 15-20 page paper for my graduate history class, and work for my job looming), I just couldn’t ignore the announcements of the host nations for the next two World Cups.
As you might have guessed from the title of this post, I’m indignant (at best) at the selections of both Russia for WC2018 and Qatar for WC2022. Ravi Ubha over at ESPN calls the two picks bizarre, and I couldn’t agree more. The selection of Russia and Qatar smacks of the charges of corruption, bribery and backroom politics that have dogged FIFA for years. Before the selection, there were rumors that the Portugal/Spain WC2018 bid and the Qatar bid were in collusion regarding votes. BBC television program, Panorama, reported that three top FIFA officials are reported to have taken bribes, totaling nearly $100 million, in the 1990s. Why would we think that something like this didn’t happen this time?
For the 2018 selection it could be argued that the Russian bid, which was quite good – with all the oligarchs’ cash, a strong domestic league, decent national team, was the strongest. Still, Russia would have to build or finish construction on all but one of the proposed stadiums. England’s proposal, for comparison purposes, included just 3 unbuilt stadiums, and was centered on the expansion of current stadiums. While, I believe the 2018 World Cup should have gone to England, the Russian selection was certainly competitive.
The same cannot be argued for the Qatari bid (Sorry no link, because the Qatar bid site is down. Vengeance by some crazed US soccer techie? we may never know). With 7 of the proposed 12 stadiums needing to be built and all but 1 of the remaining 4 needing significant expansion, 100+ degree temperatures during the summer, a small population, a barely competitive domestic league, and a national team with a FIFA ranking in the 100s, Qatar just doesn’t seem like a logically place for the World Cup. Unless you are thinking about all the oil/natural gas cash the Qataris possess.
The 1994 World Cup was and remains the most successful World Cup ever held. It spurred support for the creation of a national soccer league in the United States and drew some of the largest crowds to attend soccer matches (since stadiums became all-seaters). There is no reason to believe that the proposed 2022 World Cup in the U.S. would have been any less successful. If the U.S. had been given WC2022 the growing interest in soccer, demonstrated at this year’s World Cup, would have continued to mount. Doesn’t FIFA want to tap the most lucrative market in the world, and turn the US into a soccer mad nation? Wouldn’t turning a country where soccer was, at best tolerated into a footballing nation be as great a legacy as putting a World Cup in the Middle East? Clearly, money in pockets now was more important than more money in pockets later.
For more on the process, I direct you to Soccer by Ives, a fantastic site run by Ives Galarcep, a soccer writer for Fox Soccer. He provides information on the vote breakdown and more for the World Cup selection process. His site is also a wealth of information on U.S. and world soccer.