football sepp blatter

Qatar Catastrophic Choice For World Cup 2022

Sepp Blatter’s award of the 2022 World Cup to the Middle East was seen, after a prolonged period of investment at football’s top level, as Qatar’s trophy.

Fifa’s failure now to strip the Emirate as hosts would be a catastrophe and I believe the bidding process should be opened up again.

Imagine every single country in the Fifa rankings were to qualify for the World Cup finals. Bhutan, Macau, even Scotland. All 207 nations. Each bringing 23 of their nations’ top footballers to football’s greatest spectacle. That’s 4,761 men in total. Or about the same amount that will die in Qatar building stadiums for the 2022 World Cup, according to the International Trade Union Confederation. Current Qatari labour laws have been likened to modern day slavery, restricting foreign workers’ ability to leave the country or change jobs.

Are almost 5,000 lives a fair price to pay for a dozen or so football stadiums that will hardly be used after July 2022, in a tiny Gulf state with a population less than that of Greater Manchester? Blatter and his cronies certainly think so, with the Fifa boss’ recent pronouncement that it was “a mistake” to award the summer tournament to Qatar merely focusing on climatic conditions.

Indeed, with the soaring temperatures a major factor in the stadium fatalities, it’s become clear that it will be impossible to stage the tournament during the summer months. A Chilean named Harold Mayne-Nicholls headed the Fifa inspection team that scrutinised each of the bidding countries for the 2022 tournament. He concluded that “in June and July you cannot play”. Despite the clear warnings from the likes of Mayne-Nicholls, football experts and the dogs on the street, 14 out of 22 members of the Fifa executive still voted for Qatar.

A move to winter has been hinted at by the likes of Blatter but this will create a logistical nightmare for many of the world’s top domestic leagues. The bi-annual African Cup of Nations is already an irritant for the game’s top clubs every second January, but losing the majority of their first team squad for a winter World Cup in dubious conditions, will not be tolerated by the likes of the Premier League, La Liga, Serie A and the Bundesliga. Already, Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore, has said that a move to a winter World Cup would not be “realistic” and “nigh-on impossible”.

Indeed, such would be the effect on domestic leagues’ schedules that a move would have repercussions for not just the 2021-22 term but for many subsequent seasons. Furthermore, North American TV deals may have to be renegotiated with networks paying exorbitant amounts under the assumption of a summer tournament – not one that will clash with the likes of NFL playoffs. Current and former players such as Gary Lineker are leading a revolt against the original vote, with many deeming the sports-mad Australia as a much more suitable host.

I once walked around Ayers Rock in Australia for 90 minutes in 45-degree heat and almost collapsed. Even then, I’d a bottle of water as my constant companion and only had to contend with camera-happy Japanese tourists rather than some of the world’s top footballers. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that even the stars themselves, not renowned for rocking the boat, are against a Qatari World Cup. Just today, over 60% of Bundesliga players voted against the tournament with only 16% in favour of it. While Oz itself is no stranger to dangerously high temperatures, a “summer” tournament would in fact take place during their much more temperate winter months.

The final of the impending, much-criticised World Cup in Brazil will be held in the legendary Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro, a city founded over 500 years ago by the Portuguese and now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The final of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar will be held in Lusail City, which at the moment has a smaller population than my one-year-old son’s bedroom. Yes, the world’s greatest sporting showpiece every four years will culminate in an un-built stadium in a city that doesn’t yet exist. It’s estimated that the overall cost of staging the Olympic Games in London in 2012 was £9 billion. Qatar are set to spend $220 billion to host the World Cup while other original bidding rivals such as Japan and South Korea, the USA and Australia already have much, if not all, of the infrastructure already in place.

Allied to the fact that there won’t be much to do for players and fans alike between matches, and the above facts make it preposterous that Qatar were even considered as hosts. But, of course, there’s one reason they triumphed. It was bought. The Sunday Times’ exposé at the weekend is merely affirmation that dark forces were at play when awarding the tournament back in 2010. The country still has its supporters within Fifa including Michel Platini, whose son was appointed as CEO of a Qatari-backed sports company in 2012. But surely even the most corrupt, sleaziest and avaricious of sporting organisations must bite the bullet and re-open the voting for the 2022 showpiece.

If they don’t, and accusations of corruption are denied, then the organisation is clearly incompetent and unfit for purpose. If Fifa were not corrupt in their choice of Qatar, then they were patently inept and cannot be trusted in any future decision-making process. What’s to stop the organisation from farcically awarding a 2026 winter World Cup to Antarctica? On a day when the legendary Pele’s son was sentenced to 33 years in prison for money laundering, it’s criminal that leading figures in Fifa are at large and looking forward to largesse in the Brazilian’s country for the imminent tournament. They’ve spent three years defending an indefensible decision. They now have eight years to make it right.