FIFA is kidding right? Russia and Qatar. Those are the countries to host the world’s most splendid sporting event?
Gosh, no hint of corruption there. Not at all.
Don’t get me wrong. My feelings about what happened Thursday morning when the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bid winners were announced have nothing to do with the U.S. getting screwed. I was lukewarm on the American bid at best. I think our country is too spread out. I think not having San Francisco and Chicago involved was absurd. I think Nashville and Atlanta don’t say World Cup soccer. I think the prevailing argument – “Hey, people went to bars this summer to watch games,” – seemed a little weak.
But the U.S. bid would be vastly preferable to what FIFA just did. Does anyone think Russia will pull this off without incredible corruption? Does anyone want to go to Qatar in the summer? The old men on the FIFA selection committee won’t have to worry about it – they’ll likely all be dead by that point.
In picking Russia and Qatar, FIFA put up a giant middle finger to soccer fans and let them know it’s not about the game at all but about how much money FIFA can pocket. It will not be about the experience. Or even about bringing soccer to soccer- mad countries. Or about trying to help an impoverished country rise up.
Awarding the 2010 games to South Africa made sense because soccer is on the rise in Africa and the area could use the influx of dollars, infrastructure and aid. Though there were thousands of unsold seats and the fan experience drew mixed reviews, it wasn’t a terrible risk.
Awarding the 2014 games to Brazil made sense because Brazil is the first nation of soccer. And even though the news coming out of Rio is scaring the bejeezus out of fans as the war between the government and drug lords escalates in an attempt to make the country safe for the World Cup, Brazil at least makes sense from a soccer perspective.
Russia? Over England, Spain/Portugal or Belgium/Netherlands? Absurd. All those other bids were in soccer mad countries with ready stadiums, trains, infrastructure and what would promise to be a delightful, easy fan experience. Russia, a country run on corruption, doesn’t have that infrastructure. There are already skyrocketing concerns about the 2014 Winter Olympics awarded to Sochi. Now Russia – a country that has qualified for the World Cup twice and never made it out of the first round, making it even less of a soccer nation than our own – will host the world’s greatest sporting event. (NOTE: Alert reader points out that USSR made several World Cups, but as we know in the sports world USSR does not = Russia).
And Qatar. Show of hands: who wants to go to that tiny country in the Middle East where it is 118 degrees in the summer, and where the team has never qualified for the World Cup? It especially sounds fun for us working women who will be expected (though not required) to cover our heads and wear long pants.
For a time, FIFA’s bid award process seemed to make sense. A newcomer, then back to Western Europe. Another newcomer, then back to Europe – where they know how to do World Cups and the fan experience is tremendous. Starting with South Africa this year, greedy, corrupt FIFA is intent on taking chances all over the globe for years and years.
By the time they’re done in 2022, I doubt we’ll still be calling it the World’s Greatest Sporting Event. And that’s a shame.