December 3, 2010
By Charles Cuttone
Not shocked at FIFA’s decision
If FIFA had awarded the 2022 World Cup to Phoenix, Arizona, that would have been a shock. That they awarded it to Qatar, an Emirate with roughly the same population and summer climate, is not.
After all, despite its claims that it is for the “Good of the Game,” FIFA has for some time clearly had other priorities. FIFA is for the good of itself and its fat cat members, who traverse the globe living like kings. FIFA’s reaction when corruption is reported is like the police chief in the movie Casablanca, who is shocked to find that gambling is going on in Rick’s Café, and then cheerfully thanks the waiter who hands him his winnings.
I am not suggesting that corruption played a role in Thursday’s decision to award the 2022 World Cup to Qatar, despite the fact that the United States clearly had the strongest bid of all the bidding countries, for 2018 and 2022. And that Qatar’s bid was deemed “high risk” by FIFA’s own Technical Committee due to a variety of factors, not the least of them extreme heat that could be dangerous for players and fans alike. But you have to wonder what led to the decision.
Qatar has little in the way of a soccer culture, and little hope of being a long term strategic market, like the U.S. was when it hosted the World Cup in 1994. The country is going to build new stadiums to host the World Cup, then dismantle them and have them rebuilt in poor countries. That might be part of the payoff for the FIFA executive committee. Fox Soccer Channel’s Eric Wynalda said we’d have to wait until 2023 to see where the stadiums are built to find out who voted for Qatar.
Maybe it was the fact that the U.S.A.’s reputation around the world has been brought down by the two ongoing wars and the economic collapse. Or maybe it was because MLS does not play its schedule in the winter, as FIFA boss of bosses Sepp Blatter would like.
Either way, it makes no sense. The US has everything Qatar does not, except a sheik evidently willing to do anything to get the World Cup for his country.
Despite the fact that it thinks otherwise, FIFA has never done anything to help the sport in the United States. It didn’t in 1982, after Colombia withdrew from hosting the 1986 World Cup and the governing body moved the tournament despite a strong bid by the U.S. and the North American Soccer League to move it stateside. It didn’t help the sport in the U.S. when it threatened to sanction the NASL unless its rules conformed strictly with the international game, and it doesn’t help when Blatter tells MLS it should move its schedule to fit in with the rest of the world, a ludicrous option given the extreme winter climate in some of the league’s northern markets and the already-crowded U.S. winter sports calendar.
So, despite not getting the chance to host the World Cup in 2022, MLS and soccer in this country will continue. In the summers of 2018 and 2022, crowds will gather in bars and public squares to watch players as yet unknown compete for the prize. And the fat cats at FIFA won’t care that the sport would have been better served for the games to be here.