World Cup - Early Doors: FIFA faces final frontiers

Fri, 03 Dec 08:07:00 2010

Well, in the end Sepp Blatter got what he wanted.

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The awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar respectively has followed his vision of taking the biggest sporting show on earth to two brave new worlds.

Napoleon and Hitler both failed to conquer Russia, while the Middle East has proved a bridge too far for countless invaders over the years.

But the message is clear - football can go anywhere. After Qatar, there is surely only one more part of the globe to conquer: bet the farm on the 2026 World Cup going to Antarctica.

The beautiful game cannot truly call itself global until it has left a legacy of stadiums, facilities and infrastructure for the 50 million penguins and few dozen scientists in research stations for the continent the rest of the world continues to marginalise.

But don't worry about the conditions. Just as the Qataris said of the heat in their country, the cold will absolutely not be an issue.

After taking the World Cup to Africa for the first time this year, Blatter's vision for spreading the game across the globe has extended to two more unknown territories.

FIFA's executive committee agreed. So much so, in fact, that after England's 2018 bid was eliminated in the first round of voting with just two members voting for it, not only did that pair back the Russian bid, but also two men who had plumped for the Dutch/Belgian bid in the first round.

Quite what changed their minds in between the two rounds of voting is anyone's guess, but that allowed Russia to claim the necessary majority share and prime minister Vladimir Putin to jet into Zurich and take the plaudits.

The FA's man on the committee, Geoff Thompson, was left stunned that years of work and millions of pounds spent on the bid yielded just one vote other than his, and claimed that several people went back on their word.

"I cannot believe what has happened, and I am naturally very, very disappointed," he said. "The votes that were promised clearly didn't materialise. I never imagined we would go out in the first round."

FA chief executive Andy Anson echoed those sentiments, saying: "When people look you in the eye and promise you something, you hope they live up to their word, but clearly that hasn't happened."

But that is how elections work. Just because you doorstep someone and they say they will vote for you doesn't make it so. Most people will just say yes to make you go away. Besides, it is difficult to justify being angry that a vote has been tied up by someone else when you are trying to do exactly the same thing.

Ultimately, the fact that England was the only bidding nation that "could host the World Cup tomorrow" is what counted against it.

The two bids that won did so because they chimed in well with what FIFA hoped to achieve, so in those respects they were the best.

Early Doors remarked yesterday that, having watched all five 2022 presentations, Qatar's was the most impressive. Russia's bid, liked Qatar's, also had a foundation of development over prefabrication, progression over conservatism.

This means that the whole bidding process was largely a waste of time for most of the applicants. If England's bid was the most technically impressive, with everything already in place, and still did not win, then it must have never stood a chance from the outset.

Of course, hopes of winning the bid had already been written off by many following the furore over the Sunday Times and BBC investigations into FIFA.

If it is because of the British media probes into the alleged corruption within the organisation, then it is important to look at the bigger picture.

Football is just one facet of the world at large, even if it is one of the most powerful tools in trying to forget it. A World Cup, for all the socio-economic benefits it can bestow upon its hosts, is ultimately an enjoyable distraction.

What is more important is that a society can be allowed to ask questions of a powerful international organisation like FIFA when serious matters need to be explained and justified.

The fact the issues raised by the investigations are still, largely, to be dealt with, proves that the cause for them was just and continues to be.

If the integrity of the free press - right across the spectrum from the publicly-funded to that owned by an Australian billionaire tyrant - remains intact despite the cost, then that is a good thing. In fact, it is probably the best thing to come out of this whole affair - because you can be sure that the disenchanted press pack will make its way home from Zurich more determined than ever to uncover the rotten core of football's governing body.

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QUOTE OF THE DAY: "Qatar will be around 105 degrees 85 in the shade....all the best to the players who qualify running around for 90mins in that!" - England captain Rio Ferdinand reveals on Twitter that he isn't planning on being around come 2022.

FOREIGN VIEW: "Iberian deception in Zurich" - Spanish sports paper Marca reminds us that England is not the only country that feels cheated by Russia's victory.

COMING UP: We'll have all the reaction from Zurich, including the lowdown from correspondents in the two winning nations. And, after all the World Cup hoo-ha, it's time to settle back into domestic matters. We'll bring you video previews, match facts and all the latest team news ahead of the weekend's Premier League fixtures, plus Jim White and Paul Parker will be filing their latest blogs.


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