The fresh reports last week surrounding Qatar being awarded the 2022 World Cup made for a fascinating read, yet there were no surprises.
Let’s face it: those of us who love the sport of professional football suspected foul play the minute Qatar won the bidding.
All of the talk since then about the concessions that would have to be made to implement the finals – such as moving it to the winter months - only made it more likely that something fishy was going on.
After all, wasn’t the selection process based on such suitability criteria? Suddenly, we’re told “forget about all that, we’ll work around it for them”. I wonder why.
Qatar have strongly denied the accusations made by the Sunday Times, and with former US prosecutor Michael Garcia set to wind up his investigation into the claims sometime in the next fortnight, I don’t think any of us will have to even ‘wonder’ for much longer.
To put into context just how much an affront the location of Qatar is to the World Cup, look at it this way: I have been invited to Brazil for the group stages of the 2014 tournament which begins shortly to help provide analysis and coverage. It will be my first World Cup experience in person since I participated as a player.
I am very much looking forward to it, and knowing how expensive it can be for England fans to head to Brazil I am honoured to be asked to take part. BUT, if this year’s edition was in Qatar and I was invited over, all expenses paid, I would say no.
At the end of the day, I am a football fan. I love football. Part of the allure to go and work in Brazil for a couple of weeks is that the country is an absolute mecca for this sport. Despite some of the trouble out there, and understandably so amongst the worse-off who feel the World Cup and Olympics are harming them, the atmosphere created by those who are taking part will be authentic.
What authenticity can Qatar bring to football’s biggest and greatest event, other than chucking a few quid around?
If all reports and accusations of bribery were completely false, and FIFA merely wanted to continue this ‘new frontiers’ policy which brought the event to the USA in 1994 and Asia in 2002, then surely they could have encouraged Iran to throw their name into the hat? At least they qualify for the event on their own merit from time to time.
Forgive me for sounding like an old codger or doom monger here, but if FIFA and Qatar get away with keeping this World Cup in eight years’ time, then I suspect that the 2020s could see a deterioration of the sport we love that hasn’t been seen since the 1980s.
In fact, considering how big football has become since the formation of the Premier League, Champions League and such, it would probably be a thousand times worse.
It appears that Sepp Blatter will run for another term, too. I cannot see him sustaining any of the damage from this, even if investigations find the Qatar 2022 process guilty of underhanded means.
It’s been said time and time again, by not just me, not just dozens of other ex-footballers but the majority of the football-mad public: the sport will be hurt beyond repair by the ongoing practice of never-ending greed implemented by those who do not give a lick for football, who only arrived when the sport exploded.
We can only hope that the Qatar investigation begins the healing process because if this carries on regardless, who knows what state our favourite pastime will be in, in 10 years’ time.
- Sports & Recreation
- 2022 World Cup