So what do we make of FIFA’s decision to give Russia and Qatar the 2018 and 2022 World Cups? No need for accusations of bribery and under the table dealings because let’s be honest, it is commonplace for anyone seeking FIFA’s approval. So then why Russia? Why Qatar?
2022 first – the thorn in my side. I’m not as upset about Qatar winning as I am about the US losing. And when you look at the voting, and hear the reports, we indeed lost this bid in spectacular fashion. Heck, Korea gave us a run for the money and they just hosted the tournament eight years ago!! We bottled this bid and we bottled it badly. You could argue that we hosted in 1994 which, by the time 2022 comes around, will only be a gap of six World Cups. But based on Korea’s voting that was not the reason. You would think that our ability to host this tournament tomorrow should have worked. Or that 1994 was the highest attended World Cup in history, and that we could promise massive revenue next time around.
But where was our wow factor? Where was that difference maker that blew people’s minds? It seems like our bid ran on the basis of stability – we have the infrastructure and capability to welcome the entire world and make their experience flawless. Our economy won’t be an issue. Terrorism and war won’t be an issue. That’s just boring when you break it down. Our presentations in Zurich were boring as well. Korea promised matches in Pyongyang. Japan promised 3D holograms of live matches at stadiums in other countries. Qatar promised air-conditioned bowls of soup. We promised Jerry Jones’ ridiculous stadium in Dallas and the New Meadowlands in the swamps of Secaucus…
Another explanation that stood out was the lack of government support for our bid. FIFA always craves government incentives and guarantees to fill their portly tax-free stomachs with dollars. We just didn’t have that – Obama only appeared on a recorded message. All the other bids used advertisements and every public arena to promote their bid. Unless you were watching the MLS Cup the other week, you probably had no clue we were even in the running. We’re now in an age where the sport is reaching unspeakable heights, and a half-ass soccer country with no legitimate support on the home front got the result it deserved.
And so Qatar, smaller than Connecticut, will bring the World Cup to the football-mad Middle East. No bid presentation was more jaw-dropping than theirs. The facilities on display in 2022 will be like nothing the world has ever seen – stadium islands, stadiums shaped like boats, stadiums with massive viewing screens on the outer rim, super air-conditioned facilities. Unfortunately, the fan experience will also be put to the test as the streets won’t be air-conditioned and 110 degree heat can be unbearable. Also, Sharia law prohibits excessive drinking and public intoxication, although Qatar has indicated they will relax those statutes for the tournament. Either way, who wants to party in that heat?!
You can be as bitter as you’d like about losing out, and it may have been the only chance for this country to fully embrace soccer as a real sport had we hosted the World Cup. But that’s the key – we don’t embrace it as a whole. And it’s no surprise that we could not think of anything “jaw dropping” to make the United States look better than everyone else.
As far as 2018 is concerned, the race came down to two bids: Spain/Portugal and Russia. England, for their own good, were dumped like a used condom in the first round of voting having only received one singular vote outside of their own. They deserve it, after spending the better part of the year running stories on corruption and swindling within FIFA. Yes, FIFA is one of the most corrupt organizations on the planet. But when the very men who’s lives you are ruining have a say in whether or not the competition comes to your shores, you shower them in gifts and roses. You don’t stick a dagger in them and twist it.
Aaah from Russia with love. I’m excited for Russia and they deserved it more than Spain and Portugal, whose economies are ripe for bankruptcy in a few years time. Russia is new, fresh, and mysterious. The allure of a grand Soviet-type spectacle – massive stadiums and endless funds to bankroll building projects – whets my appetite. Say what you will about the distance between cities and the size of the country (flying from New York to LA is not a 45 minute snooze fest last time I checked). It’s nonsense. Russia did everything right throughout the process and proved it with an extremely enticing bid presentation. I would also note that their competitors for 2018 improved their chances greatly for winning 2018 – England being England, Spain/Portugal’s economic woes and their rotting stadium construction, and a Holland/Belgium bid that never really gained any traction.
So now that the dust has settled, FIFA should emerge victorious with their decisions. Two countries, two uncharted waters, two ambitious plans. There is no reason to believe that Russia 2018 and Qatar 2022 will not be two of the most memorable World Cups of our time. After all, it couldn’t be worse than South Africa, right?!
(Photo courtesy of FIFA.com)