Well, it’s official now. Even the FIFA President is saying that handing the World Cup to Qatar for 2022 was an error.
“Of course, it was a mistake, ” Sepp Blatter told Swiss radio station RTS, adding wistfully, “You know, one makes a lot of mistakes in life.” Well, you said it, Sepp.
What has been obvious to everyone since the vote in 2010 is that this was an extraordinary risk at best, a glaring error at worst.
The elephant in the room, Qatar’s boiling summer temperatures, was cited in FIFA’s Technical Report but casually ignored by the 14 Executive Committee members who chose it ahead of the eight who voted for the USA in the last round of voting.
The same report incidentally rated England as the premier choice for 2018, yet that same nation was eliminated in the first round of voting. Clearly FIFA does not listen to its own experts.
Promises of stadium-scale air-conditioning may well be fulfilled, but as Ex.Co. member Chuck Blazer noted at the time, “you can’t air-condition a whole country”. Plus the idea of hordes of beer-swilling fans filling the normally conservative Islamic country should have raised an eyebrow or two.
Subsequent revelations of the Jack Warner leveraged bribery of voters and the use of slave labour in stadium construction has made Qatar 2022 a PR disaster. Bandarq UEFA boss Michel Platini has not helped either by suggesting the tournament be extended to other Arab nations.
With a Winter World Cup the only realistic solution unless the Gulf State is stripped of the hosting, the shake-up to domestic leagues could leave serious repercussions in the perennial club v country struggle. US Soccer meanwhile has thus far remained silent despite it having a cast-iron case for a voting re-run if as expected, the winter switch is ratified next year.
FIFA sure has a knack for choosing troublesome hosts.
General Secretary Jerome Valcke has just confessed they have “been through hell” with Brazil in 2014.
And if they are thinking of relaxing in 2018, the FIFA World Cup bandwagon travels to Vladimir Putin’s Russia, of all places.
Thiago blow for Spain
Bayern Munich midfielder Thiago Alcantara will miss the World Cup for Spain after aggravating ligaments in his right knee.
The 23 year-old son of Brazilian World Cup winner Mazinho was named in Vicente Del Bosque’s provisional squad of 30, but has now been ruled out for three months by his club so will not travel to his parents’ homeland with Spain.
Thiago, who has lived in Spain since the age of five, made 68 appearances for Barcelona before following Pep Guardiola to Munich at the end of last season.
He has represented Spain from U16 level and has five caps for the national team, but missed Euro 2012 and the 2012 Olympics through injury, leaving his U21 appearances as his most memorable for Spain.