Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: Caribbean Football Union, CONCACAF, FIFA Executive Committee, Jack Warner, Joaquin Soria Terrazas, Junstino Compean, Lisle Austin, Mexican Football Federation, Trump Tower
Jack Warner of Trinidad & Tobago, running unopposed, was re-elected unanimously as president of CONCACAF at the regional confederation’s congress in Miami.
Warner, a FIFA vice president and, since 1983, a FIFA Executive Committee member, won his sixth four-year term as CONCACAF supremo.
Junstino Compean, the Mexican Football Federation chief, and Lisle Austin of Barbados were elected vice presidents. Both ran unopposed. [May 3]
Comment: So it’s four more years of the slippery Warner, a man whose transgessions have been well documented.
Warner’s first great feat came in November 1989, when, as Trinidad & Tobago soccer boss, he had thousands of bogus tickets printed for the World Cup qualifying showdown between T&T and the U.S. in Port of Spain, a game in which Warner’s “Strike Force” needed only a tie to earn a berth in Italia ’90. T&T lost, of course, on Paul Caligiuri’s “Shot Heard ‘Round the World,” but Warner was on his way. Already president of the Caribbean Football Union, he won his first term as CONCACAF president the following year. He has since amassed a fortune estimated at between $20 million and $40 million based solely upon his ostensibly valuable skills as a soccer administrator.
Warner’s re-election extends a proud tradition in CONCACAF, which will mark its 50th anniversary this year. For 22 years the North/Central American and Caribbean region was under the dictatorial rule of Warner’s predecessor, Joaquin Soria Terrazas. For many of those years CONCACAF was headquartered in Guatemala City, which, at the time, had no international airport. (Warner, to his credit, lifted his kingdom’s profile considerably by moving its offices to Trump Tower in New York.)
Don’t look for Warner to go away any time soon. CONCACAF has 40 member nations, fully three quarters of them part of the CFU. As long as Warner looks after them, his reign will be everlasting.
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: 2014 World Cup, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Caribbean, Chuck Blazer. Ghana, CONCACAF, Costa Rica, FIFA Executive Committee, Honduras, Jack Warner, Jamaica, Mexico, New Zealand, Oceania, Trinidad & Tobago, U.S., Uruguay
CONCACAF fell short in its effort to gain an extra berth in the 2014 World Cup as the FIFA Executive Committee decided to give the North/Central America and Caribbean region the same 3.5 spots it was awarded for the 2010 tournament.
Under the allotment, CONCACAF will have three guaranteed spots; the fourth-place finisher in its qualifying competition will have a chance to reach Brasil ’14 through a home-and-home playoff with a nation from another regional confederation.
South America will have 4.5 qualifying berths, plus Brazil’s automatic spot as host. Europe will keep its 13 berths, and Africa its five. Once again, Asia will have 4.5 and Oceania 0.5.
One change: A draw will be held in July to determine the playoff pairings among the CONCACAF fourth-place finisher, South America’s No. 5, Asia’s No. 5 and the Oceania winner.
The outcome, nevertheless, left CONCACAF officials–among them president Jack Warner of Trinidad & Tobago, who said in January that his region would lobby for an outright fourth berth– disappointed, if not angry. Said CONCACAF Secretary General Chuck Blazer of the U.S., like Warner a FIFA Executive Committee member, “We are 35 members who are very serious about qualifying. We want to be treated fairly and given enough opportunity to be successful. Hear us.” [March 3]
Comment: Crocodile tears.
Much can be said about how berths have been doled out since the World Cup expanded from 24 teams to 32 for Francia ’98. Did Asia, in 2002, deserve two qualifying berths to go along with automatic berths that went to co-hosts Japan and South Korea? Should Europe, with a high of 15 nations in ’98, continue to watch its presence erode? When it comes to Africa, which had six total slots at South Africa ’10 and saw only Ghana survive the second round, will FIFA continue to reward that continent based on, presumably, promise alone?
For now, FIFA uncharacteristically got it right, for the most part. Oceania, which since Australia’s defection to Asia has become New Zealand and the Eight Dwarves, truly does not deserve a straight path to a World Cup. South America, with Brazil holding one spot, deserves its five qualifying spots. And CONCACAF, which to most of FIFA is Mexico and the U.S.–plus, depending on the year, Costa Rica or Honduras or Canada or T&T or Jamaica, plus a couple dozen dots in the Caribbean–deserves its 3.5.
At the last World Cup, the U.S., though first in its group at 1-0-2, and Mexico (second, 1-1-1) and Honduras (0-2-1) failed to turn the tournament on its ear. CONCACAF’s fourth-place team, Costa Rica, dropped its playoff with Uruguay, although it should be noted that the Uruguayans went on to reach the semifinals.
If CONCACAF wants its fourth, it will have to overwhelm FIFA with its performance in Brazil. The USA’s appearance in the 2002 quarterfinals won’t do, nor will Mexico’s in 1986, when it was host. It will take that combined, plus a repeat of Uruguay1930, to do it. That time, the U.S., 32 years before the founding of CONCACAF, finished third.
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: 2022 World Cup, AOL Fanhouse, Baltimore, Chicago Fire, Commissioner Don Garber, FIFA, FIFA Executive Committee, Major League Soccer, National Soccer Coaches Association of America, New England Revolution, Qatar, Toronto FC
Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber said his league will not shift to a late-summer-to-mid-spring schedule that predominates in the Northern Hemisphere.
Garber had offered to get MLS, which plays from March to November, in line with most major European leagues in an effort to sway FIFA prior to its vote last month on the host of the 2022 World Cup. The U.S. bid, however, finished second to Qatar, and Garber apparently has since pulled his offer off the table.
“We’ll revisit the whole decision on moving our schedule,” Garber told AOL Fanhouse at the National Soccer Coaches Association of America convention in Baltimore. “Right now I think I think the whole schedule thing is certainly up in the air. Right now FIFA is talking about a winter World Cup [in Qatar], so maybe the season we have is right. I think we’ll probably take a deep breath and put that concept on the back burner.” [January 13]
That’s the sound of that deep breath as Garber drops his ill-considered sop to a FIFA Executive Committee that was bound and determined to reject the USA’s bid in favor of Qatar’s.
Europe can play matches in snow, sleet, freezing rain, and slog through, but MLS isn’t that strong, yet.
Perhaps the hearty fans of the Chicago Fire or New England Revolution or Toronto FC would turn out, a few thousand strong, for a match in January, but give the league’s fair-weather clubs a cold drizzle and the attendance there would be in the hundreds. That’s not something the league–still trying to match the average attendance of 17,000 it pulled in during its inaugural season in 1996–needs.
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: Antarctica, FIFA Executive Committee, FIFA President Sepp Blatter, Franz Beckenbauer, Gobi Desert, Jackie Charlton, Johannesburg, Montevideo, Persian Gulf, Qatar, Russia, Saturn, UEFA President Michel Platini, Uruguay
FIFA President Sepp Blatter was on the defensive during ceremonies in Johannesburg to mark the closing of the 2010 World Cup, insisting–and at one point pounding the podium for emphasis–that the controversial selection of Russia and Qatar as hosts of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups was intended to develop soccer in those regions and nothing more. [December 13]
Comment: Blatter blithely brushed aside concerns over the searing heat that would await a Qatari World Cup and instead took heat himself for his clumsy remarks regarding how the locals would view alcohol comsumption and homosexual activity by their foreign guests during the monthlong event. Yet heat remains the central issue as the reality of a World Cup in summer in a Persian Gulf state measuring just 6,000 square miles sinks in. Despite the claims by Qatari organizers that their open-air stadiums will be cooled to 81 degrees, one can only recall the 1994 World Cup. The host U.S. was swept by an unseasonable heat wave that June and July, and the image of Ireland coach Jackie Charlton angrily tossing water bottles onto the field for his dehydrated players remains indelible. If Ireland was to qualify for Qatar ’22 and Big Jack was still in charge of the Irish, one of his first questions would concern the training grounds scattered about Qatar and whether they, too, were air conditioned.
Already, German legend Franz Beckenbauer and UEFA President Michel Platini have questioned the wisdom of a World Cup held in the heat of a Middle Eastern desert. It has been suggested that Qatar ’22 be moved to January of that year. That would be unworkable, however, given the power of Europe’s top clubs.
Obviously, FIFA’s M.O. is one of, create a daunting problem now, solve it later. (In U.S. Navy terms, “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead.”) But the more important lesson here should not be missed by nations considering a bid for a future World Cup: Spend a few million and invest a couple of years to submit a bid with nary a blemish, but if the FIFA Executive Committee wants to “grow the game” in Antarctica, the Gobi Desert or Saturn, your bid will politely be given the circular file.
Among the talk out of the December 2 announcements in Zurich was that the 2030 World Cup will go to Uruguay or Uruguay-Argentina to commemorate the centenary of the first World Cup, hosted by Uruguay (or make that Montevideo, at only three stadiums). If there’s any substance to that rumor, wanna bet that Uruguay 2030 runs unopposed?
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: 1991 FIFA Under-17 World Championship, 2007 Asian Cup, 2018 World Cup, 2022 World Cup, Albert Speer, Asian Football Confederation, Australia, Belgium, Christians, England, FIFA Executive Committee, Holland, Iraq, Japan, Kurds, Mohamed bin Hammam, Morocco, Persian Gulf, Portugal, Qatar, Qatari Stars League, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Sheika Moza bint Nasser al-Missned, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, Shiites, South Korea, Spain, Sunnis, Tunisia, U.S., United Arab Emirates, West Germany
Qatar beat out a strong bid by the U.S. to win the right to host the 2022 World Cup while Russia was awarded the 2018 tournament in balloting by the FIFA Executive Committee in Zurich.
With 22 members taking part, 12 votes were needed to win. The last-place finisher in each round was eliminated.
The 2022 vote:
First Round — Qatar 11, U.S. 3, South Korea 4, Japan 3, Australia 1.
Second Round — Qater 10, U.S. 5, South Korea 5, Japan 2.
Third Round — Qatar 11, U.S. 6, South Korea 5.
Fourth Round — Qatar 14, U.S. 8.
The 2018 vote:
First round — Russia 9, Spain/Portugal 7, Holland/Belgium 4, England 2.
Second Round — Russia 13, Spain/Portugal 7, Holland/Belgium 2. [December 2]
Comment: So how did Qatar do it? How did this nation of 1.7 million people perched on a tiny Persian Gulf peninsula, a country that has never even qualified for a World Cup, win the prize at the expense of the United States, a nation whose bid was the only one among the nine 2018/22 hopefuls to be given a 100 percent score by FIFA?
To many, the immediate answer was, “Follow the petrodollars.” That, however, may be too easy. The U.S. bid, after all, promised record broadcast rights fees and ticket revenues from a land that is home to many of FIFA’s major sponsors.
However, there’s the usual horse trading of votes. In fact, the trading season might have begun not during the bidders’ presentations in Zurich but back in August, when Asian Football Confederation chief Mohamed bin Hammam announced that he would not run for the FIFA presidency in 2011 and instead devote his efforts to ensuring that his native land–Qatar–wins the 2022 World Cup sweepstakes, thus clearing the way for Sepp Blatter to win a fourth four-year term as FIFA supremo next year. And beyond the horse trading, there was the geopolitical factor.
Qatar’s bid borders on the fantastic: Build seven stadiums and enlarge five others and air-condition them to beat July heat that can reach 115 degrees, then dismantle most and reassemble them in needy nations. That grabbed the attention. But two emotional appeals at the end of its slick bid presentation the day before the vote were telling. One young man whose affiliation was listed as Qatar Foundation, a non-profit founded by the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, told of losing family members in fighting in his native Iraq, then recounted Iraq’s triumph at the 2007 Asian Cup, a feat that united–briefly–that country’s Shiites, Sunnis, Kurds and Christians. The point, though a pipe dream, is that a Qatari World Cup could bring together the Middle East. The emir’s wife, Sheika Moza bint Nasser al-Missned, then addressed committee members, pointedly, dramatically, asking them, “When? When will the World Cup come to the Middle East?”
The United States is not loved in the Arab world. The young Iraqi did not elaborate on the “fighting” that claimed his family members, but most U.S. bid members must have felt their ears burning, at least for a moment. For Executive Committee members with sympathies toward, or obligations to, the Middle East, Her Highness’ question–”When?”–could be regarded as a firm prod, if not an effective bit of guilt tripping. And what would be more delicious to those leaning in that direction than to award a World Cup to a Middle Eastern state at the expense of the Western nation that looms menacingly over the region, from Israel to Iraq to Afghanistan?
At the same time, the vote may have been FIFA’s way of putting the U.S. in its place.
The U.S. bid, on its face, hit all the high notes: stadiums, infrastructure, profits, experience, diversity, and what could be summed up as “give us the World Cup and we’ll finish what was begun in 1994.” However, it could be that FIFA likes the United States exactly where it is, a giant who has, in soccer terms, struggled from a prone position to rise up on one knee. Perhaps that’s the way FIFA wants things for the time being: a United States that is a cash cow of Coca-Colas and Visas, a credible competitor on the international stage but not a perennial champion, a people whose interest in the game is encouraging but not overwhelming.
No country on earth has the soccer potential of the United States. If realized, America could very well become the tail that wags the dog (see U.S. television rights, International Olympic Committee). And what FIFA doesn’t need is another one of its 208 member-nations treating it with disdain. Like England.
o Five of the new stadiums promised by Qatar have been designed by Albert Speer and Partners. Yes, that Albert Speer–Albert Speer Jr., son of Hitler’s most favored architect and ultimately the Nazis’ munitions minister during World War II.
o Russia’s current place in the FIFA World Rankings–No. 10–is a bit flattering. That’s six places above four-time world champion Italy. Qatar’s place–No. 109, one place ahead of Iceland–is not.
Qatar has been trying to reach a World Cup since 1978, and despite a string of Brazilian and French coaches it has failed all nine times. Its greatest international feat remains its loss to West Germany in the final of the 1981 FIFA World Youth (U-20) Championship, followed by a fourth-place finish at the 1991 FIFA Under-17 World Championship. The hardware in the dusty Qatari trophy case: Winners of the 1992 and 2004 Gulf Cups, both times as host. Qatar also pocketed runners-up medals at the 1998 Arab Nations Cup, an event it hosted. In one of its most recent friendlies, the ultra-rich Qatar lost to the desperately poor Haiti, 1-0, in Doha before a throng of 5,000. According to the FIFA rankings, No. 109 loses to No. 128–at home. Had the U.S. been eliminated in the first round of its 1994 World Cup, it would have been a horror. Then South Africa failed to reach the second round of its 2010 World Cup, and FIFA apparently concluded that losing a host nation after three matches doesn’t signal the end of the world. So it’s on to Qatar.
Meanwhile, don’t look to the Qatari Stars League–a circuit of 12 first division teams and six in the second–to serve as a springboard to international glory. Since its launch in 1963, it has won zero honors in Asian club play. Its most decorated club, at 12 national championships and six second-place finishes, is the aptly named Al-Sadd.
o It remains to be seen what Qatar ’22 will do to grow the game in the Middle East. Soccer is already the region’s passion, so if the event cannot further rachet up the game’s popularity, then FIFA’s aim, surely, is to lift the level of play there. However . . .
Arab nations, despite considerable capital investment, have combined to make 20 World Cup appearances dating back to Argentina ’78. The result is a record of 7-38-15. Tunisia has crashed in the opening round four times, followed by Algeria, three; Egypt, two; and Kuwait, Iraq and the United Arab Emirates, one each. Morocco and Saudi Arabia have both qualified four times, and they lead the parade with one second-round appearance apiece, in 1986 and 1994, respectively.
Because of a reluctance on the part of Westerners to travel to Qatar for the ’22 World Cup, the in-stadium audience for the tournament could very well be overwhelmingly Middle Eastern. And if so, a wave of passion could see the world’s 109th-best team into the Round of 16, the realm of respectability. But don’t count on it.
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: 2018 World Cup, 2022 World Cup, Associated Press, Brazil, CNN, FIFA Executive Committee, FIFA Senior Vice President Harry Cavan, Fourth of July, Fox Soccer Channel, Internet, KNX, Morocco, Movenpick Hotel, Olympic Games, Regulus Room
Fox Soccer Channel, already running a daily countdown graphic in the upper corner of your television screen, plans extensive coverage of the Thursday, December 2, FIFA Executive Committee vote on the host nations for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.
“Fox Soccer Report Special, D-Day Minus One” will air Wednesday, December 1, at 9 p.m. and 11 p.m. “D-Day Minus One” will be reprised Friday, December 2, at 9 a.m., followed at 9:30 a.m. by live coverage of the announcements from Zurich. (Note: all times Eastern Standard.) [November 28]
Comment: Has America changed in the nearly 22 years since the U.S. was awarded its first World Cup? There certainly was no soccer-specialty cable channel around in 1988 to cover the announcement that the United States had beaten out Morocco and Brazil. (For the record, it was 10 votes to seven and two, respectively.) There was no Internet, as we know it, so there was no www.fifa.com. There was the nascent CNN, rare in American homes. So it’s a personal anecdote that perhaps best encapsules the times:
The Executive Committe balloting to choose the host of the 15th World Cup had been moved by FIFA from June 30 to July 4, seen by many as a clear signal that the votes had lined up in the USA’s favor. Nevertheless, advance coverage in the American mainstream media was almost non-existent. This was just a World Cup, after all, not an Olympic Games. On the Fourth of July, the winner was announced by FIFA Senior Vice President Harry Cavan at 1:21 p.m. local time in the Regulus Room of Zurich’s Movenpick Hotel. So for one bleary eyed West Coast fan–nine time zones away in the pre-dawn darkness, anticipating a 1 o’clock, Swiss time, announcement–there was an additional wait of almost 25 minutes for the local all-news radio station to air its next twice-hourly sports report.
At 4:45 a.m. (PDT), baseball scores and tennis results–nothing more. Where to turn? There was the temptation to call the Associated Press in New York, but perhaps there was a delay in the vote; surely the radio would bring the news in its next sportscast. However, at 5:15 a.m., once again it was baseball and tennis, plus a bit of golf, so an anxious call was placed to the radio station’s newsroom.
Caller: “Was the U.S. awarded the rights to host the 1994 World Cup? Y’know, in soccer.”
KNX: ”Don’t know. I’ll check sports.” (A muffled, “Hey, did the U.S. get the ’94 soccer World Cup?”) [Long pause] “Yeah.”
Caller: “The U.S. did get it?”
Caller: “When did it come in?”
KNX: (Muffled, again.) [Pause] “He says about an hour ago.”
Caller: “Thank you.”
For the record, KNX reported the fact that the U.S. would host the biggest single-sport event in the world during its 5:45 a.m. sportscast to a listenership busy sleeping in on a national holiday.
[See the first A New Bid, A Whole New America; November 17; below.]
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: 2022 World Cup, AFL, Australia, CFL, Congressional Soccer Caucus, FIFA, FIFA Executive Committee, GoUSABid, Japan, Millonarios, NFL, Qatar, Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, Rep. Dave Reichert of Washington, Rep. George Miller of California, Rep. Jack Kemp (R-NY), Rep. Mary Bono Mack of California, Sen. James Inhofe (R-Oklahoma), Soccer Stories, Sonny Bono, South Korea, Sunil Gulati, U.S. House of Representatives
The U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution in support of the efforts to bring the 2022 World Cup to America. Introduced in late September, the resolution was sponsored by the chairpersons of the bipartisan Congressional Soccer Caucus: Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, Dave Reichert of Washington, and two House members from California, George Miller and Mary Bono Mack, the widow of Sonny Bono.
“We welcome today’s House resolution as another example of the overwhelming endorsement our bid effort has received from all levels of government throughout the process,” said Sunil Gulati, president of U.S. Soccer and chairman of the USA Bid Committee. “This resolution further reinforces our country’s commitment to FIFA that we will meet all requirements for a World Cup hosted in the United States.”
The USA’s presentation to the FIFA Executive Committee in Zurich is scheduled for the evening of December 1; the committee will vote the next day. Also contending are South Korea, Qatar, Australia and Japan. [November 17]
Comment: It’s been a long time since the USA’s first successful bid to host a World Cup, nearly a quarter-century ago. From “Soccer Stories”:
Soccer for years has been a favorite target of gridiron football types, from prep coaches lamenting the defection of their school’s best athletes for the soccer field to the likes of Rep. Jack Kemp (R-NY), a former NFL, CFL and AFL quarterback and vice presidential candidate.
In 1987, Kemp, prior to what should have been a routine House vote endorsing the USA’s bid to host the 1994 World Cup, told his fellow Congressmen, in part, ”I think it is important for all those youngsters out there, who someday hope to play real football, where you throw it and kick it and run with it and put it in your hands, a distinction should be made that football is democratic, capitalism, whereas soccer is . . . European socialist.”
Throw it, run with it, put it in your hands . . . yes, Kemp was referring to a game called “football.”
It should be noted that the late Kemp got it wrong on both counts. It’s pro football that has a player draft and salary restrictions, devices put in place to foster parity among its franchises. Meanwhile, it’s international soccer, where player drafts are unknown and the deepest pockets reign, that’s a model of dog-eat-dog capitalism. Kemp evidently never noticed that soccer is the sport with a club called Millonarios.
Update: The U.S. Senate passed a resolution in support of the U.S. bid, giving GoUSABid the full support of Congress. Even the most conservative member of the upper chamber, Sen. James Inhofe (R-Oklahoma), who represents a state where males have been known to be born wearing helmets and shoulder pads (ouch), did not run interference during the vote. [November 19]
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: 2018 World Cup, 2022 World Cup, Australia, Belgium, England, FIFA Executive Committee, FIFA General Secretary Jerome Valcke, Japan, Netherlands, Portugal, Qatar, Russia, South Korea, Spain
The U.S. Bid Committee has announced that it has dropped its efforts to host the 2018 World Cup and will concentrate on securing the 2022 cup. [October 15]
Comment: The U.S. thus drops out of a competition in which the likely winner will be European (Belgium/Netherlands, England, Russia or Spain/Portugal, with the English favored) and zeroes in on beating Japan, South Korea, Qatar and Australia for ’22.
Said FIFA General Secretary Jerome Valcke: “We have had an open and constructive dialogue with the USA Bid for some time now, after it became apparent that there was a growing movement to stage the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Europe. The announcement today by the USA Bid to focus solely on the 2022 FIFA World Cup is therefore a welcome gesture which is much appreciated by FIFA.”
Just how much is this gesture appreciated by FIFA? Is the USA’s move to simplify the 2018 situation a quid pro quo? After all, England bid officials said as early as September 28 that they would withdraw from 2022 and concentrate on 2018 if the U.S. dropped its 2018 bid. We’ll find out December 2, when the 24-man FIFA Executive Committee–seven of the members European–selects the hosts of the 21st and 22nd World Cups.
As it stands, what is perceived as a strong American bid only got stronger. Japan and South Korea co-hosted the 2002 World Cup, so there’s no incentive to go back there any time soon. Tiny Qatar (about half the size of Fiji) would win only if FIFA somehow wanted to curry favor with the Middle East. And as for Australia, the land Down Under may resemble another New Frontier, like the U.S. pre-1994, but when it comes to the cash to be raked in, there’s no comparison.
For those who saw FIFA reject the USA’s bid to host 1986 out of hand, who sweated out the vote for 1994, it’s difficult to admit, but start making your ticket plans for 2022 now. You’ll just be 12 years older, not eight.
If you want to soak in the official USA Bid party line, go to http://www.goUSAbid.com/