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?