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: 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: 2002 Winter Olympic Games, Amos Adamu, Argentina, Auckland, CONCACAF, Executive Committee, FIFA, GoUSABid, Jack Warner, Julio Grondona, Mohamed bin Hammam, Nigeria, Oceania Football Confederation, Qatar, Reynald Temarii, Salt Lake City, Tahiti, The Sunday Times of London, Trinidad & Tobago, World Cup
FIFA has provisionally suspended two Executive Committee members in the wake of an alleged World Cup vote-selling scam.
Amos Adamu of Nigeria and Reynald Temarii of Tahiti, along with four former Executive Committee members, have been barred from soccer-related activities until a probe by the FIFA ethics committee is completed.
Adamu and Temarii were caught in a videotaped sting staged by The Sunday Times of London. Posing as representatives of American corporate interests, the Times team offered to buy Adamu’s World Cup vote. Adamu requested $800,000 for four artificial-turf soccer fields to be built in Nigeria–paid not to his national soccer federation but directly to him. Temarii, president of the Oceania Football Confederation, had a slightly higher price tag: $2.3 million, ostensibly to fund a soccer academy in Auckland, New Zealand. [October 20]
Comment: So two more men wearing the FIFA blazer have been found to be, allegedly, corrupt. They join a long list that includes CONCACAF supremo Jack Warner of Trinidad & Tobago and Mohamed bin Hammam of Qatar (World Cup ticket scalping) and FIFA Senior Vice President Julio Grondona of Argentina (TV rights scandals). Some of this new mud, however, may splatter and soil the U.S. bid for 2022.
It should be noted that the Times‘ sting was executed at a time when the U.S. and England were each bidding for both the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. If the Times was attempting to scuttle the American bid, it has since become moot with the recent announcements that the U.S. would shoot for 2022 only, the English, ’18.
Nevertheless, neither Adamu nor Temarii recoiled in shock when presented with the Times’ bribe offers. That speaks volumes of what the world thinks of what the U.S. is capable of in a high stakes game like the right to host a World Cup, an event in which billions of dollars change hands. Americans don’t win World Cups, but whenever they play anything, they play to win. And in the international sports community, the stench from Salt Lake City’s efforts to secure the 2002 Winter Olympic Games still lingers.
Aspersions have been cast. The efforts of GoUSAbid, based to this point on an overwhelming attack, may now be determined by its ability to hunker down and defend.
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/