FIFA are between a rock and hard place over the 2022 Qatar World Cup. Not that there should be much sympathy for it is the incompetence and political machinations of FIFA bosses that have landed the governing body in this mess.

The result is a decision which meant to show FIFA could go where no other organisation could — taking the world game to a Muslim, Middle Eastern state for the first time — is now turning into a nightmare where anything they decide will be seen as an own goal.

Sepp Blatter can argue he never wanted Qatar. While the FIFA president supported 2018 going to Russia rather than England on the basis the eastern European country had never hosted the World Cup, he had hoped USA would stage 2022.

Blatter saw consecutive World Cups in countries that were once the two great super powers as the ultimate football legacy.

However, despite being shocked by the Qatar decision for three years Blatter made no move to upset the apple cart. Then two months ago he sensationally and without any consultation with his executive went public with the suggestion it would be impossible to host the event in the searing heat of a Qatari summer and that it would have to be moved to winter.

Much was made of players and fans being unable to cope with the tempeatures regularly passing 400C but an important reason for Blatter’s outburst was political. For, by this time, Blatter was getting increasingly concerned about Michel Platini and his plans to become head of FIFA. The Frenchman had once been Blatter’s protege, Blatter even helped Platini win the UEFA presidency but the two have since fallen out. And Blatter, who is making noises about seeking another term in 2015, is worried that Platini (below) might decide to fight him for the top job in world football.

By raising the issue of a winter World Cup in Qatar, Blatter, the consummate sports politician, felt he would put Platini in his box. Platini voted for Qatar and is the only member of the executive to reveal his support.

However he arrived at his decision in a curious way. He voted for Qatar even as he told them they must stage the World Cup in winter and share it with the rest of the Middle East. He has also admitted that he was at a dinner held by Nicolas Sarkozy, then French President, for the Qataris but denied that he cast his ballot for Qatar at the instruction of Sarkozy.

If all this raised questions about Platini, Blatter was also aware that any talk of a winter World Cup would be anathema for the European leagues, particularly the Premier League and give Platini, head of European football, further headaches. In the meantime Blatter, who despite his Swiss background sees himself as a citizen of the world, could go round denouncing the Euro-centric obsession of the critics.

But Blatter did not anticipate two reactions that have effectively hobbled his plans. Broadcasters in Europe and North America are alarmed at the prospect of a winter finals given that a summer tournament provides the required sporting mix for advertisers in what is a slack season. This has led to emergency meetings between them and FIFA. The World Cup is the only FIFA competition that makes money and FIFA cannot afford to put their cash cow in jeopardy.

To add to Blatter’s problems the media has highlighted the inhuman working conditions in Qatar for workers involved in construction projects. While such stories are not new it creates an enormous problem for FIFA. Blatter likes to boast how FIFA are bigger than the UN and can use football to bridge the divide between Arab and Jew in Palestine in the way politicians cannot. Now Qatar shows that in trying to get ready for a World Cup football may inflict misery on many thousands of innocent workers.

In theory, a World Cup can be relocated but in practice it only happens when the hosts admits it cannot stage it as Colombia did before the 1986 tournament, which allowed Mexico to step in. But Qatar — anxious to make its mark on the world stage — has no such intention. The result is after two months of feverish talk FIFA are looking to appoint a task force to examine when the Qatar World Cup can be staged. In characteristic Blatter fashion this will be presented as consultation when it is kicking an explosive issue into the long grass in the hope a solution will somehow emerge from the undergrowth.


Share |
Categories: Football | No Comments »



Latest Tweets

Follow me on twitter

Home | About | Books | History | BroadcastingJournalismPublic Speaking | Contact | Website development by Pedalo