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Qatar 2022: Pack your sunscreen.


FIFA provoked a media storm today when President Sepp Blatter announced the winners of the right to hold the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. The announcement of Russia was, predictably, greeted with disbelief by English journalists and fans alike. However the announcement of Qatar as the host for 2022 whipped up a media frenzy which led to journalists, pundits and armchair fans tweeting furiously about the perceived injustice of it all.

Peek-a-boo.

The writing was on the wall before the 2018 announcement came through as Qatar officials were spotted doing a not-so-subtle round of hugs and kisses. Fortunately, before people start accusing the Qatar delegation of bribery or FIFA of corruption, Qatar has begun to develop relationships with some prominent leaders on the world stage. On February 24, 2010, Qatar and Iran signed a defense co-operation agreement in which the two countries stressed the need to expand their defense cooperation. Smashing. All good news so far. March 10, 2010. Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani has given his support to Iran’s right to nuclear technology, and considers Iran’s nuclear project to be for peaceful nuclear energy purpose. Excellent. So from a political point of view, nothing to fear so far.

Temperatures? Well the average in June tends to be from a low of 27C to a high of 41C. So bring your sunscreen. Fortunately the chances of England or Ireland being in the final are slim so the average July temperature of a high of 46C is unlikely to affect us pasty west Europeans. Fifa president Sepp Blatter said of the decision: “We go to new lands. Never has the World Cup been in Russia and Eastern Europe, and the Middle East and Arabic world have been waiting for a long time so I’m a happy president when we talk about the development of football.”

Ah yes, the development of football. The criteria here seems to be to give it to nations that haven’t held it before. Which is ok when a country the size of Russia is awarded the rights to host the tournament. A population of 150 million in a country where football generates enormous interest means it should be held there. While the interest in Qatar may be high, the population of circa 1.4 million is not. Under Qatar’s Sharia Law, it is illegal to show alcohol or be drunk in public. Which means football fans will go from vodka for breakfast in 2018 to jail in 2022. Quite how football fans and Qatar will mix is anyone’s guess. The country has time to get infrastructure right, but that’s about it.

As for Russia, the Champions League final  between Man Utd and Barcelona, held in Moscow was a success in 2009, despite people’s misgivings. Another advantage is the country boasts an impressive football pedigree and will field a team capable of winning the competition on home soil, Qatar’s only chance of reaching a World Cup was through hosting it. Russia has impressive stadia and money to develop it further. Russian influence in football matters is growing, this writer is happy to see them stage it in what could be a fantastic tournament.

FIFA come out of this looking exceptionally bad. As do SkySports who immediately set about suggesting that the BBC’s Panorama cost England the chance to stage the 2018 competition. It’s doubtful, especially when England were out of the running early on. The BBC’s recent Panorama investigation – broadcast on Monday – accused three Fifa executive committee members of accepting “corrupt” payments and alleged that Fifa vice-president Jack Warner attempted to supply ticket touts.

What this has proved is that FIFA is potentially rotten. Fans are completely out of touch with the governing body, unlike other sports, like rugby and American football, in which progress is made to attract new supporters all the time. This blog has written about football dying while policy makers believe they’re ruling from thrones. Today proved it. Good luck to Qatar, it is hard to say what will happen as the event is 12 years away, but it is hard to see a situation where the majority of football fans are the real winners in 2022.

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