Thursday, December 2, 2010

FIFA Brings a Power-Qatar to U.S World Cup Hopes

Qatar is a country many have probably never heard of before. It's about the size of Connecticut, and as many people live there as people live as in Idaho. Yet, it will host the 2022 World Cup. Over the U.S, Australia, South Korea and Japan, 3 of those who have already hosted a World Cup before. Maybe this is homerism, but why did this happen? Why did the safest most accountable bid lose to such a gamble? There are many reasons why this is a risk, but this may show much more of what's going on at Soccer's highest organization.

Compared to the rest of the candidates, Qatar provided the most risk for FIFA. As mentioned, the country is the size of Connecticut and has as many people live there as in Idaho. The FIFA guideline for a good attendance is about 3.5 million people. That's double the amount of people that live in Qatar. The home country's fans provide the majority of the attendance at these World Cups, and the people while willing to go, probably can't, or enough can't go. Another issue is of course, weather. The average high in the capital Doha, in July is 115 degrees Fahrenheit. And soccer is safe to play in that right? Not so much. Qatar's campaign said that they could provide temperatures in the stadiums at around 66 degrees. That's a tall order, for a country that doesn't have those kinds of stadia right now. They lead the world in Carbon Dioxide production, and even though they have very liberal laws regarding Islam rules and culture, religious laws in Arab countries still take precedent. Alcohol sales are banned, but that will be lifted for the World Cup. As much as they want to try, it seems a bit implausible to walk over Islamic law that easily for a month. Where should the many fans from other countries stay? The players? The media? The FIFA officials. All of that would need to be built. The U.S had all of that, easily and readily available today. And all of that is just logistics. That would seem enough to turn voters off. But, it didn't. Which begs the question, how did Qatar win the bid over 4 better countries for this hosting?

Qatar is a wealthy country, yet most of that is held by the royal family in charge. The family, plus the bid committee paid many stars, including Zinedine Zidane, to lobby for them. They were able to convince the already questionable leadership of FIFA, that the futuristic stadia that they could provide and the prospect of an untapped soccer area would be enough to overtake the U.S. FIFA has been rocked by scandals of bribery among the highest members for years, and when you connect the dots, you see what may have happened behind the scenes. These scandals and this selection put a black mark on the already corrupt organization. But, this doesn't even come close to what many in the U.S are calling a major knock against soccer in the States.

Many powerful people in the U.S soccer community have voiced out angrily against this choice. President Obama called this, "the wrong choice". Tweets ravaged twitter expressing discontent for this choice. "Qatar? Time to stop playing along. They can come to us when they want us to care about soccer again. They can bribe us next time," wrote one fan on twitter. "USA Soccer is set back another 20 years" wrote another. Many in the U.S media played up the many problems that Qatar may have, and Alexi Lalas, former U.S great, brought up the idea that the U.S should be a back-up host in case Qatar fails. All of that is fine, but the fact that the U.S wasn't picked outright is still shocking, and humbling. In the 1st round of voting, Qatar was 1 vote away from an absolute majority, meaning they would have won in the 1st round of voting. Something seems odd about that, but the decision is still final (for now).

This is not meant to bash Qatar at all. When the world looks back on the decision in June of 2022, we may see ourselves as naive nay-sayers if the bid proves to be successful. But, the vote was made in December of 2010, and in the 2010 world, this just doesn't make logistical sense. The U.S bid committee put together as squeaky clean of a bid as possible, but evidently it wasn't enough. You can read many articles and watch many videos on FIFA scandals, and you'd be 30 years older by the time you finished. But this still begs the question, why Qatar? Only FIFA voters could tell you that right now, and the answer bring up more questions. Even the IOC controversy in the mid 90's can't upstage the potential corruption behind the scenes. However it happened, Qatar is the host for the 2022 World Cup, and the world's eyes will turn there 12 years from now. U.S fans will be left to wonder what if, and why, for a long time coming.

Writer's Note: Watch this video on youtube to get an idea of FIFA scandals. Great job by the BBC.

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