Recently FIFA awarded two upcoming World Cups in 2018 and 2022. After a lot of negotiations on the part of the bid countries and unfortunately inevitable backroom dealings and a lot of nerves on the part of patriots of the bid countries. Europe became the continent of choice for the 2018 World Cup with bids from Belgium and the Netherlands, England, Portugal and Spain and Russia being in the final four; while the 2022 World Cup came from the rest of the world with Australia, Japan, South Korea and the United states in the running to host the event.
Having friends hailing from England, the US, Australia and South Korea they all have a real investment in the results. Hosting a World Cup massive undertaking (and potential worldwide success) for any country. When the announcement was made it was met with a lot of scorn from fans due to the choices.
The winning bids were considered weak by comparison to most but for some reason FIFA selected Russia and Qatar to host successive World Cups. Many of my fans were outraged with patriotic fervour. The weaker bids had won! Why? Clear corruption and bribery.
Bribery is nothing new to international events. And chances are there were deals made to sweeten someone’s (or some country’s) coffers in order for a vote. When this must money and prestigious is on the line, people will frequently prove themselves fallible.
Here’s the thing though, I almost understand the decision without looking into the likely corruption. Russia is a vast untapped market, with the ninth largest population in the world, some excellent footballers and a very mediocre at best national football league. It should rival the likes of Italy and Germany, instead it is comparable to Greece? (I’m not a football statistician – this just a rough guess.) By awarding Russia the World Cup I suspect FIFA hopes to improve their national league and increase the popularity (and prosperity) of football there.
Qatar is a similar choice. I fear players may spontaneously combust in the desert during the Summer, but this a clear attempt to crack into the Islamic market. Is that the right reason to give something as prestigious as the World Cup to a country that is in a very unstable part of the globe? FIFA seems to think so. Qatar’s deep oily pockets may have greased the wheels, but I don’t know.
FIFA wants to maintain its hold as the global game, if they can forge inroads into Russia and the Islamic world, they’re going to go a long way to keeping that grip.
I love football, the World Cup and international sporting competitions. I never became invested in these bid processes though, because as I get older I realize what I appreciate more is the spirit of competition and achievement over shiny medals and golden trinkets. I volunteered at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver in February 2010, and found that I often didn’t know the scores of games but enjoyed watching the athletes compete and perform and enjoy the experience.
Right or wrong the countries have been selected and I hope Russia and Qatar both put on fantastic events and prove the power of sport.
Incidentally around the same time as the World Cup hosts were announced, I received some footballing news that did make me sit up and cheer. When I was in Suwon I reffed for the Seoul Sunday Football League and I did a good job. I think both sides generally hated me equally by the end of a match, which is the sign of a good referee. Turns out that Inter Suwon, a team I briefly thought of playing for before realizing they were far too skilled for my long forgotten footballing skills, finally won the Division One League, the top achieve for waygook footballers in South Korea.
Sure they lost that last match 1-0 to the dreaded Anyang, but what a glorious defeat. Proving their previous hard work on Sundays rewarded them with a much deserved and long overdue title.
So cheers to Russia, Qatar and most importantly Inter Suwon.