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England’s Idle Dream of Displacing Qatar in 2022

August 2nd, 2018 · No Comments · Football, Russia 2018, soccer, The National, UAE, World Cup

How many times has global soccer gone through this over the past 30 years? Three times? Four?

England, standing prepared to stage, on short notice, what appears to be a possibly amateurish — or scandal-tainted — World Cup.

Most recently, it was Russia 2018. This time it is Qatar 2022, the World Cup that has been controversial from Day 1, back in December of 2010 — when Sepp Blatter displayed the name “Qatar” as host for the 2022 World Cup.

Somehow, the tiny gas and oil exporter located on a sandspit of land thrusting into the Persian Gulf won the Fifa executive committee vote ahead of Australia, Japan, South Korea and the United States — setting off what is now nearly a decade of doubts on the legitimacy of the voting process.

The Sunday Times, a leading English newspaper, last weekend ran an interesting piece on alleged “black ops” sanctioned by Qatari officials to be run against rivals Australia and the U.S. ahead of the 2022 World Cup vote.

Almost immediately, dreamers in England were suggesting Fifa had to revisit the investigation into a process that was almost certainly corrupt … and then give the 2022 World Cup to someone else.

Like, say, England.

What are the odds of that happening?

Let’s be generous and say an England 2022 World Cup … has about one chance in a thousand of happening.

Too much time has gone by, and too much examination of the 2010 voting process has already been done by Fifa — even if little of it seemed to get at the nub of the issue: Did Qatar bribe its way into hosting an event that seems far too large for the tiny country?

Fifa’s take on this? Gianni Infantino, the man who replaced the scandal-plagued Blatter as the governing body’s president, noted that a detailed report on the Qatar vote had been commissioned, back in 2012, under the leadership of U.S. attorney Michael J. Garcia, and an examination of the examination by a Fifa official found Qatar innocent of wrongdoing. (Though Garcia later suggested Fifa had ignored significant issues in his report, and though the report was never made public for “legal reasons”.)

Meanwhile, imagine pages flying off a wall calendar, to the point that Russia 2018 is behind us, and Qatar is now counting down the days to 2022.

That did not stop Lord Triesman, England’s bid chairman for the 2018 World Cup, from calling on Fifa to investigate the “black ops” claims and said Qatar should not be allowed to host the 2022 World Cup if the country is shown to have broken Fifa rules.

Soon after, English football people were saying, “Sure, we could stage 2022.”

Mark Palios, the former Football Association chief executive, told the BBC that England has the stadiums and “they could organize themselves within that time frame. … Absolutely they could switch this”.

Which is technically true, no doubt. The best club league in the world is the English Premier League, and the country has all sorts of infrastructure in place and experience with big crowds and big matches.

By midweek, however, more clear-eyed individuals in English soccer suggested the schemers stop talking about getting 2022 in a fire sale, instead suggesting England begin preparing a bid to host the 2030 World Cup, and the opening moves in such a bid have been made.

England last hosted the World Cup in 1966, and the “we can take over from someone else” thing has been going on for some time.

In particular, England had its hand up in 1989, when it looked as if the U.S. would not even qualify for the 1990 World Cup — meaning the award of the 1994 World Cup to the United States would feature a host that had not qualified for the tournament since 1950 and also did not have a professional league of any significance.

One of the stronger pieces of newspapering on the topic was done by The National, in the UAE, where I was sports editor earlier in this decade.

The story suggested that after Qatar was (theoretically) stripped of the right to stage the 2022, one of the “mature” soccer countries in Europe could step in. Like, say, England.

(We should note that the UAE, along with Saudi Arabia and Egypt, is in an ongoing diplomatic feud with Qatar and probably would love to see the Qataris humbled by the loss of 2022.)

So, end of day …

Investigations came and went four years ago, and Qatar was not found guilty … numerous reports have been done on healthy and safety risks incurred by the thousands of expatriate workers who are putting up all those stadium.

Qatar likely would take to court anyone and everyone before it lost 2022, so “black ops” or no, it is time to move on.

England shifting the focus from 2022 to 2030 is a reasonable move.

It is time to let Qatar go ahead and finish off its huge and crazy plan, with 32 national teams and tens of thousands of fans jammed into a country half the size of the U.S. state of South Carolina.

Maybe (probably) Qatar did not win the right to host in an honorable way, but there it is on the schedule, and there are all the new stadiums … and England and the rest of us should just let it go.






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