So, after months of bickering, anxiety and shadiness, Russia and Qatar will have the pleasure of hosting the World Cup in 2018 and 2022 respectively. By SIPHO HLONGWANE.
England, Spain/Portugal, Russia and Belgium/Netherlands duelled for the 2018 tournament, and Australia, the USA, South Korea, Japan and Qatar for the 2022 Soccer World Cups. The host countries are chosen by Fifa’s 24-member executive board on a majority vote.
The contending countries spent most of Wednesday and Thursday morning making presentations. The most tantalising ones reportedly came from Japan, which promised to beam games via revolutionary 3D technology to major stadiums around the world so fans could watch the matches in some sort of life-size, teleportation-like Japanese marvel. However, Japan co-hosted the World Cup in 2002 with South Korea, and it was always unlikely Fifa would return it there so quickly.
Qatar begged Fifa to overlook the fact that the Middle East isn’t exactly the paragon of peace and promised that the heat wouldn’t be a problem. They promised to build air-conditioned stadium in the desert, leaving the rest of the world to wonder just how that would be done. The Guardian reported that Fifa president Sepp Blatter may have wanted Qatar not to get 2022 hosting rights for personal reasons. “The outcome could influence the chances of a challenger emerging to the president Sepp Blatter in his re-election campaign next spring,” the report said. “He is desperate to avoid victory for Qatar, whose bold campaign and the political nous of Fifa the executive committee member Mohamed bin Hammam have divided opinion as they progressed from outsiders to strong contenders.”
The USA promised Fifa, well, a lot of dosh if they were awarded the 2022 tournament. Former US president Bill Clinton pitched as well as Morgan Freeman, who reportedly almost fluffed his presentation by reading off the wrong script page at one stage.
England sent David Cameron, Prince William, David Beckham and Beckham’s impressively scruffy coif to state their case. Russia and England provided some light entertainment in October, after the Russian bid chief Alexei Sorokin said England was unsuitable due to the drinking culture among the youth and the honorary president of the Russian Football Union Viacheslav Koloskov called England “absolutely primitive” and “comical”. The British immediately complained to Fifa, but later withdrew the complaint when the Russian sports minister apologised for the comments. There were hints as well that the apology withdrawal may have been influenced by England’s decision not to be seen as cry-babies.
The adage that goes “Everything that Fifa touches turns to corruption” was proven true once more when the organisation was rocked by allegations of graft at the very top. In October, two Fifa executive members were caught by the UK Sunday Times attempting to solicit bribes from what they believed to be American lobbyists. Nigeria’s Amos Adamu wanted $800,000 for a personal project and Oceana Football Confederation president Reynald Temarii wanted money for a sports academy. Adamu received a three-year suspension, and Temarii a one-year suspension.
Temarii may have been instrumental in ruining Australia’s chances of getting the World Cup (as Oceana Football Confederation president that vote was pretty much guaranteed for Australia) by deciding to fight his one-man suspension. Fifa took umbrage at this, and said the region couldn’t replace the disgraced Temarii with another person on the executive board. Australia is now the only continent never to have hosted the World Cup.
The streets of Moscow will run knee-deep in vodka tonight, something that may not happen in Qatar. DM
Photo: FIFA President Sepp Blatter announces Russia as the host nation for the FIFA World Cup 2018, in Zurich December 2, 2010. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann.