World Cup: What Were FIFA Thinking When They Awarded Finals to Qatar for 2022?
When FIFA president Sepp Blatter proudly announced Qatar as the host nation for the 2022 World Cup on Dec. 2, 2010, there was an audible gasp across the globe.
The Middle East country was not renowned as a hotbed for football, despite the increased growth in football owners across the globe such as Sheikh Mansour at Manchester City and the Qatari Investment Authority with Paris Saint-Germain.
Currently, Qatar has a population of 1.84 million people (Doha News), the same number of residents in the capital of Belarus, Minsk, or the German city of Hamburg.
It was a strange decision which opened up the world governing body to a litany of criticism and accusations. Indeed, Blatter conceded two months after the announcement that collusion had taken place with Qatar involved, as the Daily Telegraph reported.
Just last week, American lawyer Michael Garcia, who is looking into the 2018 and 2022 bid processes in his role as investigations head for FIFA's ethics committee, told France Football that whistleblowers will be granted anonymity (via the Guardian).
With suspicions aroused by the award, FIFA was setting a trap for itself. It was surely a no-win situation.
Now doubts have emerged about the dates for the World Cup with the temperature in Qatar considered to be pushing 50 degrees Celsius in the height of summer.
Anyone who witnessed the Republic of Ireland and Holland toil in the searing midday heat of Orlando, Florida during the 1994 World Cup will understand that such conditions are not an attractive proposition for players and supporters alike.
Immediately after the announcement of the Arab state as the hosts, talk turned to the possibility of staging the Finals in winter. This was an unprecedented move and one which would require major upheaval in footballing calendars across the globe, notably in Europe, where most football seasons run through the autumn and winter months.
UEFA president Michel Platini insisted that the 2022 World Cup cannot be staged in the summer months in an interview with Kicker magazine (via Daily Mail), while the Premier League vetoed the idea of a winter Finals despite chairman Sir David Richards indicating that a "compromise" could be reached (BBC Sport).
Earlier this month, FIFA general secretary Jerome Valcke said the Finals could be switched to the winter if medical advice dictated a move away from a summer tournament (BBC Sport).
But now Blatter has added further confusion over the issue by claiming the vote for 2022 may have to be revisited if the tournament has to be held in the winter (The Sun).
FIFA has moved to clarify those comments (Sky Sports), but there is so much wrangling over a tournament which is still nine years away that you have to question why Qatar was awarded the Finals at all.
In 2022, climate conditions are unlikely to have altered considerably from their current levels, so everyone was fully aware of the ferocious heat likely to be encountered on the field.
Supporters have been promised air-conditioned stadia, but the prospect of watching the footballing equivalent of Rollerball with players dropping in the heat until only a handful are left is a less-than-glamorous one. And what happens to supporters outside of these purpose-built coolers?
Blatter was also forced to apologise over his flippancy in addressing the fact that homosexuality was illegal in Qatar (BBC News), while the issue of the exploitation of workers has also been questioned by campaign group Human Rights Watch.
If Qatar asks for a date switch for the Finals, that is likely to cause friction among the candidate countries they beat in the 2022 award.
The United States, Japan, Australia and South Korea were the other four candidates competing with Qatar for the Finals. All would have produced less controversy than the Qatar bid and could have staged the event at the desired time.
Should Qatar remain as hosts for the 2022 World Cup?
Blatter always viewed his legacy as the man who took the World Cup Finals to the African continent, which he did successfully in 2010 in South Africa.
But why did FIFA vote for Qatar, which was named the world's richest country per capita a year ago by Forbes? We may never know.
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