The Sunday Times of London blew the lid off the worst-kept secret in the world. The 2022 World Cup was not just possibly bought by Qatar, it was absolutely, positively, unequivocally, how-did-they-get-away-with-it-for-this-long(ingly) bought by Qatar.
Mohamed bin Hammam, once a high-ranking member of FIFA's executive cabal before being excommunicated from power after daring to run against Sepp Blatter for the role of FIFA president, has been implicated—again—for lobbying on behalf of Qatar in advance of the 2010 vote that awarded the 2022 World Cup to the tiny desert nation over the United States of America.
It's time for FIFA to correct this mistake, right this amazingly transparent wrong and take the World Cup back from Qatar. Who should get it? The United States, of course.
The Times report from Jonathan Calvert and Heidi Blake claims to have obtained "millions of secret documents" that implicate Bin Hammam's role in buying votes for Qatar to win the World Cup bid.
Millions of documents. Do you know how much paper that would be? Even if each document was just one sheet, that would be 2,000 reams, but the report states that millions—plural—were uncovered, meaning that somewhere in the world there is a room with upward of 4,000 reams of paper implicating bin Hammam and his network of swindlers in paying off FIFA voters to give the World Cup to Qatar.
The paper trail of impropriety leads from the Middle East to the farthest reaches of the globe. (Technically the trail, if laid out sheet by sheet, would be about 350 miles long. But I digress.) From The Guardian's David Conn:
Now the Sunday Times, based on a massive leak from unnamed sources in FIFA, has assembled a picture of Bin Hammam flying around the world, including on the emir of Qatar's private jet, lobbying for the Qatar 2022 bid, dishing out cash gifts and lavish hospitality, to Warner, Temarii and African football delegates who appeared depressingly keen to take it.
Bin Hammam was a power player within FIFA for more than a decade and a half, serving as one of the most influential characters in the world of international football in his time as the president of the Asian Football Confederation. That is, until 2012, when Bin Hammam, one of a host of executives planning a coup on Blatter's reign, was cast out in an effort to clean up FIFA's rampant corruption.
Of course, Blatter was spared in all of it. And since the World Cup vote in 2010, Blatter has come out time and time again to question the decision to award Qatar that illustrious event. Blatter, the man who has made it his life's work to grow the game of football in every corner of the globe, has washed his hands with this mess.
From a May report on CNN.com:
When asked by (Swiss television station) RTS if it was an error to award Qatar the World Cup, Blatter said: 'Of course, it was a mistake. You know, one makes a lot of mistakes in life.
'The technical report indicated clearly that it was too hot in summer, but despite that the executive committee decided, with quite a big majority, that the tournament would be in Qatar.'
The FIFA spin machine quickly tried to offer context, saying that Blatter meant the mistake was to put the World Cup in Qatar in the summer, but it was not a mistake to give Qatar the event at all.
Only, it was. Blatter knows it was, and his recent comments were not the first time he's indicated that. The simple fact that the FIFA committee had to formally look into the viability of hosting the event in Qatar in the traditional summer months—talk last year created a scenario in which the World Cup would be held in a cooler time of year, during domestic league play—made giving a World Cup to Qatar a bad idea.
Let's not forget the intolerant stance on homosexuality in Qatar, also making a World Cup in that nation a very bad idea.
Or what about the fact that Qatar has had 1,200 deaths to migrant workers, via Kevin Maguire of the Daily Mirror, a horrific problem that caused FIFA to take a far more hands-on approach to the stadium-building process? A recent inspection, however, was postponed after Qatar put in place new workers' welfare standards.
From FIFA's own website, Blatter said:
This announcement is a significant step in the right direction for sustainable change in the workers' welfare standards in Qatar. We look forward to seeing the implementation of these concrete actions over the next months. We will continue our close cooperation with Qatari authorities as well as dialogue with all key stakeholders.
How in good conscience could FIFA have given a bid to a nation that would allow that many people to die while working under such horrific conditions, where basic human rights can be deemed illegal and where the average temperature exceeds 105 degrees every single day?
That's right...it wasn't given in good conscience. It was bought.
No matter how far Blatter tries to distance himself from the bribery and deceit—rumored for years before finally coming to light within the millions of pages the Times has procured—the 2022 World Cup will be Blatter's legacy.
And there is still time to fix it.
If a member of the FIFA selection process was given a free refill on a drink at some point in the last three years that could somehow connect him to Qatar, Blatter needs to find out and use it to burn him.
The damage has been done. The house is crumbling. He needs to help it fall.
The only way to fix the mistake of Qatar is to bury everyone who created it, end the ridiculous ruse that Qatar will be remotely ready to host a World Cup in 2022 or that the nation is even deserving of such an honor in the first place and move to a country more prepared.
The United States is prepared. Right now.
The United States has more than 50 stadiums equipped to host World Cup events. The travel and accommodations are already in place—no last-minute hotels without running water or windows or doors that won't open like Russia had during the Winter Olympics and that even Brazil is currently dealing with for the upcoming 2014 World Cup.
Everything is ready and in working order, other than FIFA's broken moral compass.
Is it about the money? Is FIFA worried about the money? The 1994 World Cup was the most successful tournament in the event's history in terms of cash-in for FIFA, and that was 20 years ago, when soccer had nothing close to the foothold in American culture it has today.
Imagine how big the sport is going to be in America in another eight years. That interest will grow even more if the United States was given hosting rights in 2022.
If Blatter wants to grow the game, there is no nation with more growth potential for soccer than the United States. Sure, there are already millions of young kids playing soccer here, and putting a World Cup in South Africa or Qatar (or even Russia) could help produce the infrastructure an influx of FIFA money can provide in those parts of the world, but that's all just money. We have money.
Take all the millions upon billions of dollars it would cost to build stadiums and send it all to other nations to help grow the game there. We don't need that money to build anything. It's already here.
The United States is so prepared to host a World Cup that nearly half of the 32 teams in this year's tournament are training in the United States before heading off to Brazil.
We have the training facilities, we have the stadiums to hold the matches and we have a melting pot of people from around the world who love the beautiful game and will come out in droves to support a World Cup.
FIFA knows this. Everyone knows this.
Everyone knew it in 2010, when the selection committee should have awarded the United States the right to host the 2022 event in the first place. But money was more important than truly growing the game, and as more and more of those devious bastards involved in this elaborate bribery scandal are outed—as more and more millions of documents are uncovered—the time is right for the mistake to be formally corrected.
FIFA needs to give the 2022 World Cup to the United States. And do it now, so the powers that be in Qatar can stop letting more workers die, and so everyone else around the world has time to prepare for less oppression...both in terms of the heat and social climate.
Do it, and do it soon. But don't do it for us. Do it for the good of the game. You can give the United States the 2022 World Cup in the winter of 2021 if you have to. We'll be ready then, because we are ready now.