FIFA World Cup: If Qatar Can Host It, Why Not Vatican City in 2026?

Ash MarshallSenior Analyst IDecember 2, 2010

VATICAN CITY - JANUARY 10:  Pope Benedict XVI receives a football jersey with his name in gold letters during his weekly audience at the Paul VI Hall on January 17, 2006 in Vatican City. Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Cardinal Secretary of State and the Pontiff's close aide has recently made it known that he could form a football team with the help of the hundreds of Brazilian students in the city. (Photo by Arturo Mari L'Osservatore Romano-Vatican Pool via Getty Images)
Pool/Getty Images

SATIRE—Following the news that Russia and Qatar have been awarded the FIFA World Cup in 2018 and 2022 respectively, I would like to take this time to launch my bid...Vatican City for 2026.

Is it childish and petulant? Sure. But if corruption can reign supreme and a complete lack of infrastructure can be overlooked, then the Holy See has to be in with a chance.

Sure, there’s not a lot of room to erect the one—and only—stadium and, yes, a couple million fans might have trouble fitting into three homely mom-and-pop motels, but let’s not rule it out before we’ve even started.

If worse comes to worst, we take over a couple bed and breakfasts outside the city walls in places like Roma and, if need be, smaller towns such as Trastevere and La Pisana.

And for those of you who scoff at the idea and say that it’s not big enough to have a football pitch, consider that Vatican City takes up about 110 acres. A football field is less than two. The Vatican Gardens take up 57 acres alone, so I'm sure His Holiness Benedict XVI can throw Sepp Blatter and Co. a bone here.

It will actually be a breath of fresh air to see a pope interested in furthering the global game. I once heard that Pope John Paul I—who had one of the shortest reigns of any pope in history—lost the confidence of his advisers after commenting in public that he thought Old Trafford was the nickname for a long-standing 94-year-old cardinal in the city.

There’s old money in the Vatican, and while I’m not implying any sort of underhand behaviour, the Catholic Church does have an impressive net worth, considering that most priests are actually educated as counselors, psychologists and sociologists.

After 23 money-losing years until 1993, the Holy See has got its finances in order and that will help in preparing its multimillion-euro bid. Add to that the high literacy rate, the stone’s-throw distance from the Roma S. Pietro train station and the loud-and-proud ecclesiastical government, and you are onto a winner.

Vuvuzelas are optional, although discouraged. This will be a World Cup of tolerance and reflection on the beautiful game; a World Cup where teams will pass the ball on turf taken directly from the lawns of the Museo Del Vaticano.

The Vatican Television Center can have exclusive rights to broadcast the games (except on Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights), while those who don’t want to subscribe to VTC can catch select games on Vatican Radio or streamed live from

Being in the Central European time zone, local kickoff times will also be media-friendly for the likes of England, Spain and Portugal, and somewhat reasonable for the USA. It isn’t too great news for Australia, but we already know that FIFA has no problem shafting them.

With a Mediterranean climate and the World Cup final set to the backdrop of St. Peter’s Basilica, this landlocked sovereign city-state is the ideal location for 2026. If Qatar can make it happen, then the Pope—with connections that reach much higher than those in sport's most corrupt governing body—is a sure thing.

If this somehow fails—as unlikely as it may be, I know—then how about getting the NFL to bring the Super Bowl over instead? I've heard a 'Hail Mary' goes a long long way in this part of the world.