(This is one of my more bitter rants. They say such things aren’t healthy but frankly I've found quite the opposite.)
It’s been over a week since FIFA "voted" on who’ll hold the Word Cup in 2018 and 2022 and I’m slowly collecting my thoughts. My first reaction was simple: F*CKKKK!!!!!
Almost immediately though, I (like millions of others) was simply too stunned to really think about it logically (something FIFA is familiar with).
Now that I’ve had a moment to collect myself, the logic is beginning to return to my head.
The first thing that stands out is the utter lunacy of it all. Actually, I take that back, that’s the only thing that stands out.
When I first sat down to write this, I quickly realized it was going to spill all over the place to the tune of more than 1000 words. So, I’m breaking it up into two parts. One discussing the individual bids and the other discussing my new favorite topic (and the single most ingenious international evil organization since SPECTRE): FIFA.
The 2018 Bid
Ah the English, who so long ago gave birth to the game but now seem to have about as much control over their offspring as Billy Ray Cyrus does over Miley. As an organization FIFA seems to reserve a special place in their malevolent little English hearts.
In a turn of reverse-imperialism, the bid put forth by the spectacularly equipped British received only two out of the 22 possible votes. They were deemed the least wanted bid out of any put forward in the 2018 vote.
But why? Could it be the hooliganism? Isn’t that a feature as stereotypically English as tea or Hugh Grant?
The answer is probably not, as 21st century English soccer culture is quite different than the hooliganism that was so pervasive for so long.
While there are still incidents of over-zealous fans, the vast majority of the game has been cleaned up. Stadium terraces have been eradicated in favor of full seating (preventing the overcrowding that caused tragedies like Hillsborough). Safety is not an issue.
Neither is stadium infrastructure. Neither is travel or hotel capability. And obviously the country, whose domestic league is now truly a world one, would have no problem accommodating the plethora of nationalities that turn up for a World Cup (players, fans, and media alike).
In fact, nothing on the operational side is an issue. England was the only nation bidding on either 2018 or 2022 to unanimously score a perfect 100 on their FIFA inspection for capability.
A 100. Not 98 or 99…a 100.
Great soccer culture, great infrastructure, plenty of money, and of 22 votes in FIFA’s Executive Committee…they garnered a whole two votes (and that’s including the only British guy on the Committee).
Where exactly did they go wrong?
Well, that’s where it gets interesting because as far as I can tell, the reasons are about as scarce as George Tenet’s assertion that it was a “slam-dunk” Iraq had weapons of mass destruction in 2003.
According to an ESPNsoccernet source who spoke to a FIFA exec, the British delegation had “an heir of arrogance” about them, implying that sending Prime Minister David Cameron, Prince William and David Beckham gave the British bid a sense of undue expectancy.
Ok, so let me get this straight: the country is ideally equipped to host the tournament, has worked tirelessly to unify itself for the good of the cause, and FIFA executives are going to reject them on the basis that they’re arrogant? Isn’t that arrogance personified?
You have all the right stadiums, hotels, travel requirements, security, you invented the freaking game and also have a nation of extremely passionate fans who haven’t seen your country host the tournament since 1966…but you’re arrogant, so on that basis alone were not even going to give a couple token votes before we pick who we really want?
FIFA Vice President Jack Warner (who I’ll get to in due time) said after the vote that the English media’s investigation of FIFA’s corrupt activities (many of which FIFA hasn’t denied), were a reason for losing votes.
"Suffice it to say that the Fifa ExCo as a body could not have voted for England having been insulted by their media in the worst possible way at the same time” noted Warner. “To do so would have been the ultimate insult [to FIFA].”
Essentially, they chose to not vote for England because of two media reports from England that successfully pinned corruption charges on members of FIFA’s all-powerful executive committee.
It wasn’t just a defeat for England, it was an evisceration both Michael Jordan andMichael Corleone would’ve been proud of because they got away with murder in broad daylight and nobody can do anything about it.
And now to the American bid. We did better than our British friends in the voting, but it ultimately came to the same end. The U.S. contingent also had their share of star power. Bill Clinton, Morgan Freeman and a video message from President Obama added celebrity weight. An excellent presentation by U.S. Soccer chief Sunil Gulati added substance.
In reality, the World Cup coming to America sells itself. We’re the wealthiest country in the world, able to absorb the deluge of inevitable World Cup guests in the same nonchalant fashion of Joey Chestnut absorbing all those hot dogs on the fourth of July.
And our track record speaks for itself.
The 1994 World Cup, the first ever held in the U.S., is still the highest drawing World Cup ever (even after the tournament expanded from 24 to 32 teams in 1998). It helped jump-start the MLS, which has its fair share of detractors and skeptics to be sure, but is nonetheless growing every year in size and attendance.
Qatar is in no way prepared or capable of hosting at this point in time. And there are so many factors yet to be hashed out. The country is smaller in both size and population than Connecticut (and its population is more than a third composed of migrant workers).
It upholds laws that forbid drinking or kissing in public, though women are allowed to drive (this is seen as a milestone.)
Yet they also have laws (or lack thereof) which would allow FIFA to keep all their revenue tax free.
And, unlike in the United States or other Western countries, Qatar will have no problem seeing FIFA monopolize drinks, food, and other goods with their own sponsors (again, maximizing profits).
Basically, the U.S, England, Australia, and the other bids got dunked on because of money. FIFA can make more holding it in countries where the press isn’t as free and the government is more restrictive.
They hide behind the single excuse that they’re merely "expanding the tournament into new areas."
In reality, they're just using that as a very large excuse to keep the tournament in countries where making money won't be a problem for FIFA.
Yet I suppose being an American makes me bias. And that’s true, because in the end it was never about America (or England for that matter in their bid). It was about FIFA.
Part II coming up...