Qatar? Hosting the World Cup!?

by Ivan Bobanovic | Last updated

Qatar cannot sustain the entire world for a month.  Smaller countries (i.e., Spain & Portugal) do joint bids because they know they don’t have the capacity to sustain the entirety of an event like the World Cup.  What qualifies Qatar as equipped?   This is a short sited vote that is doing NOTHING for the game of soccer.  All it’s doing is promoting Qatar – and ultimately the middle east – as more than just a conservative oil-rich region.  FIFA is helping advertise the new middle Eastern brand, which is fine, but what about its central concern: promoting soccer?

Qatar admittedly had a very strong and organized bid.  They charmed the FIFA delegates, and all others watching, with a presentation of high-tech stadiums and infrastructure that would even have the world of Pandora —Avatar’s fictitious cosmos–interested.  I envisioned FIFA as being that vulnerable child who sees the movie Toy Story for the first time while oo-ing and ah-ing in amazement.  This is so…COOL!

Does Qatar even have a domestic soccer league?  Instead of investing money/events into programs like Australia and US who have domestic leagues that are doing well, but just need a little help to really take off, they follow the money.

On that note, I read an article this morning in one of Canada’s national news papers – the Globe and Mail – which had the following headline: FIFA follows the money: Oil-rich emerging countries show their stuff.  I thought to myself, ok, the Globe and Mail have their critical thinking glasses on and are going to diagnose FIFA’s decision as corrupt.

So I began to read…not what I was expecting.  The entire article stood behind the decision.  Ok fine, so how is FIFA’s decision good for soccer…

Oil plays a big, if murky role in the next three successful bids. Brazil, Russia and Qatar are all hefty oil exporters, and that wealth, in good part, is helping them write the cheques. Brazil is spending $2.8-billion (U.S.) and Russia $3.82-billion. Tiny Qatar (population: 1.7 million, though expected to have the world’s fastest-growing economy this year) is spending $3-billion for air-conditioned, zero-emissions stadiums – and is set to invest an eye-watering $100-billion in infrastructure in the next few years.

What?!  Oil is helping decide who hosts?  Come on, give me a reason why this is good for soccer.

Several factors nudged the decision in favour of Qatar. One, FIFA is trying to shift the World Cup into new markets, moving away from traditional venues. As FIFA president Sepp Blatter said after the vote, “We go to new lands.”

Alright, fine, I respect that.  But why not go to a new land like Australia who has never hosted the World Cup but have proven they can host it – Sydney 2000 Summer Olympics.  Why not allow Qatar to host a few smaller scale events – but still important – to prove their plan, their infrastructure and their country?  Whatever happened to baby steps?

In no way am I discrediting Qatar and their bid.  As I mentioned it was very well done and their entire team was very professional.  In their acceptance speech for those present at the unveiling of the host, they thanked FIFA for “believing in change.”

I too believe in change and believe in hope, but I am also a firm believer in working towards large goals through the proven success of much smaller projects.

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