“[…] It gets baking hot in Qatar, folks. Deal with it. The next tournament will be jointly hosted by the US, Mexico and Canada. Have you ever been to New York in July?
“We have to put the ‘world’ in the World Cup, and it’s past time that it was held in the Middle East or the Arab world. It’s fine to not schedule all of them to suit Europe and the north…”
The following guest column on the Qatar 2022 Fifa World Cup was submitted to Wired868 by Orin Gordon, a media and business consultant who can be reached at email@example.com:
The atmosphere ahead of the football match between T&T’s Soca Warriors and Sweden at the 2006 World Cup in Germany was one of the best I’ve experienced. It was a gorgeous, sunny Saturday afternoon in Dortmund. Ahead of kickoff at the Westfalenstadion, yellow and red flag-draped and face-painted fans mingled, sharing beer and conversation.
Trini men hugged blonde Swedish women—mutual outreach that wasn’t exclusively of a footballing nature. Forging international relations, or building on budding bilaterals?
Meanwhile German women fans sang “ich liebe dich” (I love you) in rhyme with the name of their favourite hunk, the sculpted Swedish striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
The game itself was goalless and spoiled by a red card for Soca Warriors defender Avery John. But Trinidad and Tobago remained the tournament’s darlings. Sports goods shops I went to were sold out of T&T jerseys.
Locals bought them in large numbers. Everywhere that I watched games—from Leipzig to Gelsenkirchen—I saw scores of German fans wearing T&T jerseys.
In Hamburg’s Reeperbahn, a teeming nightlife district, fans from the Italy/Ukraine quarterfinal seemed determined to emulate Munich’s annual October beer festival, Oktoberfest, in July.
Qatar is different. Fans in or near stadiums will have to have their pre- and post-match mingle without alcoholic stimulus. Drinks are usually a staple of their enjoyment—at the stadiums, in fan zones, theme parks, bars, pubs and restaurants.
We don’t necessarily need drinks to enjoy sport, and can’t reasonably take issue with the country’s laws against public alcohol consumption. The problem is that Qatar pulled the plug on Budweiser’s stadium-adjacent bars at the last minute, stiffing a sponsor and breaching its agreement with the organising body.
The parties had already reached a compromise on where and how Budweiser could sell its beer. Qatar’s newly-imposed restrictions mean that Bud can’t sell any beer, except the non-alcoholic variety, at or near the stadiums. Restrictions are so severe that a beer quench anywhere could be hard to get.
The timing is the issue, not the law. Qatar should have asked FIFA upfront for the removal of alcohol sponsorship, and compensated Bud. Fifa and the sponsor can’t do anything about it now, but this isn’t over.
Questions have persisted about Qatar’s suitability to host the world cup. I’m going to look at the human rights arguments in another conversation. For now, let’s examine two other arguments against.
The first is that the world cup is taking place in the winter—in the middle of the European league seasons. So what?
The World Cup in South Africa in June and July 2010 was a winter world cup… the southern hemisphere winter, same time as the European and northern hemisphere summer. It was staged during South Africa’s cold weather season. The northern hemisphere’s seasonal calendar was prioritised.
The second is that the country will be too hot and humid to host the tournament. It gets baking hot in Qatar, folks. Deal with it.
The next tournament will be jointly hosted by the US, Mexico and Canada. Have you ever been to New York in July?
We have to put the “world” in the World Cup, and it’s past time that it was held in the Middle East or the Arab world. It’s fine to not schedule all of them to suit Europe and the north.
Africa got its first and only World Cup at the tournament’s nineteenth staging. Germany, France, Italy and Brazil each had it twice.
Even the United States—where soccer has distant appeal behind American football, baseball and basketball and (arguably) ice hockey—got to host the 1994 tournament, and will again in four years’ time.
A more persuasive argument is that Qatar—a touch bigger than Jamaica and with a population of three million—was the least equipped of the bid countries to host 32 teams, a million traveling fans and 64 matches in eight high-capacity stadiums.
The World Cup is a huge tournament with massive logistics. Qatar lacked size, football structure and infrastructure.
What they weren’t short of was money or chutzpah. One of the world’s richest countries by GDP per-capita built the needed world-class stadia. Seven of the eight are new.
BBC figures show that Qatar’s US$220 billion spend was 11 times more than Brazil’s in 2014. That tournament, the second most expensive, cost US$19.1 billion.
A joint bid with neighbouring Gulf states should have been considered. Japan and South Korea, far better football-endowed nations, jointly hosted the 2002 tournament.
So why did a majority on Fifa’s Executive Committee vote for Qatar over better-placed nations?
It’s possible that some committee members felt that the Middle East or Arab world deserved a turn. Egypt and Morocco lost a joint bid for the 2010 tournament. However, we know from US-led legal proceedings of the ethical murkiness around the process.
The problem wasn’t just the Qatar bid… It was Fifa itself.
“Based on its (Fifa’s) bidding history, they (Qatar) didn’t do it differently than anyone else,” said Phaedra Almajid, media coordinator of the Qatar 2022 bid, speaking in a video exposé of Fifa’s dealings.
The late Chuck Blazer, an American former committee member turned whistleblower for US feds, had also alleged illegal payments to members for France 1998 and Germany 2006 votes. ExCo’s 24-members faced fierce lobbying from competing nations throwing huge sums of money around.
The prestige stakes were high, and committee members had enormous power. What did everyone think was going to happen?
Editor’s Note: The author will be wearing the jerseys in his collection—Netherlands, Brazil and Iran—throughout the tournament. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.