Sunday, December 5, 2010

World Cup Fail

Set Honesty Aside When Dealing with FIFA

Anyone who pays any attention to the wheelings and dealings of FIFA is well aware that it is a cesspool of politics, corruption, and petty would-be dictators. Sure, CONCACAF is worse and even the USSF has had plenty of low moments, but FIFA is ridiculous. Only Sepp Blatter, Jack Warner, and the rest know just how much money they've managed to slide into their bank accounts throughout the bidding process. That said, I'm not certain that FIFA made the wrong choices when selecting the World Cup bids. The U.S. had a good bid, a safe bid that was guaranteed to make FIFA plenty of money with plenty of ready-to-go good venues, a relatively fan-friendly atmosphere, and good logistics. But there was simply no "wow"-factor. Perhaps bringing the World Cup to the U.S. would have helped solidify and accelerate the growth of soccer as a professional sport in one of the, if not the, most important markets in the world. But that is not FIFA's job - that is the USSF's job and MLS' job. Moreover, they are doing a fairly good job of it. MLS is expanding into new markets, DC United is about the closest to a team being "on the rocks" and that is not for lack of fans; ratings for the World Cup were quite good and traveling European teams continue to draw large crowds.

Let's Talk about Russia, That's Less Painful

The English bid, it could be said, was comparable to the U.S. bid. Safe and steady and an eventuality, really. That may piss off Jack Warner, but England is pretty much all set to hold a World Cup. The stadiums are there, the fans are there, and the logistics have been tested regularly by virtue of the EPL and their four slots into the Champions' League. The World Cup will come to England. However, that's partially the problem. There's nothing new or exciting. Many of the traveling fans will have already been to England. The World Cup isn't going to spur much new growth, it will create no new stunning stadiums and new signs of development.
Russia is regaining its strength, influence, and its wealth. Yes, it is ridiculously corrupt. Yes, it has invaded one of its neighbors recently. Yes, the press is under-pressure (unlike, say, England). But the World Cup will be bigger for Russia than it will be for England. The English love football, but for Russia and the Russians this will fit into the narrative of their re-emergence from the dark times of the 1980s and 90s. Russia will spend more money wastefully to make the World Cup a bigger event than England could - not by virtue of wealth but by virtue of an autocratic government combined with a populace that currently wants to show the world that they are back and need to be considered again.
Similarly, I will not complain in the slightest if China is awarded the World Cup in 2026. China, for all its problems, is an amazing country that is amassing wealth and influence. It will put on a hell of a show for the World Cup, FIFA and the rest of us know it (did you see the opening and closing ceremonies for the Olympics?).

Iran Will Not Attack the 2022 World Cup Final, Even If It Is the U.S. v. Israel

First of all, stop with the racist and Islamophobic garbage. Right. Now. It's goddamn embarrassing. Will Qatar have to be on alert for crazies? Sure. But keep in mind that Qatar's security forces have less compunction about repressing their own populace than a Western democracy and they will be less fettered by civil liberties when it comes their investigations and detentions. Qatar houses plenty of U.S. military personnel and there aren't car bombs going off every day in Doha.

Arrive by Water Taxi!

There are plenty of questions about the Qatar bid, but they have 12 years to plan and virtually unlimited money to throw at the issue. Because that is what Qatar has promised for the World Cup - an over-funded spectacle. Have you seen the stadiums? Yes, a stadium whose outer-skin appears to be made of plasma televisions is tremendously wasteful - but damn, if it won't create a memorable image. Qatar, like many of it's neighbors, is trying to build itself up as a tourist destination. The accommodations will be top notch. If anything, that should be the greatest fear. A friend in Doha tells me that she either stays in for the night or spends a tremendous amount of money because there are no available cheap options for non-natives and prices will be even higher around the World Cup. Nevertheless, outdoor, but cooled, drinking areas may sound weird and forced, but it also sounds like it could be a fairly impressive feat of engineering, much like the stadiums. FIFA will get to show off amazing visuals, beginning but not ending with the new architecture. It is a new an exciting locale for traveling fans in a country that will do everything that it can to show off for the visitors. Some fans may show some trepidation when it comes to traveling to the Middle East, but the same was said about Africa.

If You're Expecting Failure, Expect Disappointment

Both Russia and Qatar will have amazing World Cups. The countries may not have the most profitable World Cup. Those countries might be better served to spend their money elsewhere, but that is not FIFA's concern. My largest complaint is that FIFA has granted the World Cup to Qatar, one of the countries that refused to play against Israel and forced FIFA to move Israel into UEFA. FIFA slaps down any country whose government interferes with their domestic federation (supposedly), but has missed the opportunity to law down the law that any member nation must at least tacitly accept any other nation that FIFA has accepted into its membership. That annoys me. Sure, now that they have the World Cup, Qatar has said that it will accept the Israeli team, should they qualify, but FIFA had the opportunity to push Qatar for something more permanent. Israel-Palestine is not FIFA's responsibility, but they like to throw their weight around, bully governments, and to enforce their laws, but have chosen not to do so this time.
The U.S. put in a decent bid that may have been successful against Japan or Korea and maybe even Australia, but Qatar was always going to be a tough bid to beat. England probably had a better chance against its UEFA rivals, but could promise nothing other than success and profit and, from the other bids, FIFA can do better. If FIFA ever runs into financial difficulty, it will knocking down the door of the U.S. and England, but until that happens, the Anglos need to find a new way to pitch their countries that make them more appealing. Yes, FIFA is corrupt and the most corrupt countries won their bids, but it is not as outlandish as it sounds.

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