Friday, December 10, 2010

Sour Grapes and Football Greats

On Thursday 2nd December 2010, football history was made as the winners of the 2018/2022 World Cup bids were announced. Polar geographical opposites, Russia and Qatar respectively, had nabbed the rights to host the World Cup on these two separate occasions, much to the surprise, and sadly, the horror of a worldwide audience.

Since Thursday night, a flurry of negative feedback has saturated news agencies, from both Western and Arab networks. Blogs, online newspapers, sport sites, Facebook-ers, Tweeters, radio stations and even President Obama, have dished lashings of sour commentary in response.

There have been some legitimate queries put forth, surrounding Qatar’s capability of fulfilling the promises made for the 2022 WC. Sadly though, most have been...well, bullshit.

I found this Wikipedia-driven article from the Fulham and Hammersmith Chronicle particularly interesting.

Now, why do I care? I have lived in Qatar for the past 15 months and before this, for a significant chunk of my childhood, making this account more valid than any other article I’ve read since Thursday night. Note, I was rooting for the Aussie bid. I am also neither Qatari nor Muslim.

Before anything else, let me tell you, I have my qualms with this place. Anyone who knows me will tell you, adapting to Qatar’s norms and traditions has not been easy for me. I get to say this because I have experienced it firsthand. Yet the country commands my utmost respect and admiration.

Get your head in check, and read this; I guarantee you its xenophobe free; which is more than I can say for many others.

The four main concepts that FIFA require be highlighted within the final Bidding Files of each nation are: adequate infrastructure, legal conditions, operational elements and legacy. Let’s address them, shall we?

Where infrastructure is concerned, the Qatar bid’s pitch consisted of: twelve iconic stadiums to be built, each with a sufficient cooling system to harness the ridiculous 40 degree average temperatures of June/July.

A whopping $17 billion has also been set aside to accommodate the influx of spectators and aid Qatar’s desire to be regarded as a tourist destination.

The Doha Metro Network and a water taxi system, alongside existing taxis and buses, will have been developed for adequate transport.

The reality is this: up until Thursday, said development had been put on hold. However four stadiums were to be built regardless of the bid’s result. Can Qatar pull this off?

The promised zero carbon cooling equipment utilising solar energy is already in the works and will be tried and tested long before 2022. Fan zones and all means of transportation will also be air condition to an optimum 27 degrees.

One of the 12 stadiums designed for 2022

I have lived in Qatar through those months; it is not easy to handle but the country is well equipped to deal with the heat as everything is air conditioned.

Can Qatar manage to build the needed accommodation for a possible influx of over 10 million spectators?

In a 5 year span, Qatar has built the infrastructure necessary to host an array of sporting events: the 2006 Asian Games (13,000 athletes participated), the ATP Qatar Open (17 years strong) and the Qatar Masters golf tournament amongst other like events. So, yes.

A public transport system of the enormity spoken of for the 2022 WC has never really been needed in Qatar. With most of the population living in the capital, Doha, 132 square kilometers hardly calls for much more than a car.

However, a public transportation system has been in effect for several years, with noticeable efforts to encourage residents to utilise these in a bid to decrease the city’s carbon footprint.

Legal conditions have also had tongues wagging; as an active supporter of the ‘Palestinian cause’ Qatar has copped much flack over the past few days upon the bid’s chief executive, Hassan Al-Thawadi, announcing that, “...all participating nations are welcome” to the Qatar 2022 bid.

If that is not commitment to the global nature of the game, I don’t know what is.

The country does have a fairly strict residency criteria, however, and not unlike other WC hosts since 1930, the country is willing to make certain concessions for visitors during the 2022 event.

‘Football for Hope’ is the cornerstone of the FIFA corporate social responsibility program. Wether you love or hate him (I’m vouching most of you will opt for the second one there) Sepp Blatter wrapped up the 2018/2022 decisions as a bid to further the concept of legacy.

Neither country has hosted the WC before - England has, back in 1966, Japan and S.Korea in 2002, America in 1994 - so why not now?

Here is the argument thus far: the process is corrupt and voting was not based on merit. I’m neither denying nor agreeing with this.

Had the process ever been the puritanical procedure expected of FIFA, the World Cup would be the only event on earth that actually abides completely by an eligible letter of the law.

Doesn’t make it right, or fair, but if life were fair, I’d have lived in Qatar the two years Pep Guardiola played with Al-Ahli (2003-05). If you know where that world is, please point me in the right direction.

So far, I’d say albeit plans being slightly adventurous - yet certainly achievable where Qatar is concerned - the operational risk rating of the bid should not exceed that of somewhere like England.

Several articles emanating from namely, England and the US, have stated ludicrous claims that Qatar is a ‘dangerous’ place to be, where you could receive ‘90 lashes’ if you dared consume alcohol. Hang on, let me ring the state’s official ‘man-at-arms’. Come on.

Alcohol is widely available in numerous locations, and I have never been at a loss for a place to go for a drink or a dance. I have never been reprimanded for drinking. I would not advise you, however, to go stumbling through the streets with a wine cask. I’m sure we can all handle that.

Now, you want to talk about dangerous?

How about all those beer bottles used as weapons (alongside iron bars and concrete slabs of course) in the Millwall-Ipswich quarter final of 1978? And the riot at Luton in 1985, that eventually forced Maggie Thatcher, to set up a “War Cabinet” to combat football hooliganism?

Isn't he the cutest? 

What about when West Ham United played American Columbus Crew in Ohio, summer of ‘08, and police had to restrain and even detain rival fans when a fight broke out, involving hundreds.

In England’s 1966 WC, the Jules Rimet trophy was stolen from it’s place of display, instigating a nation-wide search.

When FIFA chose America to host the 1994 WC, people the world over were shocked at the selection, as there appeared to be a certain lack of football fans. It was one of the most successful events in WC history, in terms of spectator numbers, infrastructure and legacy.

The point is this: every bidding country, be it for 2018 or 2022, has faced criticism of some sort. Each bidding nation has its fair share of pitfalls, be it distance, cultural constraint, financial capabilities, security (as was the fear in South Africa last year) and so on.

I live in Qatar. I know this country’s capabilities. I know it’s downfalls. I have never felt anything but safe here, I have always been able to provide for myself in the way that I please. I have been granted opportunities I could never have achieved elsewhere and have witnessed the country’s development firsthand.

If they say they will succeed, then they WILL succeed. I hope they do anyway.

And I hope next time Australia bid, they refrain from bribing. Or do so in a more discreet manner anyway.

To watch the final Qatari presentation, please click here

To watch the 2022 announcement, please click here


  1. I'm no keen on the Russian victory to be honest but I'm really looking forward to a World Cup in Qatar. If any region in the world is going to do it really well it's the Middle East. I find it interesting from a technical point of view too regarding stadiums & heat etc.

  2. I had mixed feelings about the bid, and yes I eventually supported the efforts and the hosting. I even had a blog post about it which you can check here:

  3. Im not sure if we can really say how well this is going to turn out; to be honest, that's not even the point. The point I was trying to highlight was why all of a sudden it seemed like only Qatar and Russia were lacking in the FIFA evaluations, when in all reality, every single bidding nation had its pitfalls. Numerous WC's have been held in so called 'high risk' areas, including South Africa. The fear of the unknown is not enough to be pointing fingers at Doha. At least I know no-one is coming at me with a crowbar after a game here.

  4. I think a world cup in Qatar is a great thing. Of course, us English and Americans throw up our prejudices and fears; but that's why it's such a good decision (even if it was corrupt) - Qatar can put on a show to impress the world.

    The World Cup is a great teacher; it brings cultures and ideas to the world. Just like South Africa this year. It did a great deal for awareness.

    The only reason I'd have liked the World Cup in England is because; at least then we'd safely qualify.

  5. Hiya Kid, despite some poor efforts this year and in last year's WC in particular, I have no doubts that England will be present in each tournament to come.

    It's a talented team that's frayed at the hems at the moment, but I know that's just a temporary glitch. I look forward to your performance in Brazil actually, and hopefully make it out there myself.

    Ta on the comment.

  6. Er, who did Australia bribe??

  7. There was huge controversy over Aussie officials buying votes. Although FIFA looked into the matter and 'cleared' them, a lot of the negativity surrounding the Aussie bid surmounted from the height of the rumours. Wether it happened or not is besides the point, the damage had been done to the bid.

  8. Wining and dining FIFA doesn't come cheap. Bribery (in one form or another) is THE most important part of a WC bid.
    That can be fancy hotel suites with unlimited expense tabs or giant brown evelopes. FIFA make certain ridiculous demands of its tournaments potential hosts.
    I'd guess that Qatar were very accommodating. A top level football match should not take place in 100 degree daytime heat, regardless of air con. What happens if that air con breaks down?
    How about we ruin everyones domestic schedule to play the tournament in the winter? I don't think any footballing nation will think that is a good idea. None of this matters though does it. FIFA have their man and will probably change the rules of the game to help Qatar 'build' themselves a decent team.
    That will effectively mean bribing players to change their nationality, just as they have done to so many African athletes already. If they can't buy themselves a team then how about some officials? I don't see any other way of Qatar fc avoiding complete humiliation during group games.
    Great stadiums they will surely build but who, apart from the locals and a few well to do foreigners, will bother to turn up?