- By David RothkopfDavid Rothkopf is visiting professor at Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs and visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. His latest book is The Great Questions of Tomorrow. He has been a longtime contributor to Foreign Policy and was CEO and editor of the FP Group from 2012 to May 2017.
FIFA, not content to be tainted with just its current trifecta of on-going scandals — including its cash for selection site votes scandal, "Ticketgate," and the ISL secret payments scandal — inched closer to claiming the International Olympic Committee’s crown as the most odious organizing body in international sports with its absolutely ridiculous choice today of Qatar over the United States to host the 2022 World Cup.
To compound the indefensible nature of the choice — which in the end came down to petrodollars over the integrity of the sport and the interests of the fans (see Grant Wahl’s "Inside Soccer" column at si.com) — Russia, home to infrastructure that is as compromised by neglect as is its democracy, was chosen as site of the 2018 games. But at least Russia is a country of enough size to produce plenty of fans and it has a substantial soccer tradition. And it’s not a desert location for a summer sporting event.
But Qatar? With something under 500,000 native born residents and just over 1.6 million people overall? No soccer tradition to speak of? No stadiums? 120 degree summer heat? All those unpleasant WikiLeaks stories? Located at a huge distance from most of the fans who might want to go?
Qatar over Australia, which did beautifully with the Olympics not so long ago? Qatar over the United States? With Bill Clinton and Morgan Freeman presenting on America’s behalf? Do they understand who Morgan Freeman is? He’s the guy God would get to play Himself in the biopic. He’s Nelson Mandela. He’s "Red" Redding from Shawshank for goodness sakes! He’s a higher power than almost all mortals … but not higher than Sepp Blatter, the man with the ugliest name in sports, the Peron of the Pitch, the Mussolini of the Midfield, the Genghis Khan of the Goooooooooooooal!
Blatter let it be known that even if FIFA’s technical evaluations of Qatar were not so great that he would like to see the games go to the country which has promised $50 billion and something like 9 new stadiums to host.
On Fox Sports Channel U.S. Soccer great Eric Wynalda asked, "Is this about soccer or about natural gas and oil? That’s what has just won… they have just bought the World Cup."
Now some of you might ask, is this sour grapes? Is this just one more jingoistic American whining when the ball doesn’t bounce our way?
Yes, yes it is. But, I wouldn’t be complaining like this if there was one compelling (wholesome) rationale to explain the decision, one explanation that might suggest that the interests of soccer fans anywhere outside downtown Doha were taken into consideration.
But after all this the decision came from the same guys who argued that all those bad calls during this summer’s Cup in South Africa were good for the game because they provoked conversations. Perhaps they’re using the same rationale now. Because this is the worst FIFA call all year, and that’s saying something.