I am depressed. Yes I admit it. I don't know if I need medication for this bout of depression, however it could be a close call. You see yesterday morning FIFA announced the countries that will host the World Cup Soccer Tournament in 2018 and 2022. The USA bid for the 2022 games and my hopes were high that we would be awarded the cup. My 7 year old soccer son will be 18 in 2022 and it would be a great graduation gift to take him to some games.
Alas it was not to be. The 2022 games were awarded to Qatar. Now I'm willing to bet that most of you can't pick out the country of Qatar on a map even if it was written in 72 point bold font. The country is smaller than Connecticut, has one major city and only one "world class" soccer stadium. Oh yeah, did I mention that in June and July (when the cup is traditionally played) it reaches temperatures of 130 degrees Fahrenheit on a regular basis?The Qatar bid boasted of being able to build air conditioned stadiums that would suit the needs of fans and players perfectly. Of course anything's possible when you simulate it on a computer. Qatar has never qualified for a World Cup and now they have by virtue of being the host. My bet is they will be the second host nation not to advance to the second round (South Africa was the first in 2010).
FIFA has stated that one of its goals was to broaden soccer's appeal globally. Qatar they say gives them a chance to get into the Islamic world as well as the Middle East. Of course placing the tournament in an oil-rich country probably doesn't hurt. Not that I'm saying Qatar didn't buy the votes it needed to win, however they did play a very political game to get them.
I tweeted, facebooked, and plurked that the decisions for 2018 and 2022 were travesties. I still believe that to be the case. FIFA has become a political machine and is getting up there with the Olympics as far as how to host an event. Let there be no doubt this is NOT about the game, it's about politics. It's a shame that President Blatter can't take his own advice about sport that he stated in yesterday's awarding ceremony.
As for me? Well the depression will subside in a few months (maybe after the major soccer leagues in Europe come off their Winter break). But it will hit again in 2014, 2018 and 2022 as I think about what might have been. I mean could you imagine the look on an 18 year old when he finds out that he will be traveling the country to see the world's top soccer stars play in the World Cup?
The next three cups will be in Brazil, Russia and Qatar. Not exactly the kind of road trips that I would plan with my son. Although I did live in Chile for 2 years and know what to expect, it would still be hard as I don't speak any of the languages in those three countries. I will have to see what transpires, but the dream of attending a World Cup may have to wait until a tournament further out than 2022.
Of course it could be worse. I mean I could be English. The birth place of soccer was voted out in the first round of balloting for the 2018 cup. They haven't hosted a tournament since 1966. It seemed like the right time to bring football to its mother land. Alas again it was not to be.
The decisions by the voters at FIFA are hard to explain when you look at what has to be done in order to pull off a tournament the likes of the World Cup. Two countries that have the infrastructure, stadiums and fans (yes there are soccer fans in the US) were bypassed. This was done in order to give soccer a more "global" reach. Note to FIFA, you get global reach by attracting the fans to the games and to the TV. Host it poorly and watch the world move away. For soccer's sake I hope that Russia and Qatar can live up to their promises. I know England and the US can.