[WORLD CUP 2018/22 BIDS] Qatar is a country with literally more money than it knows what to do with -- thanks to its North Field natural gas reserves -- and it has thrown hundreds of millions of dollars into its improbable bid to host the 2022 World Cup -- a bid that, according to a former employee of the Qatar 2022 bid committee, had a marketing budget of $157,479,996 and has the support of as many as nine executive committee members in the first round of the 2022 vote. The source added that Qatar 2022 has only considered Australia a rival in the five-country race, not the USA.
Thanks to a two-year marketing campaign by the Qatar 2022 bid committee chaired by Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Qatar's prime minister, and a worldwide sports development program operated by the Aspire Academy for Sports Excellence with what was described as an "unlimited" budget -- its chairman is Sheikh Jassim Bin Hamad Bin Jaber Al Thani, Qatar's Minister of Economy and Finance -- Qatar has made huge inroads.
These are eight FIFA executive committee members expected to be in Qatar's camp:
-- Mohamed Bin Hammam, the Qatari president of the Asian Football Confederation believed to have been at first reluctant to get behind the bid;
-- Spaniard Angel Villar Llona, the Spanish connection to the much-publicized Spain-Qatar pact;
-- Brazilian Ricardo Teixeira (whose support was finalized when Qatar's emir, country’s emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al Thani, visited Brazil earlier this year);
-- Paraguayan Nicolas Leoz, the Conmebol president;
-- Argentine Julio Grondona; No. 2 on the FIFA executive committee;
-- Cameroonian Issa Hayatou, the African soccer confederation president.
-- Ivorian Jacques Anouma; who heads the West African soccer union; and
-- Thai Worawi Makudi, who is up for re-election next year as an Asian representative.
(Many English media outlets put Hayatou and Anouma in the Russia camp, not Spain's in the 2018 race.)
The former employee of the Qatar 2022 bid committee said Egyptian Hany Abo Rida had given his support for Qatar at last year's FIFA Club World Cup but he is rumored to have changed his mind.
This source said Dr. Chung Moon Jong, the FIFA vice president from South Korea, will back Qatar after his country goes out in the first or second round in return for Bin Hammam's support in his re-election bid to the FIFA executive committee next year
(Such a deal would be counter to a history of feuding between Bin Hammam, a longtime supporter of FIFA President Sepp Blatter and Chung, a Blatter critic. Only last year Ching said Bin Hammam suffered from "mental problems" and acted "like a head of a crime organization.")
The support for Qatar will make it hard for any rival -- the USA, Australia, South Korea or longshot Japan -- to overcome, but an ABQ (Anyone but Qatar) is underway in response to concerns about staging the World Cup in the Qatari summer despite plans to air-condition everything from the stadiums to training centers and fan zones.
Qatar 2022 raised eyebrows with huge payments to current and former players and coaches to promote the bid.
According to the former Qatar 2022 employee, former Argentine star Gabriel Batistuta received $2.5 million, and Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola is paid $200,000 a month. Both played in Qatar at the end of their careers.
Former French star Zinedine Zidane is promoting Qatar 2022 in a television commercial. His bonus -- if Qatar wins -- is rumored to be $1 million a year until 2022.
According to the Qatar 2022 marketing budget, a copy of which was shown to Soccer America, $9.2 million was allotted to Qatar's controversial sponsorship of the 2010 African soccer confederation congress.
Under the radar has been the work of the Aspire Academy for Sports Excellence, whose director is German Dr. Andreas Bleicher and whose goal is to develop Qatari sports champions.
Qatar lured Kenyan steeplechase runner Stephen Cherono, now known as Saif Saaeed Shaheen, to take out Qatari citizenship, and it tried to get Brazilians Ailton and Dede to change citizenship and play for Qatar, but FIFA nixed that idea.
Aspire's "Football Dreams" program is aimed at bringing young players to Qatar to receive the best training -- and hopefully build Qatar into a soccer contender.
Aspire has been particularly active in countries represented on the FIFA executive committee with the promise, according to the former Qatar 2022 employee, that their players would return home after training in the Aspire Academy in Doha or Aspire Senegal.
The 2009 Football Dreams program included star searches in Cameroon, Nigeria, Guatemala, Paraguay and Thailand, all represented on the executive committee at the time.