It doesn't sound so funny now

[MY VIEW] The announcement that it was Qatar 2022 was quickly followed by emails from family and friends. Forget "Why Qatar?" No, it was "Where is Qatar?" The former British protectorate, located next to Saudi Arabia on the Qatari peninsula and smaller in size than the state of Connecticut, was known for pearling in the Persian Gulf until the discovery of oil and later natural gas. Qatar's natural gas reserves have made it richer beyond belief. It has more money than it knows what to do with. It can buy pretty much anything that it wants. The USA and the three other contenders in the 2022 race never had a chance.

Qatar 2022 will be a legacy World Cup. It will be the first World Cup in the Middle East. It is a legitimate story, eloquently told by the Sheikha Mozah herself in Wednesday's final presentation, more powerful the "great soccer story," as Sunil Gulati tells it, that is American soccer the last 25 years.

But Qatar 2022 is so far out -- 12 years -- and so many of the FIFA executive committee members will not be around that questions about whether it will work were immaterial. Like how to really deal with the heat in summer. It is basically illegal to work outside in midday during the Qatari summer. Some folks disconnect their outside cold water tanks during the summer because the water is too hot. Mohamed Bin Hammam, the Qatari president of the Asian soccer confederation, admitted the AFC will hold the 2011 Asian Cup in the less convenient (soccer-wise) month of January than June, FIFA's other international tournament window, because it is too hot in June.

Qatar's sheikhs give generously of their billions to charitable foundations. The Qatari government launched Al-Jazeera, the pan-Arab media giant that broke the news of the pronouncement of Sheikh Mohamed, the chairman of the Qatar 2022 bid committee -- "We have won" -- an hour before Sepp Blatter pulled the name Qatar out of the envelope at the Messe Zurich.

Qatar plans on making Doha an international hub for Qatar Airways. The 2022 bidders did, after all, bill Qatar as accessible to 2 billion people within four hours by air. And Qatar has moved from camel racing to international sports. Like the Asian Cup. Like the Asian Games. Like track & field, tennis and soccer.

Stars such as Gabriel Batistuta and Pep Guardiola finished their careers in Qatar and were paid handsomely as endorsers of Qatar 2022. You can do a lot when you have a marketing budget of $157 million. Qatar had the 2022 World Cup won long before the executive committee convened in Zurich. The Sheikha would have never come to Zurich if the outcome was in doubt. Should the USA have seen the Qatar threat coming? Gulati says Qatar was a formidable competitor with an aggressive campaign, and the U.S. bidders knew all about Qatar from the U.S. government.

No one will ever know where all the money Qatar 2022 spent went, but it looks bad. So bad that in light of reports of collusion and stories of corruption surrounding this and previous bid committees, Qatar and Spain-Portugal could never be allowed to win. In saying he'd stay away from Zurich, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's bizarre attack on the "unscrupulous" tactics of Russia's opponents seemed to indicate he was throwing in the towel, or at least that what the English media thought. Now it seems like the words of a politician who was told he had won -- Russia won easily with 13 votes to seven for Spain-Portugal and two for Belgium-Netherlands in the second round after England, poor England, went out in the first round -- and was told to emphasize that at least one competitor was above the fray.

One of the great incidents of the 2018/22 bid campaign was Spaniard Angel Maria Villar's note to Bin Hammam when FIFA dropped its collusion case against Qatar and Spain. "Congratulations, vamos a ganar," Villar wrote. "Congratulations, we are going to win," American Chuck Blazer translated for Bin Hammam. The last laugh was on Villar.

The great line of the bid campaign was from Villar's countryman, Miguel Angel Lopez. When asked a few weeks out how the vote looked, he responded, "All the fish is sold." It doesn't sound so funny now.

12 comments about "It doesn't sound so funny now".
  1. Andrew Bilinski, December 3, 2010 at 8:38 a.m.

    I must imagine that the governing body of FIFA is expecting to take early retirement. The s*** storm that is coming will certainly clear out any of the leadership who possess a shred of character. Perhaps they can all live in a gated community in Doha? Throw the rascals out!

  2. Joseph Simons, December 3, 2010 at 9:29 a.m.

    Thats what I said before !!!They are all old at FIFA they are going to take the money and run!!!(Blatter's family is done for life).The soccer fans should unite and don't go to the world cups!!!
    **Don't forget Brazil 2014 ,that is going to be a mess too.

  3. Carl Walther, December 3, 2010 at 12:10 p.m.

    So how many soccer fans can afford to travel to Qatar to watch the World Cup in person?

  4. Jim Hougan, December 3, 2010 at 12:16 p.m.

    Soccer America needs better writing. What are we to make of sentences that read: "It is a legitimate story, eloquently told by the Sheikha Mozah herself in Wednesday's final presentation, more powerful the "great soccer story," as Sunil Gulati tells it, that is American soccer the last 25 years." Really? what?

  5. Andrew Bilinski, December 3, 2010 at 12:29 p.m.

    Well according to the Qatar rep. there is a pool of 2 billion within 4 hours to draw from. Perhaps Qatar will pick up their travel costs? :)

  6. David Huff, December 3, 2010 at 1:28 p.m.

    @ Carl and Andrew, if you think those 5-star hotels are expensive now just imagine the jacked up prices at WC time. I love too how the Qatar bid group keeps using the marketing tool of "Israel can play here too" when they know perfectly that Israel has never qualified for a WC and is unlikely to do so given their placement in the UEFA pool, its a fraud just like their bid. Qatar, in addition to buying the WC also bought a spot for their team to be one of the 32, a right that they would never have accomplished on their own as revealed by their status in never having qualified for the WC on merit in the Asian Confederation.

  7. Brian Herbert, December 3, 2010 at 6:43 p.m.

    Mr. Kennedy really should have proofread his writing, it seemed like he had some interesting data, but it was incredibly hard to follow clearly. I am glad he brought up the "2 billion w/in 4 hours" stat - how meaningless - wealthy sultans around the Middle East think nothing of basically employing slave labor by the thousands to build their magnificient skyscrapers and work their oil rigs, are we to believe those peasants count as potential world cup spectators too? What a charade.

  8. Carlos Thys, December 4, 2010 at 1:02 a.m.

    Anyone else see the Zinedine Zidane TV ad that trumpeted Qatar as the best place to host in 2022? What a schill! And Pep Guardiola needed some extra money? I would like to learn of former world football stars who turned down the sheiks' money. Perhaps they have some integrity?

    For the record: All my sincere gripes about the climate in Qatar for the health of players and fans alike is real. This sentiment is no different should the USA ever host again in a June/July summer. I hated Orlando in 1994. That was criminal. So the Miamis and Tampas and Washington, D.C. AND Nashvilles need to think real hard about being future host cities.

    I will support the domed Houstons, Indys, and Dallas sites. So...Nashville, start thinking about how you will "dome" your facility. (And I don't want to hear nonsense about an 8 p.m. kickoff being cooler. I know what it is like to play in that the third week of June.)

    The quality of the 90 minutes of full throttle play matters. It is a core requirement for the Game. To host correctly, the USA stadiums must achieve a better "game climate."

  9. Kenneth Barron, December 4, 2010 at 8:19 a.m.

    Shame on FIFA. There will be worse stories to come as far as 2022 is concerned. Just wait...

  10. Carl Hudson, December 4, 2010 at 10:16 a.m.

    Maybe the USA can host a future Womens' World Cup. Germany is hosting 2011; and Canada or Chile will host 2015.

    So we should campaign for 2019.

  11. Carlos Thys, December 6, 2010 at 12:51 a.m.

    It is a given that the USA will again host the women's World Cup. The Germany hosting next year is already very concerned about ticket sales. Note that the largest stadium remains the Frankfurt am Main venue, not even a 54,000 capacity (for FIFA tournament condiditions). Most of the others are max. 30,000 capacity. If they keep it the same time period of the calendar year, China's weather remains completely oppresive in fully smoggy (no joke) cities. No, only the USA can easily sell out the Rose Bowl for not only women's Word Cups but also Oympic Games tournament matches. That is full credit to the professional approach that all US host cities display, fantastic volunteers, super civic support, and, of course, the quality play and genuine drawing power of the ladies that have graced our USA Team.

  12. David Huff, December 6, 2010 at 12:01 p.m.

    @ Carlos, you could not have said it better, I concur.

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