Published On: Sat, Jul 27th, 2013

The Qatar Qonundrum

When it was announced in December 2010 that the tiny Middle-Eastern country of Qatar had won the bid to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup, there were more than a few furrowed brows from football fans the world over. Since then, many controversies have arisen concerning the plans, from the ethical issues surrounding the country hosting such an event, to the integrity of the bid itself.

Once again, Sepp Blatter has outdone himself. Everyone’s favourite bungling uncle of football seems to go bumbling from controversy to conspiracy like a fly trapped in a glass box, and risks stumbling into public outcry nearly every time he opens his mouth. Recent calls from Blatter to move the historic event from it`s traditional summer slot to the depths of winter (at least from a northern-hemisphere point of view) have been met with outcry from league representatives all over Europe.

FA chairman David Bernstein summed up the views of his counterparts when he said: “The bid was for the World Cup to be played in June and July and for it then to be moved to the winter would be fundamentally flawed.”

The point here is that the plausibility of the original bid from Qatar should be called into question. The FIFA members who voted for the country to host the World Cup did so on the basis that the tournament would be played during the summer months. To then decide on making such a drastic change to the tournament after the voting process would surely leave those who cast their votes Qatar`s way feeling misled and cheated. With the dictatorship of Blatter`s FIFA now seemingly endorsing the idea, who could blame them?

Speaking of cheating, renowned magazine France Football earlier this year published a 15-page dossier alleging that Qatar bought the World Cup with bribes and bungs given to members of the voting panel. These included $1.5 million each to African Confederation President Issa Hayatou of Cameroon and Jacques Anouma of Ivory Coast.

Most of the evidence rounded up by the report came after former Qatari bid employee Phaeda al Majid spoke out about the shady proceedings. But here`s the punchline; she made it up. Apparently, al Majid retracted her allegations, claiming to have fabricated them in a fit of rage after being forced out of the bid team.

Now, let’s go along with this bizarre turn of events. She gave incredibly specific details of the corruption, naming particular representatives and causing potentially ruinous damage to the careers of these African members. On the surface, there is no benefit for al Majid making such an admittance. She would be shown up as a fraud, a traitor and in a country where women’s rights are already questioniable, would be publicly humiliated. It doesn’t seem unlikely that the one-time whistleblower may have found herself a little better off in the pocket after confessing.

Sepp Blatter has been heavily criticisedin some quarters over the decision to award Qatar the World Cup

Sepp Blatter has been heavily criticisedin some quarters over the decision to award Qatar the World Cup

In recent years, Qatar have clearly tried to use football as a means of building positive PR for the state ahead of the World Cup. Being the richest country in the world, Qatar has practically bottomless funds to plunder into football. The number of Qatari-owned clubs in Europe is growing, with PSG at the forefront of this trend. With the Paris club, Qatar have utilised the stature of not only the club itself as a historical European force, but also employed respected figures such as David Beckham and Leonardo as ambassadors to promote the brand of Qatar as a footballing powerhouse.

And all this without even mentioning the ethical problems that FIFA will have to face nearer 2022. In Qatar, homosexuality is illegal. The huge campaign promoting tolerance throughout football that UEFA have run for the last few years is simply titled `Respect`.

How the smug, smarmy puppet that is Michel Platini can stand infront of the world`s press giving fanatical endorsment of Qatar 2022 one day, and then the next stand beside children of palpably manufactured diversity demanding we give all walks of life respect within the realm of football is a brass neck even the Tin-man would be proud of.

When asked about the concerns surrounding the issues of homosexuality and the tournament, our old pal Blatter failed to let us down. When asked if there would be a cultural problem, good old Sepp said: “I`d say they [gay fans] should refrain from any sexual activities.” Really? I mean, asking this guy to pass comment on anything remotely sensitive is like asking Prince Phillip to review Alan Carr: Live at the Apollo.

In all honesty, I get why FIFA would decide on using a nation like Qatar for the World Cup. Even though they have little to no football tradition and history, it shouldn`t exclude them from hosting. Every nation has to find it`s footballing feet somehow and maybe the first major tournament in that part of the world will inspire and kick-off a culture to be nurtured. I even see benefits in the whole winter schedule idea. Maybe as Europeans it`s hard to see past the August – May football calender, but a winter tournament would give leagues that play to different schedules (such as Brazil, who play from May – December) a nice change.

But what I can`t abide is the bare-faced hypocrisy that has emerged within FIFA during this whole debacle. With no-one near the summit to challenge Blatter and his cronies, FIFA has become a relic of a bygone era pretending to keep up with modern issues. `Respect` indeed.