Friday Funny: Ian Holloway on Moving the 2022 World Cup to Winter

We’re a few months after the fact on this, but it’s late on a Friday and we’re big fans of any rational responses to the irrational decision to stage the 2022 World Cup in the ceramic kiln that is Qatar in the height of summer, so … here’s the inimitable Ian Holloway, Crystal Palace manager, reacting to Michel Platini’s suggestion that the 2022 tournament be rescheduled for the winter, right in the middle of most European seasons:

He never disappoints, Holloway. He and Crystal Palace are currently in fourth place in the English League Championship table, seven points behind leaders Cardiff City and comfortably in the promotion-playoff zone.

Advertisements

Oh, Look: UEFA Boss Michel Platini Wants to Move the Qatar World Cup to the Winter of 2022

International soccer’s powers-that-be are back on this one. You may recall FIFA’s suggestion, almost immediately after the bid was announced, to shift the 2022 World Cup from the molten-lava summer in Qatar (average high temperature: 115 degrees Fahrenheit) to its more moderate winter months.

After the idea was first floated, there followed a series of increasingly entertaining potential solutions to the problem of staging the planet’s most popular sporting event in its hottest location. The games would be played at night, the stadiums would be air-conditioned, or—and this was a real suggestion, not an Onion headline—robot clouds would be used.

Now, UEFA President Michel Platini, a former superstar with the French national team, is reviving the let’s-move-it-to-the-winter initiative:

“I hope it will be held in winter,” he said. “We have to go to Qatar when it is good for everybody to participate. What is better for the fans?”

What about the many, many domestic leagues around the world that would have to be shut down for a month or more for that to happen?

“In 10 years we can manage to decide how we can postpone the season for one month,” he said.

There are more complications: You couldn’t stage it in January—when some European leagues, including the German Bundesliga, are on winter break—because there’s a Winter Olympics that year (In the Tunisian desert. Kidding. Their location hasn’t been decided yet.):

“If we stop from Nov. 2 to Dec. 20,” Platini continued, “it means, instead of finishing [domestic seasons] in May, we stop in June. It is not a big problem. It is for the good of the World Cup, the most important competition in the world.”

We also wonder how such a change would impact the qualifying setup: moving the event up six months would most likely compress the schedule—and further disrupt domestic leagues around the world.

They could probably move everything around to make it happen. They could also probably move in those artificial clouds.

Fortunately, with 10 years to go until the event, there’s still time for them to consider the easiest move of all—that of the tournament to a different host nation.

 

We May Have to Sample a Little of the Crow, Laced with Clenbuterol

According to this report from FIFA, more than 100 samples taken from players participating in this past summer’s U-17 World Cup, which was staged in Mexico, have shown traces of clenbuterol.

While only four of the samples showed concentrations higher than the prohibited level (ie., were actual positive tests for the substance), 109 of the 208 urine samples taken at the tournament—52.4%—contained traces of the drug.

Players from 19 of the 24 participating national teams submitted samples containing trace amounts of clenbuterol, according to the report.

Apparently, their Twitter was hacked.

Well. Okay then. Looks like it is possible for evidence of clenbuterol to turn up in your urine if you eat meat treated with the substance. (Unless the Mexican government is in cahoots with FIFA, or pulled one over on FIFA’s chief medical officer, Jiri Dvorak, which, given the track records of both entities, can’t be completely ruled out. But anyway, back to the crow.)

Clenbuterol is a beta-adrenergic agonist (not a steroid) that is sometimes used to boost the leanness and protein content of cattle, thereby making them more valuable in the marketplace. It also has some veterinary uses.

In humans, it is occasionally prescribed to treat asthma and “causes an increase in aerobic capacity, central nervous system stimulation, and an increase in blood pressure and oxygen transportation.” All of which would have obvious benefits for any endurance athlete.

But the five Mexican Gold Cup players, and the hundreds of players cited in FIFA’s U-17 report, apparently ingested it via livestock. As Dvorak says, this development is “highly surprising … I had not seen anything like it in my 20 years in this post.”

The report will also, as the AP suggests, “confuse the legal certainty of prosecuting athletes who test positive for clenbuterol—notably three-time Tour de France winner Alberto Contador.”

Contador’s case will get its final hearing in late November.

WADA Drops Case Against Five Mexican Players Who Tested Positive at Gold Cup

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) announced yesterday that it has dropped its appeal at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), where it was going to challenge the Mexican Football Federation’s decision to clear the five members of El Tri who tested positive for clenbuterol at last summer’s Gold Cup.

WADA issued the statement after accepting FIFA’s determination that the players tested positive because their Twitter accounts were hacked they ate meat tainted with the steroid.

Sigh.

There are just two problems with this outcome, as we see it.

First, FIFA made its determination after “working with the government of Mexico.”

Nothing against the government of Mexico, but, well, soccer is a huge point of pride in that nation, and a pastime deeply woven into its cultural fabric. They have not appreciated the recent gains made by the U.S. in the soccer border rivalry, and were very—very—pleased with the outcome of the Gold Cup. Nuff said.

Second, you can’t test positive for clenbuterol by eating “tainted” meat.

Let’s go to the expert, Fernando Ramos, “a professor at the University of Coimbra in Portugal who has studied clenbuterol contamination in meat for 20 years.”

According to Mr. Ramos, any animal pumped with enough clenbuterol for it to show up in the urine of a person who ate that animal would have died before being slaughtered for food.

Ramos says it’s possible to ingest detectable amounts of clenbuterol from livestock—but only if you eat the liver of the animal, “where clenbuterol is known to accumulate.” And then you would get terribly ill.

There have been numerous reports of these five players “eating contaminated meat” but not one about them “falling terribly ill from eating clenbuterol-soaked meat.”

For whatever reason, WADA has let this one go. Chances are, they will be a little more hard-nosed when it comes to Alberto Contador, the three-time Tour de France winner whose case goes before CAS next month.

Contador tested positive for clenbuterol during the 2010 Tour de France, which he won, and claimed the positive was the result of … wait for it …  his Twitter being hacked? … here it comes … eating contaminated meat!

Ramos, again, from the Times article:

When asked what the chances were that Contador’s positive test, even at such low levels, was a result of the meat he ate, Ramos said, “I can say 99 percent, it’s impossible.”

Quote of the Day

Ryan Toohey, spokesman for recently suspended interim CONCACAF president Lisle Austin (above), on reports that FIFA had extended Austin’s ban worldwide:

“Mr. Austin has not been notified of any action by FIFA regarding any suspension. There is no existing suspension so there is nothing to extend. Lisle Austin remains acting president of CONCACAF, and has urged FIFA to intervene and resolve these so-called leadership questions.”

When last we left this spellbinding tale, Austin had fired CONCACAF general secretary Chuck Blazer, only to see Blazer immediately reinstated by the confederation’s Executive Committee. The committee then suspended Austin, and installed Honduras’s Alfredo Hawit as acting president of CONCACAF.

That’s where we stand now (well, all of us outside Austin’s camp). But there are sure to be further twists in the tale before the Gold Cup final on June 25.

Quote of the Day

Righto, Sepp!

FIFA president Sepp Blatter, after running unopposed and winning a fourth term in yesterday’s election, which followed months of devastating allegations of corruption:

“We will put FIFA’s ship back onto the right course in clear, transparent waters. We will need some time, but we shall do it.”

Aye aye, cap’n.

FIFA Farce, Day 4: Blazer Fired, Unfired

Oh, it's on....

CONCACAF appointed an interim president in the wake of Jack Warner’s recent suspension, and that fella—who hails from Barbados and is called Lisle Austin—took it upon himself yesterday to “fire” Chuck Blazer, the American general secretary of CONCACAF who made allegations of bribery against Warner and former FIFA presidential candidate Mohamed bin Hammam.

Austin faxed a dismissal letter to Blazer’s Zurich hotel room, citing “inexcusable” conduct and “a gross misconduct of duty and of judgment” as reasons for the action.

Within hours, though, CONCACAF called Austin’s play an “unauthorized declaration” and published the following statement on its website:

“This attempted action was taken without any authority. Under the CONCACAF Statutes, jurisdiction over the General Secretary rests solely with the CONCACAF Executive Committee, which has taken no action. Further, a majority of the Executive Committee Members have advised Mr. Austin that he does not have the authority to take such action.

“Chuck Blazer continues as CONCACAF General Secretary and with the full authority of his office. The Confederation continues its normal operations including the Gold Cup commencing on June 5th at Cowboys Stadium in Dallas.”

Today, Austin sowed further confusion by firing back, through Warner’s media service in Port of Spain, Trinidad, with the following:

“The statement released by the CONCACAF Media Department last night as it relates to the status of the former General Secretary Chuck Blazer are not the official views of CONCACAF.

“This is yet another blatant disregard for process and procedure by the former staff member.”

Austin went on to imply that Blazer himself published the statement on CONCACAF’s website, since he “was [is?] one of the administrators of the servers used by the CONCACAF department and has access to it and presently still has access to all of the Confederation’s online service.”

Here’s an interesting compare-and-contrast exercise: the story as reported in Warner’s home country, in the Trinidad Express, versus The New York Times account.

CONCACAF’s premier tournament, the Gold Cup, kicks off on Saturday, and amid all the uncertainty, one thing’s for sure: The final trophy presentation is going to be very interesting.

Both Warner and Sepp Blatter were present for the 2009 edition.

Speaking of Blatter, see here for the latest on today’s presidential election.