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.

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France Football Compiles List of Alleged Qatari Shenanigans Surrounding 2022 World Cup Bid

QatarReturn with us now to the sovereign Arab state of Qatar, home of artificial clouds, next-level stadium air-conditioning systems, and endless streams of petrodollars.

The tiny monarchy (citizen pop: 250,000) was also—according to a 15-page article published in France Football this week—home to a no-holds-barred approach when it came to convincing FIFA that its 2022 World Cup bid was the best one submitted.

Among the many allegations brought by the magazine is that there was a “secret meeting” at the French Presidential Palace on Nov 23, 2010, between then-President Nicolas Sarkozy, UEFA President Michel Platini, Sebastien Bazin, who was representing Colony Capital, the financially-troubled owners of Paris St. Germain at the time, and Tamin Bin Hamad Al-Thani, the Crown Prince of Qatar.

The purpose of this meeting, according to France Football, was to discuss a deal for the Qataris to buy Paris St. Germain, and to challenge French sports TV channel Canal+ (something Sarkozy allegedly wanted to do) by creating a rival sports channel in France—all in exchange for Platini to promise to switch his vote for the 2022 World Cup from the United States to Qatar.

Explosive stuff. And of course if you cut to the present day, well, Qatar owns Paris St. Germain (and financed its massive summer spending spree, which brought Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva to the club), and they’ve launched beIN Sport, a subsidiary of Al Jazeera, in France, wresting the television rights to live French soccer away from Canal+.

Platini, for his part, acknowledged that he voted for Qatar (the votes became public knowledge after the bid process was complete) and that he met with Sarkozy before the vote, but told Agence France-Presse:

“As I’ve always stated, president Sarkozy would never have asked me to vote for Qatar 2022 because he knows that I’m my own man. I made my choice with complete independence following a simple logic … opening up countries who have never organized major sporting events.”

In the annals of flimsy excuses, that’s got to rank pretty high. But we’ll have to take the French legend at his word, unless and until Michael Garcia, the former New York Federal prosecutor who now heads up FIFA’s new investigative arm, unearths a smoking gun of some kind.

AFP dredged other juicy bits from the France Football piece, including:

“… what [FF] said was an internal email in which FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke allegedly said that the tiny Gulf state had ‘bought the 2022 World Cup.’

Valcke subsequently claimed a misunderstanding and insisted that the tone of the email was ‘light-hearted.’ France Football also quoted former FIFA media chief Guido Tognoni, who was kicked out of the organization in 2003, as saying he believed there were “strong suspicions” that members were compromised over the 33.75-million-euro ($25 million) Qatari bid.”

Soccer America combed the report as well, coming up with the following further allegations:

• A Qatari representative offered to spend millions on pumping up ailing Argentine soccer to gain the vote of Argentine [Ex-Co member] Julio Grondona.

• Middle Eastern holding companies bankrolled deals struck by since-disgraced Brazilian soccer boss Ricardo Teixeira.

• A sweetheart deal was struck with the Spanish federation to organize a friendly game in Qatar and “silence” Angel Maria Villar, who supposedly had a vote-swapping pact with Qatar to back Spain’s 2018 World Cup bid with Portugal and was furious that in fact Russia won the 2018 contest easily.

• The Qatari sports agency Aspire spent millions on promoting youth sports in countries with members on FIFA’s executive committee.

Of course France Football’s report has not exactly blown the lid off anything yet. In fact, it probably hasn’t been accorded a fraction of the attention its publishers hoped for. But remember back in 1999, when a French sports journal (L’Equipe) first accused cyclist Lance Armstrong of doping? That didn’t get too much traction at the time, either.

World Cup 2022 is still nine years away.

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.

 

Let’s Check Today’s Temperature in Qatar, Shall We?

Just for smiles.

On our way into the office this morning, we overheard a gentleman talking about how he had just returned from a business trip to Qatar. (He actually used both of the pronunciations we’ve heard for the 2022 World Cup host nation—“Cutter” and “Kuh-TAR”—opting for the second one when his listener blanked on the first.)

He said, referrring to the current summer temperatures in NYC, “This is comfortable compared to where I was yesterday. Just got back from Qatar. It was 118 degrees.”

That’s right. One hundred eighteen degrees.

Let’s take a glimpse at the extended forecast for the capital, Doha.

Oh, looky, the heat wave is over: Thursday’s high is predicted at only 104—followed by 107 on Friday and 108 on Saturday.

Sarcasm aside, the mind balks at these numbers. There will be a double-digit dropoff from Tuesday’s scorcher—will people be able to tell? What we mean is, there’s a noticeable difference between, say, 94 degrees and 80 degrees. Does the same apply to 118 and 104? Or does the human body just categorize anything above 103 as “bloody effin hot?”

We’re not sure, and we wouldn’t especially want to find out.

In any case, we hope those robot clouds are coming along smoothly.

U.S. Back in the Mix? Qatar Could Be Stripped of 2022 Cup

Not so fast? FIFA says it will investigate the Sunday Times claims.

This slipped through the cracks last week, but … better late than never: FIFA’s golden summer in Qatar may be in jeopardy after the governing body’s President, Sepp Blatter, stated last Thursday that there could be a re-staging of the vote for the right to host the 2022 World Cup.

According to The Independent, Blatter “said that a FIFA inquiry into claims made by The Sunday Times that there was corruption in the vote could lead to the FIFA executive committee (ExCo) voting again.”

Blatter, who is seeking a fourth term as FIFA poobah in the June 1 election, is clearly shocked—shocked—to find that corruption may exist in his organization:

A rerun of the vote would of course be unprecedented. It’s possible that the 75-year-old native of Switzerland is engaging in some political posturing as he runs for re-election next month against the president of the Asian football confederation, Mohamed Bin Hammam, who hails from … wait for it… Qatar.

For more, check here, and here.

Oh, and there’s also this gem from Blatter today: He says he received a bribe upon his first election in 1998, but of course promptly turned over the cash—“I couldn’t refuse because he put it in my pocket”—to FIFA’s finance director, who made the bad guy reclaim it.

“Then it was specifically known,” says Blatter, “that please don’t try to give money to somebody who’s in FIFA.”

Yep. From that point forward, Sepp, it was specifically known….

Swiss Journalists Detained for 13 Days in Qatar

Those scamps in Qatar/Cutter are in the news again, less than a month after their “artificial cloud” “solution” to the problem of staging soccer games in the otherworldly summer heat of their nation.

This time they’ve stumbled upon a teachable moment regarding treatment of the many guests expected to visit their country for the 2022 World Cup: Don’t arrest and detain foreign journalists for two weeks without cause. It reflects badly on your hospitality skills.

Swiss television station RTS claims that two of its sports reporters, in Qatar filming a report on the 2022 World Cup, were arrested, handcuffed, and interrogated for several hours at a local police station.

After being transferred to another station for further questioning, they went in front of a judge, were forced to pay a fine (without being told what for), and had their camera confiscated.

They were then denied authorization to leave the country until the Swiss ambassador to Kuwait (Switzerland has no diplomat in Qatar) intervened and sorted it out … 13 days after the intitial incident. Good times.

No word on whether the duo used the “We’re from Switzerland. We’re neutral!” defense during their arrest.

RTS said they received permission to film from Qatari diplomats in Geneva. They are reporting the incident to FIFA.

More here and here.

Qatar Suggests “Artificial Cloud” to Cool 2022 World Cup Games (Really)

Faced with the problem of staging World Cup matches in 105-degree temperatures, Qatar/Cutter 2022 organizers have offered a series of potential solutions since winning the right to host last December.

First, they suggested stadiums would be air-conditioned. Then they entertained the idea of moving the entire tournament to the winter months. Now, though, we can all rest easy, because the problem has been solved: a Qatar University engineering department group has unveiled designs for  ‘artificial clouds’ to hover above stadiums and cool them during match play.

The ‘clouds’ will be constructed of light carbon materials, filled with helium, and come equipped with four solar powered (insert no end of jokes here) engines that will enable them to move by remote control between sun and pitch to provide shade.

Now, it’s the end of a long day here at the BP World HQ, so our judgment may not be at 100% capacity right now, but this is absurd, right? If it’s 105 degrees in the sun, how much relief will some artificial cloud cover provide? It’ll knock it down to a refreshing 101, at best.

Also, what if one of the things failed during a game and crashed down on the field? One result could be, as a commenter over at The Spoiler put it, “Then England’s chances to win the World Cup slightly improve.” But others could be catastrophic, obviously.

Then again, it might be futile to question this or speculate about it; we wouldn’t be surprised to wake up tomorrow and find out it was all a clever hoax.

Read more about it here.