Blatter whiffs again.
As good as 2010 has been for U.S. Soccer, it’s winding up as a year of missed opportunities.
First there was the U.S. Round of 16 draw at South Africa 2010, a bracket that gave the Yanks the best opportunity to reach the semis that they’ve ever had in the modern era. That went down the drain with the overtime loss to a beatable Ghana team.
Then there were the MLS playoffs, in which glamour players such as David Beckham, Landon Donovan, Thierry Henry and Rafa Marquez had a legit shot at reaching the league championship game and boosting the MLS profile—only to be upset by lower seeds along the way.
Now, in the final month of the year, the U.S. stood poised to host the 2022 World Cup, submitting a bid that, on paper, was easily the strongest among a group that included Australia, Japan/South Korea, and Australia.
When we wrote this preview yesterday, we were still in a blissfully naïve state of faith in the FIFA process. What we should have realized was that this documentary from the BBC about FIFA payoffs exposes probably just the tip of the iceberg.
Russia and Qatar, two nations with inferior soccer infrastructures to every other competing bidder—but crucially, a surplus of oil money—were awarded the rights to host the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, respectively.
The 2018 decision is dubious, but the 2022 result is downright farcical.
Qatar is a tiny nation (1.7 million according to the 2010 census) with almost no soccer history. As we said yesterday, they plan to organize the entire tournament within a 40-mile radius, they have three stadiums at the moment, and their summertime temperatures are ludicrously, dangerously high.
Also: no drinking, and, roughly speaking, a 17-century take on women’s rights. All of that should make for a festive atmosphere.
Yes, we’re a little bitter. If it had gone to Australia, we would have accepted that. But Qatar just makes no sense for the game.
As Backpost reader Abraham Thinkin’ pointed out, if FIFA was so serious about “bringing the Cup to the Middle East”, why not award it to a country with genuine soccer relevance, such as Saudi Arabia or Iran (or Egypt, except they’re only Middle Eastern in spirit and culture; geographically, they’re in Africa).
The RefBaiter also weighed in with some trenchant observations:
“If they awarded 2022 to the U.S., then 2026 could go to China. That is a growth opportunity. TV ratings in the U.S. and China would be huge. Development of the game would be tremendous.”
And think of the legacy that course would have left Sepp Blatter as top FIFA honcho. He would have grown the game to an unprecedented, historic extent.
But this? Well, as Grant Wahl of Sports Illustrated posted to Twitter right after the announcement:
“Choosing Qatar and Russia is the biggest indictment possible that FIFA is not a clean organization. Petrodollars talk.”
So another opportunity slips away in 2010, but, as disappointing as it is, U.S. soccer will soldier on, and MLS will continue to thrive and attract (and develop) better and better players.
They’ll just both have to keep grinding it out, without the hyperdrive boost of a World Cup on the horizon.
Appendix: A Sampling of Internet Reactions to Both the 2018 and 2022 Decisions
[Hat-tips to Tim the Yorkshireman, and the Carolina Cannon]
“If it goes to Qatar I’ll simply give up on football.” [just prior to envelope time.]
“Qatar needs to thank its special consultant for the 2022 WC bid: Cam Newton’s father.”—Bill Simmons on Twitter
“Can we even get a drink in Qatar?”
“So even Belgium/Holland came ahead of England? Their video presentation had about 50 spelling mistakes, for the love of God.”
“Why couldn’t England host an alternative World Nations Cup based on the top seeded nations? Take FIFA out of the equation!”
“FIFA makes the IOC look like a charity.”—The Striker Liker
“Human beings are a pathetic, selfish, weak species, motivated by nothing other than money and power and FIFA proves this. Hopefully an alien spaceship passing by takes pity and nukes our planet into oblivion.”
• • •
That last one came from England, where they are clearly keeping their signature stiff upper lip.