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.

Fox’s Gus Johnson Experiment Starts Tomorrow with Real Madrid vs Man U

GusJYou may have heard that former CBS and ESPN sportscaster Gus Johnson, who made a name for himself with his exciting calls of NCAA basketball tournament games, has been tasked by Fox to become their lead announcer for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.

It’s a bold move because Johnson had never broadcast soccer before October 2011, when the plan was hatched and the March Madness maven started announcing San Jose Earthquakes games on the radio as the first steps toward getting ready for Russia 2018 and Qatar—cough cough bulls***—2022.

If you’ve never heard Johnson, here’s a best-of clip from his NCAA tournament work:

Some fans think he’s over the top, but when he’s doing a sport he knows and clearly loves, we say he works well, adding a layer of excitement and enthusiasm to the games.

To bring that buzz to soccer, well, he’s got a lot of work to do. He not only has to learn the game and all its subtleties (no mean feat) he also, we contend, has to genuinely acquire a taste for the sport. As Bootsy Collins once said, you can’t fake the funk.

Here’s Johnson doing a San Jose game this past year:

He’s not on top of it yet, but he does have five years to get up to speed. And Fox is not hesitating to throw him into the deep end. Johnson is doing Wednesday’s Champions League Round of 16 tilt between no less a pairing than Real Madrid and Manchester United (Fox Soccer 2:45 pm ET). Yikes.

The growing pains start tomorrow, but if the gamble pays off, well, maybe we’ll get calls at the 2018 and 2022 Cups that go a little something like this:

Mighty Souvenir: The Ball that Donovan Buried to Advance the U.S. at South Africa 2010

We’re a little late getting to this but it’s definitely better late than never: After Landon Donovan scored his famous last-gasp goal for the U.S. against Algeria at the 2010 World Cup, he retrieved the ball and booted it deep into the stands.

As luck would have it, two Americans caught the ball, and have never let it go.

Last month, they linked up with Donovan and told their story:

LD and Co. will be back in World Cup competition tonight, when they take on Antigua & Barbuda in their first 2014 qualifier (7:00 pm ET, ESPN).

Scott Parker Got His McDonald’s To Go While Training to be England Captain

Tip of the hat to Our Man at the Valley, who unearthed the following clip of future England captain Scott Parker, aka “the only England international to appear at World Cup ’94,” as OMATV put it:

Parker wore the captain’s armband for the first time yesterday, in England’s exciting 3-2 loss to the Netherlands. OMATV remembers seeing him suit up, and star, for Charlton at the Valley not long after the above footage was shot.

Remember When: U.S. vs Slovenia at South Africa 2010

The U.S. plays Slovenia in an international friendly tomorrow at noon (ESPN2). With that in mind, let’s take a look back at their World Cup Group C meeting back in the summer of 2010.

The tale-of-two-halves cliché was in full, maddening effect in this one, as the U.S. produced an awful first 45 minutes to go down 2-0, then rallied furiously after the break. They tied it on Michael Bradley‘s dramatic 82nd-minute equalizer, and then, well—”Ko-man Cou-libaly!”

/shakes fist Wrath of Khan style

The highlights:

The Americans will be looking to better their 1-4-1 record under new coach Jurgen Klinsmann, who has seen his side score just two goals in six games.

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….

Donovan Passes on Loan Deal

And we say, wise move: He’s been playing non-stop for two years, and he looked sluggish down the stretch in MLS this past season.

Another loan move—which would have been his third consecutive winter stint abroad after Bayern Munich in 2009 and Everton in 2010—would have put more mileage on his odometer, ground off more tread from his tires, and potentially, led to a broken part or two. Better to lay that machine up in the garage for the winter. (That automotive metaphor just took over, didn’t it? Sorry about that.)

For more on LD’s decision, check here.

In other Donovan news, he was unsurprisingly named the 2010 U.S. Soccer Athlete of the Year yesterday. It was the fourth time Donovan won the Federation’s award.

MLS also tabbed him as their U.S. Player of the Year.

We’ll take it as an opportunity to look at his awesome goal against Slovenia again:

In Tacit Admission that It Made the Wrong Decision, FIFA Considers Staging Qatar 2022 in Winter

Let’s just jump right in with this gem of a quote from FIFA’s top genius, Sepp Blatter, re the Hades-like temperatures in Qatar (still working on getting a definitive pronunciation on that, btw—‘cutter’ or ‘kuh-TAR’; if you know, let us know in the comments):

“FIFA’s job is to have a World Cup that protects the players so we take note of the recommendations and go through the list of requirements. We will look into this and make the right decision.”

We’re not even sure where to begin addressing this. The head of the world federation is, less than a month after awarding the tournament, already publicly suggesting it might need to be rescheduled due to problems within the newly-awarded host country—namely, it’s too g-d hot.

To do that—to uproot the World Cup from its traditional summer spot and plop it down in the middle of January or February—would require not only that most of the leagues in the world alter their schedules, but also that all World Cup–qualifying formats be re-routed.

Blatter and Co. would have to ask for the cooperation of pretty much the entire globe to pull this off. Either that, or ask them to compete in “air conditioned” venues and training grounds sprinkled around Doha, where it is illegal to work outside at midday in the summertime.