Well, the mandarins at FIFA, one of the world’s most venal and corrupt bureaucracies, have selected Russia and Qatar, respectively, as the sites for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.
This would be funny if it wasn’t so pathetic and so horribly, shockingly wrong for the sport. Let’s just parse this for a minute. First, Russia. As a Spanish diplomat put it in one of the Wikileaks documents, essentially a mafia state. Terrible travel infrastructure. Will need billions of dollars in new stadium construction.
But worst of all for a global football tournament, Russia is home to perhaps the world’s most unabashedly racist sports fans. When Dick Advocaat was coaching Zenit St. Petersburg, he was instructed not to even recruit black players; when a half-Russian, half-Nigerian player at Lokomotiv decided to leave for England, the fans unfurled a huge banner thanking his new club for taking him and prominently displaying a banana, their preferred racist slur for their only black player. Several African players in Russia have admitted to carrying guns for self-defense. FIFA, which likes to see itself as the champion of the developing world and in particular Africa, clearly has no problem selling out its “values” to get on the gravy train of some utterly corrupt plutocrats from Moscow. Disgusting.
Then, Qatar. Again, awash in oil money. Ruled by a totally corrupt oligarchy. No concept of women’s rights. Long history of essentially enslaving South Asians as guest workers. Hot as fucking hell in summer. Roughly the size of a large US county, with nothing of interest for visitors outside football. Oh, and really no football tradition to speak of. Did I mention the oil money?
Look, arguably Russia ought to get a World Cup at some point, but one would hope as a reward for cleaning up their disgusting club football at a minimum, and perhaps even for cleaning up their actual country. Qatar is perhaps credible as a joint bidder with Saudi Arabia and the UAE, who at least have a good football culture and a bigger canvas to paint on. But they are never credible as a sole bidder, absent the massive graft which almost necessarily accompanied their bid.
With 2014 in Brazil and with China a virtual lock for 2026 or 2030, I’m not sure I’ll see another Cup in my lifetime in a place with both a great football tradition and great domestic travel and stadium infrastructure. Glad I made it to Germany in 2006. For the good of the next generation of football fans, let’s wish Sepp Blatter and his cronies in Geneva a speedy demise.