When I first heard that both Russia and Qatar had won their respective bids to host the World Cup, I thought there could only be one explanation – corruption.
That’s because for me, out of all the bidding countries, Russia and Qatar were the least suitable places to hold a World Cup.
Russia was competing mainly with England and a joint Spain/Portugal bid. Both England and Spain are home to some of the most best football stadiums in the world – Old Trafford, the Emirates, Camp Nou, the Bernabeu, etc.
I’m not sure if they would have used any of those stadiums, but they had options, and the facilities for top level football like training grounds were all there.
Building a World Cup from scratch
Russia and Qatar however, will have to build most of their stadiums from scratch. The tournament is just eight years away, but Russia have only one stadium that meets FIFA’s minimum 40,000 capacity requirement, the Luzhniki stadium in Moscow, and they are now working on building 13 more stadiums.
Due to the sheer size of the country, fans and teams at Russia 2018 will also have to do quite a bit of travelling. The Russian government will now have to make some serious upgrades to its transportation system to make sure it can cope with the millions that will turn up.
More worryingly, some football fans in Russia have been known to have a bit of a racist streak. When Nigerian-Russian winger Peter Odemwingie left Lokomotiv Moscow,
And over in Qatar, there’s the small matter of the average 40 degrees Celsius temperature around World Cup season. They will be investing billions in indoor stadiums, but fans will still have to travel to games, and queue up to get in the stadiums. In heat that can go up to 50 degrees Celsius, that can be a serious problem.
Also, I’m pretty sure that no matter what state-of-the-art technology they use, there will be some issues with the air-conditioning in the stadiums. I can already imagine teams complaining about how it affects the flight of the ball and stuff like that.
On a side note, what happened to all that crap from Sepp Blatter about not having technology in the game? So putting sensors in the goalpost is too much, but air-conditioning entire stadiums is fine?
And no offence to the Qatari national football team, but being a team ranked 113th in the world at the moment, it’s hard for them to justify their automatic spot in the tournament as hosts alongside the other 31 best teams in the world.
In fact, they would give an unfair advantage to whatever teams they get grouped with. They have about 12 years to work on producing a decent national side, but if the last hosts South Africa could barely compete in a group that included the French, then Qatar really don’t stand a chance. They’d be playing really just for the sake of it.
For all those reasons, and so many more that the English media in particular have been churning out, it was easy to assume that the whole voting process is corrupted.
Right places, right time
But to be fair, they were actual both very good decisions.
Both countries have the finances to build the facilities needed to develop football, but they’re not going to do it for nothing.Giving them the World Cup however, will not only give them a good excuse to build those facilities, but it will also help make football fans out of an entire generation who will then hopefully make good use of those facilities in the years to come.
And the Qatar national team might be light-years away from competing at the World Cup, but at least their young players now have something to look forward to, something to strive for.
FIFA also have to make sure that they bring the tournament to different parts of the world. Eastern Europe and the Middle East have never experienced a World Cup, and with the money available to Russia and Qatar at the moment, it’s as good a time as any for the tournament to make its debut in both regions.
It’s tough luck on Australia though, who have also never had a World Cup. The opportunity to bring the tournament to the Middle East – with a country willing to provide the billions needed to build indoor stadiums – proved too hard for FIFA to pass on.
The voting system has of course come under scrutiny. The decision of which country gets the biggest prize in world football comes down to 24 FIFA executive committee members, each of whom are likely to have some interest in their own national football set-up.
For months, those members have already been promising votes and pledging allegiances – surely that can’t be the fairest way to determine something as huge as the next World Cup hosts?
For instance, Australia, doesn’t have a representative on the executive committee, but both Qatar and Russia do.
FIFA will have to look into the possibility of setting up an independent committee, or maybe a implementing a rotational system where every confederation takes turns hosting one World Cup.
But as for the decisions themselves, I think Russia and Qatar were actually pretty good choices, especially considering the last major region they have yet to take the World Cup to, is South East Asia.