US Snubbed for 2022 World Cup

3 Dec

When FIFA announced the selection of Qatar over the US for host of the 2022 World Cup, it was natural for Americans to feel snubbed.

After all, Qatar is a dictatorial Islamic nation just 80% the size of Connecticut with a population the size of Phoenix and less soccer tradition than Iceland.  Typical soccer-related fan activities like yelling, drinking and kissing are (in that order) frowned upon, relegated to private locations, and illegal in public.

The summertime temperature averages around 104 degrees Fahrenheit.  Foreign laborers are relegated to slums, and often do not receive payment for their work with no legal recourse in a nation thoroughly dominated by a natural gas & oil-hawking elite.  The Qatar national football team has never qualified for a World Cup, and is currently ranked 113th in the world by FIFA behind teams from places like the Cape Verde Islands and, yes, Iceland.

So how did a tiny second-world country land the world’s premier international sporting event?  The answer is simple; that second-world country has a first-world budget.

Show Us the Money

Qatar’s lobbying prowess should not be underestimated, but none of it would have been possible without a blank check from Emir Hamad bin Khalifa.

The Emir took control of Qatar from his father in a bloodless palace coup in 1995.  (The year after the US hosted its first World Cup.)  Khalifa immediately began moving his nation towards global prominence via an aggressive modernization strategy in business and commerce that continues to this day.  The lucky discovery of an enormous natural gas deposit (believed to be the world’s largest) in Qatar’s coastal waters fast-tracked the tiny nation’s rise.

Then, in 2005, Qatar paid two of football’s biggest stars (and most dedicated rivals) to appear on the same stage.  Brazilian soccer legend Pele and Argentinean counterpoint Maradona were paid six figures each to assist in opening Qatar’s glitzy new sports academy.  With that decadent gesture, Khalifa made it apparent that he intended to do anything in his considerable power to bring a World Cup to Qatar.

The football czars at FIFA took notice.

Snub Plus

FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) is the ruling class of International soccer.  In Qatar, FIFA officials saw an opportunity to accomplish two goals in tandem.

First, FIFA could bring the World Cup to the Middle East, a part of the world that had never before hosted the event.

That Middle Eastern nations with much deeper football tradition (and much, much more talent) like Turkey, Israel & Saudi Arabia would never succeed in a World Cup bid is immaterial to this FIFA decision, but worth mentioning.

Second, FIFA could stave off the tide of American soccer interest that threatens their control of the sport.

FIFA itself is dominated by European & South American football elitists whose grip on the game slips annually.  The 1994 US World Cup set a record in attendance that stands to this day, featured one of the most exciting and well-orchestrated finals in World Cup history, and is widely regarded as the most successful Cup event ever held.  That memory of unparalleled success combined with a rise through the international ranks by the US national team and an explosion in soccer’s popularity amongst Americans still was not enough to sway the football fascists at FIFA.

While the US has graciously invited the world to compete in its only truly original major sport (basketball), Europe has done everything short of rigging group selection to eliminate Americans from competition.

The freshest and most memorable instance of this anti-US bias was exhibited in this year’s World Cup as the United States was robbed of a great goal by Maurice Edu versus Slovenia.  Other snubs from those same South Africa World Cup games included a litany of no-calls on hard fouls committed against US players that made one thing very clear to American soccer fans; if we want to win the World Cup, we have to beat the refs as well.

Now we can add FIFA to that negative equation.
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