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If Qatar loses the World Cup 30, May 2011

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Qatar.
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Signs are looking ominous for Qatar and their desire to host the 2022 World Cup. To strip them of this would be a major source of embarrassment for FIFA and, obviously, Qatar. It could only happen in an extreme set of circumstances, which we may be approaching now. Blatter, who by now should be utterly desperate and in severe fear for his position if there is any justice in the world, may use robbing Qatar of their right to host the WC as a kind of diversion, I fear: desperate times (for Blatter) may call for desperate measures.

So, were the unthinkable to happen what should Qatar do?

I would heartily advise the Qatari elite to take the high road. Eschew the grubby practices of litigation and libel courts which would surely be one possible recourse. Instead, in a dignified manner, say that they profoundly reject any and all suggestions of impropriety and that FIFA is clearly in desperate need of wholesale changes, just as happened to the International Olympic Committee. The elite ought to note that they will continue to improve Qatar’s infrastructure but that, say, the £30billion that would have been spent directly on the stadia etc will now be used to boost the Marshall Plan for the post-revolutionary Arab States. This would be a remarkable gesture for Qatar (given that they are mooting spending $10billion already on this plan) and would draw praise and kudos by the bucket-load.


Qatar World Cup to be held in winter 7, January 2011

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Qatar.
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Sepp Blatter, the President of football’s world governing body, FIFA, has admitted that the Qatar World Cup in 2022 will probably be held in the winter months.

All previous World Cups in countries as diverse as Mexico, South Africa, Japan and England have been held in the summer. But the weather in Qatar is particularly problematic with temperatures reaching  50C regularly. Indeed, a FIFA technical report commented that the heat would be so intense, despite Qatar’s best efforts to showcase their air-conditioned stadium technology, that it posed a ‘health risk’ to players and fans.

Shifting the world footballing calendar to have a World Cup in the winter will be a logistical nightmare. Though some  European leagues (Germany and Italy) have winter breaks, England, for example, does not. Indeed, there is a grand and long-loved tradition of winter football in the UK, including Boxing Day (26th December) and New Year games. Forcing England to get rid of this tradition will not be appreciated.

Making such a change reinforces the feelings of many that FIFA has consistently [no pun intended] shifted the goalposts on bidding nations. The England bid team feels strongly that had they known that FIFA’s remit for the World Cups was to give them to ‘new’ footballing nations (Russia and Qatar) then they would not have bothered to spend the £10 million on bidding. Similarly, what is the point of a technical bid if it is simply going to be ignored? Qatar and Russia undoubtedly faired worst in their respective groups in these reports yet both won.

The underlying feeling (certainly not just in England) that the World Cup was decided upon a long time before the actual voting and not necessarily for strict footballing reasons is amplified by this whole-sale change to the timings of Qatar’s World Cup.

How Qatar won the World Cup 2022 3, December 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Qatar.
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Clearly money paid a large role. There is no denying that the two bids with the most financial backing and the worst technical reports won and that their liquidity played, in my view, a large part in this. But this is the way that it goes. They have nothing to apologise for; they simply did what they did better than the other nominees. Yes, it’s hardly an Athenian spirit of fair play, but that is the way that FIFA have set it up.


Qatar is a new, rich and tiny country: a ‘pimple’ on Saudi Arabia as one recent article disparagingly described it. The vast majority of the population are ex-pats of one stripe or another who do the vast majority of the work (obviously enough). Add these facts together with a bit of semi-racial profiling and people simply assumed that the Qatari delegates would set about their work smoking shisha, eating hummus, listening to Fayrouz and walking around with a sack of cash, dolling it out.

However, the new generation of Qataris as exemplified by the bid’s director, are well educated, erudite, intelligent, savvy and successful. The fact that Qatar nearly won in the very first round of voting is a truly staggering testament to the success of their pre-vote diplomacy. Yes, of course, having deep pockets allowed grander promises to be made, but I think that it will have needed far more than that. For example, securing the sole rights to pitch their bid at the Confederations of African Football last year – locking out all other bidders – appears to have been something of a master-stroke.

Not only this but instead of England’s notion of setting up a fund which would be spent on the world’s developing countries football infrastructure, Qatar had whole stadiums to give away: many of their stadiums are modular.

The Middle East

Sepp Blatter, FIFA’s President, is – as we say in the UK – no shrinking violet. He adores the lime-light and equally adores the massive amounts of power that his job offers him.

I honestly think that one of the key factors that won Qatar the World Cup is the notion that it could – no, really – bring ‘peace to the Middle East’. However absurd the notion, however much this ignores manifest facts on the ground, however much Qatar winning the world cup would have been celebrated through gritted teeth throughout the region (i.e. intra-Arab rivalry) I believe that Sepp believes that there is a chance that this could be a catalyst for peace. Perhaps he is right?

One thing I will say is that having a date set over a decade into the future might allow negotiations to pick a point in time; a backdrop.

And Sepp, I think, can see himself going to Stockholm, collecting his Nobel peace prize and dedicating it to the power of football. Sepp is stepping down soon, he wants a legacy and Qatar’s bid with this associated ‘perk’ by some distance offers the greatest possible opportunity for fame and, essentially, immortality.


Russia winning the 2018 World Cup and Qatar the 2022 clearly shows that FIFA are adamant that the World Cup must seek out new areas of the world. The Middle East offers a modest population that already has a keen interest in football, some of whom are exceedingly rich. Moreover, Qatar has exceedingly strong links to the Indian sub-continent and, of course, to the Muslim world at large: this, perhaps, is the key (1 billion+) demographic that FIFA is aiming at.

The bid, stadiums, presentation?

Overall, I think that the presentation in Zürich made no difference whatsoever. England gave what was universally agreed to be the best presentation (including the Prime Minister, the future King and the world’s most famous footballer) and had arguably the best technical report, yet did not make it past the first round. Clearly, by the time of the presentations, all votes had already been decided.

So while Qatar’s presentation was excellent too and their stadiums are stunning, I do not really believe that these contributed significantly.


Qatar to host 2022 World Cup 2, December 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Qatar.
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In a truly stunning announcement, football’s governing body FIFA, chose Qatar as the host of the 2022 World Cup.

While Qatar ran an excellent campaign, many assumed that there were simply too many hurdles for their bid to overcome: the staggering summer heat, the lack of a footballing heritage, the lack of a suitable transport infrastructure, the overwhelming lack of stadiums and hotels not to mention what was undoubtedly one of the worst FIFA technical reports. Yet they prevailed and will host the Arab world’s first World Cup.

This is a truly mammoth task that they have set for themselves. Doha will be a building site, or rather more of a building site, for the next decade. Not only this but somehow their football team must improve significantly if they are not going to be massively embarrassed in their own tournament.

Clearly, FIFA decided that they wanted the World Cup to go to new areas of the world, to attract new supporters and to embed football yet further outwith traditional arenas. Yet with Qatar, FIFA have also decided that they want a different type of World Cup. Qatar will have to promote much more of a family friendly atmosphere in lieu of providing huge open air areas for celebration and drinking as proved so successful in Germany 2006.

With both World Cup announcements (Russia were awarded the 2018 World Cup) FIFA have taken a risk in terms of infrastructure. Yet both Qatar and Russia come with the greatest oil and gas backed financial might; no matter what happens in their tournaments, FIFA can thus be guaranteed their return.

Aside from challenges facing Qatar tied to the bid, Qataris need to prepare themselves for a whole new level of international scrutiny: they will need to grow a thick skin. The lack of democracy, the role of women, their treatment of workers and their social restrictions will all come under close examination. What will happen when thousands of drunk supporters descend on Doha after a game is one of the big mysteries of Qatar’s World Cup. Their current method of dealing with this – often a night in the cells for public drunkenness – will need to be looked at.

Yet there are many years to critically look at Qatar’s bid. For the moment, we should all join in, offer our congratulations, and wish them the best of luck.