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How Qatar won the World Cup 2022 3, December 2010

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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.


Evisceration of ‘a Qatar World Cup’ in The Times 16, November 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Qatar.
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The Chief sporting correspondent of The Times of London, Matt Dickinson, has written a scathing indictment of a would-be Qatari World Cup.

At times the article borders on what appears to be a deep-seated personal animosity, but, overall, I get the impression that Dickinson is simply genuinely angry at the thought of the World Cup being in Qatar. Not at all for any kind of nefarious, pseudo-racist, jingoistic reason as some may suggest given the severity of his critique, but because Dickinson is a passionate football fan and the key flaw in Qatar’s World Cup is that it would resolutely not put the fans first.

I quote at length as The Times is behind a pay-wall.

Anyone with money, sense or opportunity flees Qatar in June and July. Or stays indoors…The heat makes the place unbearable, with temperatures at 50C (122F)…They say it is possible to overcome this furnace. Hundreds of thousands of fans can move from air-conditioned hotels via air-conditioned trains to air-conditioned stadiums. Relaxation will be found in air-conditioned shopping malls.

Perhaps this sounds like your idea of fun. Perhaps you do not mind the idea of a World Cup in a sizzling sandpit the size of Jamaica.

But most of us quite like the idea of outdoors. Of freedom. Of not being trapped inside, least of all at a football tournament.

Clearly, the summer heat is a true and profound problem for Qatar. Dickinson’s assessment is unimpeachable: Qatar is a simply stinkingly and uncomfortably hot place in the summer. Yes, the stadiums will be cooled to some degree and yes there will be air-conditioned transportation and the like, but I really agree with Dickinson on this point: I don’t want to spend all my time in malls. I too like the outdoors and milling around in throngs of crowds enjoying one event. This is part of the World Cup experience.

And – devastatingly – as the American member of FIFA’s board has put it, “you can’t air-condition a whole country.”

While we can imagine Australia, to take just one of Qatar’s rivals, being galvanised to show itself as a great sporting nation, embracing its World Cup visitors, Doha lacks just about everything, including the stadiums, the hotels, the fans and the climate.

As for cultural exploration, it is going to get very crowded along the alleyways of Doha’s sweaty souk.

Harsh but fair, I suppose. Qatar is truly bereft of anything like the necessary infrastructure at the moment.

A World Cup in Qatar is a laughable idea so it shows what a farcical process the bidding has become that we have had to start taking it seriously.

While in England we are understandably preoccupied by the 2018 race, the greatest injustice of all could be played out in the 2022 vote if a combination of Qatari oil money and collusion secures victory for this little emirate over Australia or its main rivals, the United States.

Yet the possibility of vote-swapping between Qatar 2022 and Spain-Portugal 2018 could put both bids near the front of the grid.

Although the suspension of two executive committee members after a Sunday Times exposé is the main item on the agenda for Fifa’s ethics committee as it meets over the next few days, it is the collusion that has the most potential to warp the process.

And it will be impossible to stop in a secret ballot if Fifa is determined to go ahead with holding the 2018 and 2022 votes together on December 2. There was a proposal to postpone 2022 but Michel Platini, in his wisdom, was among the senior voices saying the show must go on, however lacking in credibility.

Qatar and Spain-Portugal deny any collusion but they could start with seven votes each, potentially taking the World Cup back to Spain, where it was staged more recently than in England, and to Qatar, where you can fry an egg on your car bonnet.

But Blatter must be sitting in his office wondering how to avoid the farce whereby the World Cup goes to a nation with a population less than Zurich’s and that has little if any use for all the stadiums, hotels and much of the infrastructure that would be built.Ensuring defeat for Qatar is vital if Fifa is to salvage any credibility. Trust in the organisation, and its processes, is already shot to pieces.

Quite the rant.

Yet Dickinson has many crucial points which, while forcefully made, are nevertheless valid. For Dickinson – a life-long football fan – a Qatari World Cup would simply represent a whole-sale rejection of what most fans actually want and a triumph of money over sense. This is the kernel of the issue that Qatar must overcome.




Has Qatar won the 2022 World Cup bid? 10, November 2010

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It is no surprise given the staggering amounts of money involved in football and the levels of opacity in its governing bodies that issues of bribery are never far away. When two World Cups are to be decided on the same day, or, to put it another way, when two events each worth many tens of billions of dollars are to be decided on the same day, there are always going to be accusations of wrong-doing.

Two such cases are readily apparent. The first was uncovered by the Sunday Times in the UK. They posed as US investors and acted as if they were buying votes from one of the FIFA Voting Committee members who pledged to vote for the US bid in return for investment in football facilities in his native Nigeria.

Given FIFA’s immense lack of transparency, no one is really sure what has happened about this. Though I did read that the Nigerian FIFA member in question allegedly reported this as a suspicious contact to his bosses immediately…though, if I were him, that’s exactly what I’d say too.

The other case of skullduggery is the rumour that Spain and Qatar entered a deal with each other whereby Qatar would vote for Spain (& Portugal) and their bid for the 2018 World Cup and Spain would reciprocate for Qatar. These rumours have, of course, been denied by both sides. They were, however, rekindled by a note seen by other members at a recent FIFA meeting passed between the Qatari and Spanish FIFA members saying “we’ve won”.

No, it’s not that subtle and yes, it all does sound faintly ridiculous. But then again another rumour suggests that North Korea are going to support South Korea in the voting, so that FIFA’s President – Sepp Blatter – can retire after having brought these two antithetical countries together where world powers have been failing for generations.

The explanation for the note, the existence of which has been confirmed by other FIFA executive members, was that the “we won” referred to the Qatari and the Spanish officials not being prosecuted or otherwise circumscribed for the ‘first set’ of (accused) bribery. What a mightily convenient and neat conclusion.

World Cup bid

Barca’s Guardiola to be Qatar 2022 Ambassador 20, February 2010

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Barcelona’s legendary player and current manager Pep Guardiola is to act as an Ambassador for Qatar’s 2022 World Cup bid. Guardiola who played football in Qatar for two years joins Rodger Milla and Frank De Boer in promoting Qatar as the venue for the 2022 games. Whilst Qatar are undoubtedly outsiders for the tournament, their practically unlimited budget means that they cannot be ruled out.

Qatar 2022 World Cup bid locks out England (et al) 8, January 2010

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Qatar’s 2022 World Cup team have locked out all other hosts for presenting at the Confederation of African Football (CAF). The event held on the eve of the Africa Cup of Nations due to start this month is seen as a key opportunity for the different football federations to meet, schmooze, impress, corral and cajole the Africa delegates for their precious votes. However, Qatar has used practically their own advantage, their deep, deep pockets, and has bought exclusive sponsorship rights for the event. Under this “dubious” agreement, no other federation can be formally seen or heard by CAF executives.

The Times of London also reports that Qatar sponsored the Soccerex in South Africa last September. Yet in this case other football federations were nevertheless allowed to officially send delegations. They could and did, therefore, organise press conferences and distribute promotional material, unlike at the CAF event.

This is a savvy tactic by the Qatari Federation. They must surely be aware that they are rank outsiders in this event. They have neither the history, the pedigree, the climate, the experience or the infrastructure that would favour them in obtaining the hosting rights. They are wise to use their practically unlimited finds to, in any way possible, buy as many votes as possible. This is not to begrudge this tactic or to call it into question. To imagine that other federations do not seek to buy votes in other ways would be woefully naïve.

Qatar’s 2022 World Cup video 8, December 2009

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This beautifully shot video very much highlights the best aspects of Qatar. It couldn’t have been made any better.

Qatar bids for 2022 World Cup 19, March 2009

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Qatar has officially announced that it will bid to host the 2022 World Cup. This is one plinth of a far larger strategy to – essentially – put Qatar on the international map, whilst winning friends and influencing them. Sport is one method that Qatar is using to purse this goal. They have already hosted the 2006 Asian Games, one of Tennis’ WTA Championships, and will host the 2011 Asian Cup football tournament as well as the 2010 World Indoor Athletics Championships. Additionally, no-one watching television in (what seems like) the entire Middle East can have missed adverts for Qatar’s ‘Aspire’ sports academy, which aims to train the next generation of Olympic athletes from the region.