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Qatar ‘may be stripped of World Cup’ 30, May 2011

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Qatar.
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Football’s governing body, FIFA, is currently undergoing a painful and acrimonious bout of self-reflection. In the run up to the FIFA Presidential elections the incumbent, Sepp Blatter, was faced by Qatar’s Mohammed Bin Hammam. However, amid an ever widening corruption scandal, Bin Hammam pulled out of the race leaving Blatter unopposed.

Now Blatter is warning that a re-run of the voting for the 2022 World Cup is possible. Thus far it is impossible to say whether a re-run is likely. For sure, many people in the world of football were not amused that the World Cup went to Qatar, a small country with a tiny population, with scorching summers, with no history of football and whose bid comprehensively outspent all others by a significant degree. Thus far there are plenty of accusations of impropriety and corruption, but none have been proven yet. If any are linked directly to Qatar’s successful bid then a re-draw is certainly on the cards.

Being stripped of the World Cup would be catastrophically embarrassing for Qatar and only marginally less so for FIFA. Also that notion that Blatter were to oversee such a re-run having not being indicted in any way, shape or form is absurd too and will – rightly – leave the Qataris feeling wholly and profoundly bitter.


FIFA have called an emergency press conference for tonight though no-one is sure what it’s about…

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.


On the England World Cup bid and Panorama 29, November 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in UK.
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Tonight on BBC1 there is a Panorama (an investigative show) examining corruption in FIFA, football’s world governing body. This comes in the week before the host for the next two World Cups is to be held. England are hoping to host the 2018 tournament.

The BBC are being pilloried in the UK for the timing of this programme with many fearing that by highlighting examples of corruption in FIFA England will be punished when the voting comes.

I am ordinarily the sternest defender of the BBC. I think that it’s a wonderful service and one of the best things about the UK. However on this occasion, I just can’t understand what they are doing. Surely this is guarantees to cost England votes when there is already stiff competition?

The fact that there is corruption in FIFA is up there with journalistic scoops like “Pope is a Catholic” and “Gaddafi in some absurd announcement”: everyone knows that its a mire of vote-buying and general malfeasance.

What’s worse is that England are due a world cup. Though I’m English and would like to see the WC in England, by any standard measure, England ought to have a very good chance: world class stadia, proven ability to handle such events, a fanaticism for football, guaranteed pay-day for FIFA, well placed for the majority of football fans in the world, being the country that gave the world the game but has not held the tournament since 1966 and so on: England are due and, while I hope I’m wrong, I think that the BBC have just lost England the tournament.

World Cup absentees 5, June 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Random.
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It seems to me that there is an exceedingly large number of top-class players that will miss out of the World Cup either through injury, crazy managerial decisions or because their team didn’t qualify. Just look at the team of the wounded and ignored:

GK: Adler (Germany’s No.1)

D: Ferdinand (England’s captain and best defender)

D: Zanetti (Inter’s treble winning captain and Argie legend disliked by Maradona)

D: Nesta (Italy’s World Cup Winning captain – old but not that old)

M: Ballack (Germany’s captain and a year or two on from being one of the best midfielders in the world [1st Chelsea player to miss out])

M: Essien (Ghana’s captain and undoubtedly one of the best midfielders in the world [2nd Chelsea player to miss out])

M: Cambiasso (Inter’s treble winning rock. Had an amazing season. Ludicrously left out by Maradona)

M: Obi Mikel (Nigeria’s best player and rising star [3rd Chelsea player to miss out])

F: Drogba (Ivory Coast’s best player and one of the top 3 forwards in the world [4th Chelsea player to miss out])

F: Benzema (One of France’s best forwards and Real Madrid’s £30 million man – left out)

F Pato (One of AC Milan’s and Brazil’s best talents – left out)

Bench: Cech, Van Der Sar, Totti, Balotelli, Beckham, Diego, Walcott, Dzeko, Jovetic, Ibrahimovic, Riquelme, Arshavin

I’d suggest that such a team would give most World Cup teams a good game and would be aiming for at least the quarter finals…

Here’s hoping that the team doesn’t get any better.


The team just got better: Robben’s out too.

Qatar unveils stunning 2022 stadiums 28, April 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Qatar.
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Qatar has unveiled the first 5 stadium designs for its 2022 World Cup bid. The stadia look spectacular and would grace any World Cup. Given Sepp Blatter’s recent comments about how the Arab world ‘deserves a World Cup’ Qatar’s supporters may well be quietly confident.

Assessing Qatar’s chance of being awarded the World Cup is exceedingly difficult. They clearly have the money to overcome any problems. An Arab world World Cup is also a popular idea among influential people at the top of the game. Qatar have played a shrewd game so far seeking to sew up votes in important voting confederation. They have attracted very popular Ambassadors such as Frank De Boer and notably Pep Guardiola, Bareclona’s legendary player and manager.

Yet, conversely, there are crushingly serious issues to overcome. Specifically, the World Cup must be held in July, a bakingly hot and muggy time of the year in Qatar. Yes, Qatar can and will throw money at this by seeking to air condition stadia or some such solution, but then run seriously afoul of green issues by – essentially – pumping out cold air into the desert. Also, Qatar’s profound lack of suitable stadia or practice pitches (64 of them, which all need to be air-conditioned) at the moment will worry judges: plans are one thing, concrete, completed, spectacular stadia another. Moreover, there are some exceedingly strong bids from countries such as England, Russia, Spain and Portugal and America.

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Qatar to buy Manchester United? 18, January 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Qatar, UK.
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There are a few reports doing the rounds suggesting that a group of Qataris may be about to launch a £1.2bn bid for Manchester United, the richest and most successful British football club of the past decade. Whilst rumours such as these always swirl around there is clear logic and pedigree behind this potential move.

  • Qatar likes top brands. Investors from Qatar have already taken stakes in many of the bluest of Europe’s blue chip companies. From Volkswagen/Porsche to EADS to Barclays, Qataris like a top-class brand name.
  • Qataris have the money. Qatar is an incredibly rich little country. Less that a quarter of a million nationals sit atop the third largest gas reserves in the world and the 13th largest oil reserves.
  • Qatar 2022. Qatar is hoping to attract the World Cup to the small Peninsula in 2022 but face exceedingly tough competition from countries like England. To boost their chances so far they have used their practically unlimited budget to guarantee exclusivity at the Confederation of African Football and paid millions for England to play Brazil in Doha last November. In this light, therefore, the acquisition of Manchester United, one of the largest clubs in the world, would yet further place Qatar on the footballing map.
  • Qatar wants returns. Despite being seen by some as a ‘buyer of Western baubles’ Qatar invests in Western companies/businesses for returns. Manchester United, despite the huge debts foisted on them by the Glazers are intrinsically an exceedingly profitable club and as such would represent a good financial decision, especially considering the Qataris probably would not need to finance the deal with as much debt.

Qatar’s 2022 World Cup video 8, December 2009

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

Algerian players injured after arriving in Cairo 13, November 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Egypt, North Africa.
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Algeria’s football team arrived in Cairo to play their crucial World Cup qualifier only to have their bus assaulted with stones. Four players were injured and one had to be taken to hospital. In a PR exercise worthy of Iraq’s Comical Ali, a police spokesperson said that none of the Algerian players had been injured.

There is hugely bad blood between the two football rivals stemming mostly from the infamous 1989 encounter which Egypt won 1-0. After the game there was widespread rioting and a former Algerian footballer blinded Egypt’s team doctor in an assault. Charming.

Update: Via MEI and Sandmonkey, I’ve got a fre updates on all the shenenegans that have been going on:

  • There is a football tradition of killing owls in order to jinx your opposing team. It has been relayed to me that an Owl holocaust was started last week and is continuing until this very moment.
  • Tamer from the popular TV show el beit beitak went on TV a couple of days ago and informed the egyptian audiences of the Hotel the algerian team will be staying in, and urging the egyptian people to “go there and hang out” until the day of the game.
  • Algerian municipality workers have stopped the paperwork for an algerian girl getting married to an egyptian guy, telling her that she can come back for it after saturday’s game.
  • Egyptians dying for a ticket to the Game attacked all ticket selling centers in droves today. The Elite Heliopolis Sporting club managed to secure a couple of thosunad tickets to sell to its members, only to have word of this reaching the egyptian population and having hundreds of egyptians storm into the private club to get their hands on tickets. 40 police cars were called to secure the facility.