Behind the curtain of Russia 2018 and Qatar 2022

Part I

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Neil Munns/PA Wire

Stefan Collins, Staff

This summer the British television station, ITV, was supposed to hold the shared broadcasting rights to Euro 2020, along with the BBC. Euro 2020 would have been played all over Europe rather than in a select nation as it is would have been the 60th anniversary of the tournament, with the semi-final and final being played in the greatest stadium outside of the United States, Wembley Stadium in London. The tournament has been postponed to the Summer of 2021. I’m not quite sure why but I’ve been told it’s something to do with a Chinese bat. To console us, ITV decided that in the time slots they would have broadcasted each match, they would take us all back to the magical summer of 1996 and show us the original broadcasted versions of every match of Euro ‘96. Growing up in England as a football (soccer for you Americans) fan, I’d heard all about Euro ’96, and how it was the best summer of everybody’s life. Unless you can remember 1966, there was a heat wave, England hosted the first major tournament in 30 years, people were dancing in the streets singing Three Lions at the top of their lungs “it’s coming home!”, and there was a true sense of national pride, which was never more evident than in the Semi Final against Germany when the entire stadium stood and sang God Save the Queen so loud and passionately that it could be heard all over London. It could only have been better if Paul “Gazza” Gascoigne’s shoe size was half a size bigger, allowing him to deflect Alan Shearer’s cross into the net to score the golden goal in extra time; ripping the German’s hearts out like they did to us six years earlier at Italia ’90 (1990 World Cup). Resulting in captain, Tony Adams walking up the Wembley staircase after the final to shake Queen Elizabeth II’s hand like Bobby Moore had done 30 years prior and lift the Henri Delaunay trophy high in the sky for all to see.

Even though I knew what happened for the most part, I loved every minute of reliving Euro ’96. Seeing two of the best players to ever step onto the pitch in Gazza and Shearer donning the Three Lions. Shearer winning the Golden boot scoring some absolute cracking goals with his deadly right foot. Gazza scoring one of the most majestic goals I have ever had the privilege of witnessing, when he chipped the ball over Scottish defender Colin Hendry’s head and leathered it into the bottom left hand corner of the net on a volley. Followed by his legendary celebration which made the media eat their words after calling for his head when he was spotted in a bar lying in a dentist chair having tequila poured into his mouth. He did this by doing the same thing by lying on the lush green turf of Wembley and having Shearer and co squirt bottles of lucozade into his mouth. Another highlight was Stuart Pearce, feeding off the energy from the mad house at the old Wembley stadium, punching the air, screaming, and living up to his nickname “psycho” when he buried his penalty into the back of net against Spain. Sweet redemption after his penalty was infamously saved at England’s last major penalty-shootout at Italia ‘90. Best of all was when we thrashed one of the tournament favorites, Holland and listening to Jonathan Pearce’s commentary when Teddy Sheringham scored England’s fourth goal. “Euro ’96 watch out because the bell is tolling for you, England are coming! Thirty years of hurt has never stopped us dreaming! Jules Remit’s still gleaming, and Football’s coming home!” It was enough to bring a tear to my eye for nostalgia of a time that I never got to experience first-hand.

After it was over, I had the feeling that the Summer of love part three had been taken from us. The next World Cup should be in a country that has world class stadiums in almost every major city, acceptable weather conditions, and no discriminatory laws in place. Somewhere like, I don’t know, England maybe? Instead the Summer World Cup of 2022 is being played in a country that doesn’t have any of these things, Qatar… in the winter.

Qatar is quite possibly the worst place in the world to play host to such a diverse group of people of different nationalities, sexes, religions, and cultures. Towards the end of 2010 the voting process for which nations would hold the World Cup in both 2018 and 2022 was in full swing. Ending on December 2nd with Russia winning over England for 2018 and Qatar winning over the U.S.A. for 2022 You would think that the countries that forbid Alcohol from being sold and consumed, still views females as property of their husband or father that must be covered up at all times, doesn’t have any stadiums, has never had a team qualify for the World Cup before, and has an unbearable summer average temperature of 41.5 degrees Celsius (or 106.7 Fahrenheit if you don’t use metric) would be the last nation they would want hosting the biggest tournament in the world. You would be mistaken. Sepp Blatter, The former dictator of the corrupt organization that is FIFA, along with his gang of merry men that happily took from the rich and kept for themselves, decided Qatar would be a magnificent place to play host to 30 plus international football teams and their fans. I would love to tell you all how much I despise this man and the company that he represented for 17 years, but it would involve language that would be considered vastly inappropriate.

In the decade since the 2010 bidding process, it has recently come to light that Blatter and other members of the board of FIFA have taken millions of dollars’ worth of bribes to award the rights to host the competition in Russia in 2018 and Qatar in 2022. In regards to Russia, Sky Sports confirmed in an article from April 2020 that “Jack Warner of Trinidad and Tobago, who was president of the North and Central American and Caribbean governing body CONCACAF, received $5 million in bribes to vote for Russia’s hosting of the 2018 World Cup.” Along with “Guatemala federation president Rafael Salguero was also promised a  $1 million dollar bribe to vote for Russia, according to the indictment, an updated third draft of charges in the matter, which alleges 53 counts of illegal behavior in total… FIFA says it will seek further information from the United States Department of Justice regarding the allegations.”

These despicable breeches of the company’s code of ethics resulted in Russia hosting the tournament in the Summer of 2018. I will admit that Russia did a good job of hosting the competition, even if they didn’t win the bid morally. There are plenty of worse places for the World Cup to be played than post cold war Russia, a nation which played host to the 2008 European cup final (The first to feature two English teams). However, the same can-not be said about Qatar. There is no way that any Arab nation is fit to play host, whether the voting process was fixed or not.

The FBI are still looking to find concrete evidence that Qatar bribed FIFA officials in the same way that Russia did. Without conclusive proof, it seems unlikely that the hosting rights will be stripped from them, but it doesn’t take a genius to see why some are cynical. Even Blatter, who I mentioned earlier in an uncomplimentary manner, openly announced to the German publication Bild that “The 2022 World cup should be stripped from Qatar and given to the U.S. instead.” (According to a report in “The National”) This suggests that there might be something on his conscience about what happened in 2010. Of course, his conscience isn’t being bothered to the extent where he will openly admit that England should have been the host nation in 2018 and would be the best place to have it in 2022, since he has a strong hatred towards the F.A. and England for no good reason. The U.S. are now co-hosting the 2026 World Cup so that is no longer an option, but its predecessor that is to be played four years prior should still be hosted elsewhere.

Please keep a look out for the second and final installment of “Behind the curtain of the World Cup”, which will be published this following Sunday.