Thursday 2nd December, 2010

Cherishing the racism and bigotry of football

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No one in England was going to be happy when it turned out that only two of the twenty two votes needed to bring the World Cup to these shores went to the nation and the accusations of corruption in FIFA and a broken bidding process quickly followed.

England’s bidding team congratulated Russia and Qatar – the host for 2018 and 2022 respectively – but went away cursing the system of handbags and kickbacks the exposure of which seemed to critically hole the attempt to bring the World Cup to the country. It is hard to imagine what more England could have put into a bid and near impossible to excuse every one of the twenty non-voting officials from looking at the facts of the English case and the propositions of others and veering towards the prospective.

So Davids Beckham and Cameron are united in disappointment, and once again Football steadfastly refuses to come home.

But where is it going? And what does the destination say about FIFA?

That Russian society has problems – regarded as a Mafia State Wikileaks tells us – is not a disqualification but the message sent to the supporters who made this farewell for Peter Odemwingie is a curious one.

What commitment to ridding racism from football is there in giving the crown jewel of the World game to such supporters. Will FIFA be left longing for the sound of the Vuvuzela if only to mask the monkey noises and jeering of black players which is heard in Russian stadiums? Indeed the final two in the voting were Russia and the joint Spanish and Portuguese bid with everyone but goldfish recalling the treatment Ashley Cole and other England players received when playing Spain four years ago.

FIFA talks fair play and ridding the game of racism but today’s decision shows that to be just that – talk – and asks questions which will go unanswered.

More serious questions though come from Qatar. A state which puts a five year jail sentence for homosexual men, that legally values a woman’s life as half that of a man’s, that still has on the books of law that converting from the state region is an offence punishable by death.

For FIFA award a World Cup to a country that enshrines intolerance in its laws turns the stomach. FIFA must have a powerful believe in the ability of football to rehabilitate both Russia and Qatar or they are prepared to cherish what others find objectionable.

FIFA head honcho Sepp Blatter told the seven bidding parties who went home empty handed to learn that football is as much about losing as it is about winning. Reflecting on the nature of those who have been so richly rewarded today one is forced to ask if a country that respects human rights, a game that is free of racism and the best footballing infrastructure in the world is not good enough to win the right to host the World Cup then what where criteria for selection anyway?

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  1. Charlie Fleming says:

    The Qatar decision is bemusing, logistically it seems a nightmare, I fail to see what the legacy will be and obviously there are the human/political elements as well.

    As for Russia, yes racism is a problem within Russian football at the moment, but the tournament is 8 years away and look at what an experience at the football was like in this country 8 years before Euro ’96? Football is a global game with reach in many countries that have the potential to organise and host a World Cup – we have to accept that.

    1. Michael Wood says:

      It should be noted that Euro 1996 was awarded in 1991 (or perhaps 1992, but certainly not in 1988) and English football in the early 1990s was not a place where racism could exist openly in the way it did with the banner, or the way it did in the Spain/England game.

    2. Andrew Bozhko says:

      “Football is a global game with reach in many countries that have the potential to organise and host a World Cup – we have to accept that.”

      I agree wholeheartedly, Bernie Ecclestone has discovered that over the past decade and to grow a brand you have to reach new people. Blatter wants football to grow (not only develop) and there is an untapped wealth in the Middle East and loads of potential financially to the sport. Look at the area, Bahrain, Abu Dhabi and Dubai, if I had a global event, that is one area I would try and get into. Europe has a dominance in the sport like a lot of major sports, maybe some people think anyone else is not worthwhile in joining our party.

    3. Michael Wood says:

      Some people do think that countries which actively discriminate in law against a group of people should not join “our party” and I have to say I am one of those people. I see no reason why Qatar in 2010 where a man can go to prison for being a practising homosexual should be awarded World Football’s biggest prize any more than South Africa under Apartheid in the 1980s should have been afforded the same honour. Indeed international sport boycotted South Africa for decades because of an inequality in law, but awards the World Cup to Qatar.

      Qatar’s potential to hold a World Cup is not really the subject of debate although it should be noted that Yorkshire has more people and more usable football stadiums and so when talking about potential really the only barrier to qualification is financial. It may be financially sound to award Qatar 2022 but that does not make it ethical. No one knows what FIFAs criteria for hosting a World Cup are but an equality of all people under law would probably be a good place to start.

  2. Chris Newell says:

    Another point about Russia is that it is as big as a continent and has 9 different time zones. As far as I can see both choices are a logistical nightmare.

    On a seperate note I think that the media who are now all so angry that we didn’t win are mainly responsible for their own disapointment. Everybody knew about FIFA and Mr. Blatter before this vote, and incase anybody didn’t the BBC hammered the point home a few nights ago. Yet similarly to the the world cup itself, we were convinced by an over optomistic press that we stood a good chance of winning, when really we never stood a chance at all. In this case whether we deserved it or not.

    At least at the actual world cup we exited in the early stages because we simply weren’t good enough!

  3. David Pendleton says:

    I can understand why Russia has been chosen. Spreading the appeal of football and hopefully with the spotlight of the world on them the problems of the Russian domestic game might begin to be addressed. To be frank England doesn’t really need the World Cup, perhaps Russia does?

    Qatar at first glance is a very odd choice. Perhaps FIFA are looking to the wider region and views Qatar as the safest option to host a World Cup in that region? Again, with the gaze of the world on them Qatar might review some of its more controversial laws?

    If the World Cup was merely a football competition it would make absolute sense to stage it in England, but putting mutterings about underhand vote gathering methods to one side, if football hopes to unite and aid the development of humanity then chossing Russia and Qatar might be very good choices.

  4. David Pendleton says:

    Leeds United have posted on their website that the BBC should be banned from reporting on football in the wake of the Panorama programme.

    What about the Mail on Sunday and The Times who also investigated FIFA? Do Leeds also want them banned or doesn’t that fit with the right wing anti-BBC agenda?

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