How Bradford City lost the first game of the Qatar World Cup

Milla!

My worry for the World Cup in Qatar is that should – in 2022 – I carry on my personal tradition of taking the four weeks off work to watch the competition I might end up watching some really poor football matches.

Which is not to say I am not sympathetic to the problems of human rights – I am – or annoyed by the politics of FIFA – they annoy me – but the problems of football have always been weighed against the the enjoyment of football.

FIFA might be considered by many a bunch of crooks but watching Germany rip into Brazil was amazing as was watching Cameroon beat Argentina in 1990.

Cameroon beating Argentina might be the biggest shock result in World Cup history. For Cameroon everything went right and for Argentina – World Champions on the day – very little did.

Upset

All of which echo’s Phil Parkinson’s words after City lost 3-0 to Reading in the FA Cup this week.

In the days after the game Parkinson said “To achieve a cup upset, which ultimately we would have to do again (to beat Reading), you need everything to go in your way. A lot of things went in Reading’s favour, from completely resting their team on the Saturday, having a home fixture, being able to play their strongest side and then getting off to a terrific start.”

Parkinson has balanced his commitment to Bradford City with his love for Reading well this week but – perhaps – this is where the manager is a little selfish. Once the Berkshire press and national had taken the microphone away Parky concluded: “They got lucky, we could not even put up a fight.”

Which was not what the BBC wanted to hear and probably not what the Reading newspapers – who quickly announced that The Royals were in a cup final before adding a “semi” for good measure – were keen on hearing but it seemed to be the most honest assessment of the situation I had read.

Back to the future

The Qatar World Cup will be played in December rather than June or July which will cause all manner of problems for the Premier League but at least will allow football to be played. In December the temperature of Doha drops to twenty-six degrees rather than the upper thirties of June.

The logic is simple. Football cannot be played in in June in Qatar. It is too hot and while some players could have struggled to have a game the chances of good games were probably reduced. Even FIFA – an organisation who seem to have very little interest in actual football compared to organisation of football – could see that it faced a global humiliation of a month of watching teams West Germany/Austria through games.

The prospect of games were teams were concerned with saving energy, or just trying to get through games, because of the heat seems to have loomed large and the tournament was moved.

Even FIFA understand that to host a good football competition you have to give the teams a chance to play good football.

“Come Monday night we turn the telly off”

The Reading vs Bradford City game had been put on Monday night because of various TV deals between the FA and UEFA about showing Champions League matches.

Playing the third long away games in six days Bradford City were shoved onto BBC One for a live no-contest. Four minutes into the game it was obvious that City were not just going to lose that match but that they had been incapable of competing in a game.

The players were not able to play a competitive match.

And this is not to do with a level of fitness – City were not less fit than Reading – it is to do with understanding multi-polar handicaps.

City were not more able to play a third game in six days than England or Scotland would be able to play in the June heat of Qatar unless – of course – England were playing Scotland in which case both teams would be suffering the same handicap.

Reading knew that and that is why the gave their team six days off. To extend the point the game on Monday night was like a World Cup game in Qatar were City playing in June while Reading were in December.

Which is why the overwhelming feeling for me and seemingly for Phil Parkinson too from Monday is not that City got knocked out of the FA Cup – although that happened – but that City never got a chance to try progress. That The FA did what was best for the TV Deals they struck, and best for UEFA and their TV deals, but not what was best for teams wanting to play a good football match or fans wanting to watch a football match.

Which considering the FA’s stance on FIFA moving the World Cup leads one to conclude that the FA are less interested in allowing teams to play football than they should be.

Cherishing the racism and bigotry of football

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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