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.

FL and UEFA going head to head for the Play Off Final date

Should Bradford City reach the play-off finals next season – and we all hope for more but fear less – then City fans would be advised to get in and out early to avoid the congestion that comes with having two games in the same stadium on the same day.

It seems hard to believe that the League Two final – which City’s site tells us scheduled to take place at Wembley on Saturday 28th May – be played in the afternoon while a trip to UEFA’s website tells us the highlight of European football’s club calendar returns to the London venue for a record sixth time, the first at the new stadium, on Saturday 28 May.

Play off finals tend to be in the afternoon kicking off at three but – after the traditional playing of “Simply The Best” to the team that finishes between 72nd and 75th in the football pyramid – the event does not finish until 17:30 at the earliest and probably somewhat later. The Champions League final would look to kick off at 20:00 with gates open perhaps an hour earlier giving some dervishes about ninety minutes to turn around from one game to another.

Putting aside the lunacy that would see the National Cabbage Patch used twice in one day – the logistics would be impossible surely – it would seem that the stadium is has been promised to two parties on the same say and The Football League are not budging on the play-off date simply to accommodate the Champions League finals switch to a Saturday night.

The Football League are one of Wembley Stadium’s biggest customers staging the three play off finals and the League Cup final at the venue which famously went over budget and one doubts could afford to lose the custom back to Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium. UEFA are not likely to want to move the game they see as the biggest in football to avoid the prospect of a clash with the clash between Aldershot and Burton Albion or whoever ends up at the final.

Wembley would seem to be caught between the prospect of upsetting UEFA – never good when chasing a World Cup 2018 bid – or alienating The Football League and risking the loss of their business.

City fans have sometime to thing about this and – should Taylor’s men excel or flop – it may never be an issue but as it stands it would seem that Wembley Stadium is double booked and either the likes of Real Madrid and Manchester United are going to have to shift for City and Stockport or Stockport and City are going to dig in and tell the giants of European football that we got there first.

Either way the merits of the Football League publishing a list of dates for the forthcoming season when they have an obvious problem with one of those dates is annoying to say the least and any City fan considering booking a holiday for the 29th on the understanding that there is no chance of missing the big game would do well to hold off until one of these two football authorities blinks or the concerns of supporters start to feature in their thoughts.

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