Not sure how I got there — sports are not generally my area of interest, nor SB*Nation on my usual reading list — but David Roth’s discussion of Qatar’s preparations to host the 2022 World Cup (of soccer, aka ‘football’ to non-Americans) is most entertaining:
Well, it’s complicated. Just because it’s FIFA and it’s the World Cup and so of course it’s complicated. But a short version I guess would be that FIFA is FIFA, which is to say it’s this sort of smuggo mafia of puffy, predatory globo-elite males in suits, all of them dedicated to extracting some sort of rent from the world’s totally helpless and justified love for soccer. And FIFA being FIFA, it has all these wildly un-transparent internal processes — everything done by design in secret, endless dodgy handshake deals between men whose handshakes are mostly worthless — that seem almost to incent lawlessness.
And so the result of this is that the very fact that the World Cup is awarded in the way that it is, by the people that award it, creates this ambient sense of corruption. It’s just very difficult to imagine this bunch of crooks using the system they built to make a reasonable decision for the right reasons. And this is true even if they make the right decision! Because it’s the bribe-takingest, patronage-swappingest and generally sketchiest organization of its type in the world, it’s basically impossible to assume FIFA picked Qatar to host the World Cup in 2022 because of how good Qatar’s bid was. There is no reason to assume that this organization is awarding World Cup bids, or doing anything else, for anything like the right reasons…
I was speaking to James Dorsey, a Moroccan-born writer on soccer in the Middle East and professor at Singapore’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies. He is an old hand in the Gulf, and first visited Doha less than a decade after independence… I was trying to answer a question he’d asked, and had admittedly run long in my answer. He shook his head: no. “That’s how Qatar got the World Cup,” he said. “I asked why Qatar got it.”…
“Every bidder does a cost/benefit analysis,” Dorsey said. “Australia puts a dollar figure on that: $45 million, that’s what it’s willing to gamble in hopes that it wins the bid. Could they put $200 million on the table? Of course they could. It wasn’t worth it to them. But if you’re doing this as a key pillar of your defense and security, your cost/benefit is very different. It’s worth that much more.”
Qatar would, of course, also have to spend that much more to make it work. There were three large-ish stadiums to be expanded to World Cup standards, and nine new stadiums that needed building. All of this would happen in a nation roughly the size of Connecticut, and which is for the most part frankly uninhabitable. Leaving aside the question of whether or not a World Cup should be held in a small desert country that does not yet have a full slate of sidewalks in its capital city or a handle on how to enforce its own labor laws, it seems more or less reasonable that it would cost $220 billion to stage it there…
To have the World Cup in Qatar is to have the World Cup in very close quarters, which is not necessarily bad — fans could indeed see two or three games in a day, and could conceivably swipe their Qatar MetroCard to see those games without so much as getting into a car. In the video, Pep Guardiola smilingly makes this very point. Granted, this would involve taking a Metro that does not yet exist to stadiums that do not yet exist, and then watching two teams play in a microclimate made bearable by world-changing technology that also does not yet exist. But a salesman is got to dream, and also, crass as it may seem, if such an implausible multi-layered miracle can be bought, Qatar would be one of the nations that both could and would buy it.
But, again, with all the things in this world on which to spend money — Damien Hirst installations are just the beginning — and with the dismal track records of such expenditures paying off for the nations that spend on this sort of thing, given all that: why so much, and why on this?
The answer is complicated, and certainly more complicated than Because The Emir Wanted It. Of all the risible sentences in Ball’s retracted opus, the one that came to seem the most ridiculous after talking with people working for the World Cup bid — call it Q22 if you really want to sound like you know what’s up — and familiar with Qatar was this: “at the swish of the emir’s gold pen, new laws come into effect.” Bizarre huzzah-for-authoritarianism tone to the side, this is not really correct. It’s confusing a country without democracy for a country without politics. Qatar has only the barest cosmetic modicum of the former, and a suffocatingly large amount of the latter….
This is actually a chunk from the fourth of five parts, and it’s all worth reading.
IT SHOULD HAVE BEEN OURS RAWWWRRRR ARGLE BARGLE.
For sheer entertainment value the international corruption of Formula 1 racing beats out FIFA hands down. Google “Max Mosley” sometime.
“More workers will die building World Cup infrastructure than players will take to the field,” predicts Sharan Burrow, general secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation.
And all so that the absolute monarch of Qatar can have his ego stroked.
@Cacti: Heh. And no one will notice or care unless chemical weapons are used.
GHayduke (formerly lojasmo)
I don’t like it…not one bit.
I also appreciated his think-piece on Panama.
Qatar hired Lyle Lanley to spearhead the presentation to FIFA.
@Robert Sneddon: Then of course there’s the IOC. I’d say that’s a snake pit, except that I’m pretty sure that would be insulting to vipers and cobras.
Haven’t followed Formula 1 for many years, but used to be a big fan. Back in the day, went to Sebring every year (and I go back far enough to remember when the Chapparal won. Sometime in the late ’60s, IIRC.)
maximiliano furtive, formerly known as dr. bloor
On the Holy Fucking Corruption, Batman spectrum, Repbulicans < FIFA < IOC.
Appreciate your posting this. (And for the reasons you state, just how did you “g[e]t there”?) I’ve been reading this blog for so long I remember when there was once a FPer solely devoted to posting on “the beautiful game.”
As football is the only sport I follow (and do so with great attention), I’m sadly familiar with the intractable corruption of FIFA and the multitude of problems, ridiculous and horrifying, with Qatar’s winning World Cup bid in 2010 and current labor issues with stadium construction. For my two riyals, the 2022 World Cup will never ultimately be played in Qatar for both geopolitical and climatological reasons.
Also, what is SB Nation? I’m not familiar with it and would appreciate any opinion on its value/quality.
Sepp Blatter makes Pope Benny look modernist and egalitarian by comparison, and makes Jack Abramoff look like an honest man.
David Roth’s story pretty much confirms my impression of Qatar: It’s a Jay Gatsby of a nation. The literary character Jay Gatsby did not come to a good end. I fear that Qatar might not do so either.
SB Nation is a sports-blog conglomerate, consisting of approximately 320 separate blogs, most of which are devoted to a single sport or a single team or school.
The individual blogs vary dramatically in quality of writing and sanity of commenters.
Here’s an example of one of the better ones.
Thanks! As your own interest in sports is much more catholic (small “c”) than mine, I expect it would be a blog much visited and judiciously appraised by you.
Also too, today’s EPL results heralded Arsenal’s overdue descent down the table.
@Cacti: Well, Brazil seems to be giving Qatar a run for their money in terms of construction worker fatalities.
@handsmile: I can’t speak to most of SBNation, but the baseball blogs are all fairly good. Even if you’re not a Giants fan, Grant at http://www.mccoveychronicles.com/ is one of the better writers on sports around.
It’s all nicely poised. The Gunners have a match in hand, tonight against Chelsea. If they win, they’re back on top by two points over Liverpool. If they draw, they’ll be level on points with ‘Pool but second on goal difference. If they lose, they’ll be at 35 points and fourth on goal difference behind Manchester City, while Chelsea go up to 36 points and second on goal difference behind Liverpool.
As is well known around these parts, I am a Duke fan who can sometimes be an asshole about it. As such, I love visiting blogs where Duke rivals gather immediately after they’ve lost to Duke, and soaking up the schadenfreude. The best such place is insidecarolina.com, with the SB Nation blog Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician (I am reliably informed that if you’re a Syracuse fan, that means something to you) second.
I fully expect Arsenal to be back on top at around 2200 GMT tomorrow. What this season is proving, above all else, is that the BPL is the most entertaining sports league on earth.
@handsmile: If I had to guess, I found this either using Billmon as my RSS-twitter feed, or else following Charlie Pierce down the rabbit hole.
There are some writers who I enjoy even when I don’t understand the mechanics of the sports they’re discussing. Mr. Pierce, of course; Roy Blount; Jimmy Breslin, back in the day. May have to add David Roth to that list, now…
I really hope that Randinho will be back with us for the next World Cup, but if not, you fans of the Beautiful Game are just gonna have to nudge me to put up Open Threads at the proper intervals!
The notorious Irish terrorist Seamus Coleman struck again today. I’m sold. I think Everton are for real.
Add Wright Thompson, the American who writes about cricket for espn.com, to your list.
Group of Sports Blogs that I believe was co-founded by Markos (although he no longer is involved with the project)
It’s not just Qatar. I think you could write the same article in Dubai and other Gulf states that are flush with petro-money; many more foreign workers than natives, a lot of opulence. etc.
Also, pretty much every Middle East country (O.K. just Saudi Arabia and Dubai), where I’ve ever known anyone to work the employer keeps your passport until you finish whatever contract you are on.
These employers are all somehow connected to the ruling monarch either as family or well connected friends. Private enterprise as we think of it in the U.S. really does not exist there from what I am told. The businesses and the ruling elite are intertwined.
the dig on the supposed unique American usage of the word “soccer” is really old and tired. Mainly because Australians call the game “soccer.” Their team is called the “Socceroos” for christ sake. Football in Australia is Aussie Rules. And the Japanese use a word borrowed from English to name the game サッカー ”sakkaa” Also, too, Canada and South Africa commonly use soccer to refer to Association Football. So, there are at least 200,000,000 “non-Americans” who commonly refer to the game as soccer. And even the vast unwashed masses who use “football” to refer to the game, know goddamn well what soccer means. In fact, “soccer” is an even more clear term, since it never refers to anything other than Association Football. Unlike the word “football” which has a very ambiguous meaning in many places.
@magurakurin: Take away those 200 million non-America soccer enthusiasts and that leaves six and a half billion football supporters who don’t follow American handegg, sorry “football” where the spheroid is shaped to be thrown by hand and rarely propelled by a foot.
Gaelic rules and Aussie rules footie are more like rugby than soccer but all those sports (Rugby League as well as Union) involve a lot more kicking with the foot than the US “football” game.
Only slightly less astonishing and grossly inappropriate than holding a football World Cup in Quatar is the IOC’s decision to grant winter games in a subtropical city with surrounding mountains lacking the elevation to produce the sort of reliable snowcover or cold air the alpine events depend upon.
[Just returned from dinner – thanks Darkrose, burnspb, Amir Khalid, Anne Laurie, and Ben for your replies.]
Given Arsenal’s recent form against more demanding competition (1-4-1 since defeating Liverpool in early November) and Wenger’s failure ever to beat the Eye-P*ker, I expect them to be in no better than second place after tomorrow’s (for AK, today’s) match against Chelsea. Inasmuch as I despise both Mourinho and Roman Abramovich, that’s not easy to acknowledge.
Two factors, however, could be “feathers on the scale” in favor of the Gunners: playing at the Emirates and Mesut Ozil’s desire to embarrass his former manager. But as burnspb alludes above (#19), this EPL season has been nothing if not unpredictable.
Anne Laurie: If Randinho doesn’t reappear here by next June (I believe he relocated to his beloved Brazil), you can be sure of “nudges” at the very least. Why, emails to John Cole may be deployed! (like that would help)
@handsmile: And it’s also an offshoot of the GOS empire. I’ve been a member of the flagship Oakland A’s fan site. There is a strong component of fandom with passion and decent writing. Sometimes better journalism than ESPN
pseudonymous in nc
FWIW, the word ‘soccer’ was used by the upper-class creators of association football to distinguish it from ‘rugger’. If you step back and look, it’s obviously grounded in English university slang.
On topic: choosing Qatar makes sense as part of FIFA’s grand plan for world conquest, even if it’s logistically ridiculous and the effect on domestic calendars is going to be massive. By then, every major club will be owned by a billionaire oligarch, so it’ll be fitting.
Not really. It’s a geographical thing.
Soccer, Aussie Rules, Union and League are all called football depending on the time and the place.
But soccer is mostly called soccer, Aussie Rules is mostly known as footy, Union as rugger and League as either footy or league.
If it’s not 15 a side, it’s not rugby.
@burnspbesq: Well, apart from seven-a-side rugby…