Posted by: Paul | December 3, 2010

World of Hurt

It’s 3pm on Thursday December 2nd, 2010, and I am tense. Very tense. It’s odd, I don’t remember being this anxious before the 2012 Olympic announcement way back in 2005, that last great sporting occasion we were lucky enough to bid for and win. When I pass Stratford on the train as I often do and see all the work happening at the Olympic site, those incredible structures going up piece by piece, I feel a swelling of pride – something special is happening right here. Imagine if we won the right to host the World Cup too. Just imagine.

Perhaps I didn’t feel as nervous in 2005 as I did today because I was convinced we weren’t going to win (Paris was favourite), or because I care less about the Olympics. I’m nervous today because I love football. This is its home, the home of the best league of the best team sport in the world, and it’s where it belongs. We have to win.

But we won’t, of course, and there are two reasons for this. The first reason is the British media. They just can’t leave well enough alone. Despite all the benefits it would bring to this country, we’ve had two organisations determined to wreck everything – the BBC, and the Sunday Times. They just have to go poking their noses in, to spoil things for everyone else.

But they’re absolutely right, of course. Because it’s the second reason which is the important one, the one which means we won’t win, that we can’t win, that we’re never going to win again. The Panorama and Sunday Times investigations have merely shone a spotlight on the reason for it – that FIFA is corrupt, a closed society, an old boys club which looks after its own interests, which has no interest in anything other than the bottom line. If you think today was about football, you’re wrong. It’s about money. Money for FIFA executives, money for the organisation and their interests. This isn’t about football at all – it’s about greed.

The decision to send the 2018 and 2022 tournaments into uncharted waters (Russia and Qatar respectively) has surprised many, but not me. FIFA President Sepp Blatter has an agenda – spread the football gospel across the world, and in the process make as much money for FIFA as possible. It’s why the tournament went to South Africa, and why it has now gone to these two. Qatar in particular is brazen indeed, for where is the new wealth in the world? The Middle East. Where is the least suitable place to play football? The desert. I know, let’s send the World Cup there!

The fallout is happening already, and the contempt shown for the English bid (thanks in part to the investigations) is apparent in the fact that England garnered just two votes, sending us out in the first round of voting. As I said, we were never going to win – but the mass desertion of some support the England bid team had been assured of was a huge two fingers up to us – to the FA, to the Premier League, and to the humble English football fan.

If you haven’t watched it, check out Monday’s Panorama programme while you still can. Andrew Jennings’ show, the follow up to a 2006 investigation, lays bare not just the extent of the bribery and corruption that occurs at the top level of the beautiful game, but the demands FIFA make on nations hosting the World Cup – including changing laws to protect FIFAs interests, including employment law in the host countries. Watch it and drown your sorrows that football is not coming home. Watch it and wonder if we had a lucky escape.

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