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Sunday, June 12, 2011

Qatar? Really? FIFA awards 2022 World Cup to soccer-poor, oil-rich Qatar

Seattle won't be hosting World Cup matches in 2022. The United States lost out to Qatar in its bid to host the tournament.
Seattle Times staff columnist
Qatar? Really?
Has the FIFA cartel seriously lost all of its soul? Is it only about the dirty oil money? Does it really care about growing the game? Or lining its pockets?
FIFA, world's soccer's governing body, thumbed its nose at the United States' bid on Thursday and awarded the 2022 World Cup to soccer-poor, oil-rich Qatar.
FIFA president Sepp Blatter said his organization wants to spread soccer around the world.
But Qatar? All this announcement does is fuel the already-existing suspicions of collusion that have haunted the entire bid process.
Ever been to Qatar in June or July, the time of year the World Cup will be played?
Neither have I, but the temperatures flirt with 50 and I'm not talking Fahrenheit. Want to know what 50 degrees Celsius feels like? Turn your oven to bake and stick your head in it for about 10 seconds.
Don't worry. It's a dry heat.
Besides, FIFA has been assured that all of the stadiums in Qatar will be air-conditioned.
Air-conditioned? Those stadiums better be refrigerated. They better have the AC cranked to the Frozen Tundra setting.
This decision strictly is a money grab. It's not like Qatar has been growing a domestic league the way the United States has. It's not as if the country is going to become the next soccer power, or build the next great Premiership.
There's not going to be a headline: "Messi Leaves Barca for Doha Oil Kings."
This is a one-and-done country. As of now, it only has three World Cup-ready stadiums, which means it will build nine more in the next 12 years.
"The more and more I think about it, the more the whole Qatar thing is perplexing," Sounders defender Taylor Graham said. "I'm disappointed. This is risky. It's definitely a huge risk. They (FIFA) are going for the home run."
Around the U.S., including Seattle, there were surprised gasps (when the announcement was made) from people gathered at restaurants and stadiums in the early morning hours, believing they were coming to a celebration. Seattle was expected to host several of the 2022 World Cup matches.
Sure, we know the United States' presentation wasn't perfect. So what?
Apparently a couple of pages of actor Morgan Freeman's speech were stuck together and he lost his place. And former President Bill Clinton talked a little too much about, well, Bill Clinton.
None of that should have mattered.
Unlike Qatar, all of the 18 proposed stadiums in the U.S. already are built and functioning. Parking, transportation, housing all are in place.
And no country does big better than the United States.
The U.S. knows how to sell, sell, sell. Sponsorships, parties, merchandising, ticketing, media rights, all of that is in the USA's wheelhouse. The World Cup? Think monthlong Super Bowl.
Sounders coach Sigi Schmid had just left the Musee d'Orsay in Paris on Thursday when he heard the news.
"It was a feeling of great disappointment," Schmid said.
The U.S. has earned the right to host another World Cup. The game is growing here. Major League Soccer is expanding even more rapidly than its most optimistic projections. The quality of play already is at the level of the Belgium's Jupiler League, and close to the Dutch first division.
Soccer academies connected to MLS teams are developing more players, more rapidly. The youth system is thriving, and more American players are earning jobs in Europe.
In another 12 years the American team could be a legitimate World Cup championship threat, and having the 2022 World Cup in the U. S. would have been a fitting way for the world's soccer community to celebrate the emergence of the sport in another corner of the globe.
"Soccer in this country right now, I think we're in our adolescence," Schmid said from Paris. "We've gone through our infant stage and we need to grow into young adulthood and then become an adult. And, for sure, we're making strides in that direction.
"I think by 2022 we'll be in adulthood, for sure. We're a serious player in the world. I think we're a country that is constantly growing in our soccer abilities and in our capabilities of having more players go overseas. Our league is improving and building its fan base."
Hosting the World Cup would have accelerated the growth of the game in the United States. It could have been another big event for Seattle to celebrate.
Instead the games are going to Qatar.
Steve Kelley: 206-464-2176 or