There’s a common joke about choking on things “eaten in the dark.” Four years after Qatari officials allegedly “bought” World Cup hosting rights, they now know they can’t bribe the weather.
If I were in Fifa President Sepp Blatter’s circle of friends, I would advise him to stay low for the next couple of weeks. He should not make any TV appearances, should resist the urge to switch the TV on and certainly stay away from social media platforms because football fans around the world are baying for his blood, not to mention league clubs whose seasons will be disrupted by a November-December World Cup as Fifa is planning, as a way to get around Qatar’s blistering heat that would make fans’ and players’ lives miserable if the tournament were to be played in the summer when temperatures soar to 50-plus degrees.
The reason many are angry is because Fifa knew about Qatar’s weather problems beforehand but still granted them hosting rights for the 2022 World Cup. For all the good things Blatter has done for football, too many rushed decisions and poor judgment time and again have certainly dented his legacy.
People now believe Qatar bribed its way to secure the hosting rights and there’s some proof. Mohamed bin Hammam, former President of the Asian Football Confederation and one of Fifa’s 24-member executive committee charged with voting on who would host the finals back in 2010, made secret payments to soccer officials in the run up to the controversial ballot.
Some sources say Hammam, who was banned from football for life in 2012, paid up to $5 million for votes for his country, Qatar’s successful bid. Qatar was also criticized for paying $1.8 million to the Confederation of African Football (CAF) members, some of whom were involved in that round of voting.
So, Qatari officials may continue to bury their heads in the sand but there’s widely held belief that their triumph over United States, Australia, Japan and South Korea, was not fair at all. Fifa’s own probe into the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 tournaments and subsequent official report admitted that Qatar “bought” one vote but went on to say it made no “significant” difference to the final outcome.
It’s revelations like these, along with repeated corruption allegations against Fifa that have led many to call for Blatter’s resignation. Others want Qatar disqualified and the bidding re-opened.
It would be sad to see all the money Qatar has already invested in infrastructure and stadium building go to waste if their hosting rights are revoked but then again, that’s what happens when you cut corners. It will likely not happen though. Qatar will hire the best lawyers money can buy and as for expectations of Blatter stepping aside, don’t hold your breath.
The man has weathered so many storms to let this bother him and in a couple of months, all this noise will have died down and come May 29th, he will beat retired Portuguese footballer Luis Figo, Dutch Football Federation President, Michael van Praag and Fifa Vice President Prince Ali Bin Al-Hussein of Jordan to the Fifa Presidency. It will be Blatter’s fifth term!