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Wed Oct 22 08:25:12 SAST 2014

Qatar bid is heated insanity

Carlos Amato | 25 November, 2010 23:280 Comments
Carlos Amato
Carlos Amato

Carlos Amato: The World Cup voting plot is thickening by the second. Many bookmakers are unwilling to offer odds, struggling to rank the contenders with much confidence in either the 2018 or 2022 hosting races. One thing's for sure: money will talk, in a language of its choosing.

Leaving aside the degree of corruptibility of Fifa's surviving executive committee members, the legitimate commercial potential of each bid should theoretically be the biggest deciding factor. But the commercial interests of Fifa's confederations don't overlap. And cultural factors can leap off the bench in unpredictable ways.

For example, the English media have been portraying the 2018 race as a straight, bad-tempered contest with Russia, but while bickering the Iberian bidders have been timing their kick to perfection.

By cultivating their cultural and linguistic ties with Latin America, Spain and Portugal have secured the backing of the three Conmebol members. They've also won over the Asian bloc, despite being cleared of the charge of vote-trading - and reckon they have at least eight of 22 votes in the bag.

A first-round winner in the 2018 contest is thus all but impossible - you need 12 votes to prevail in the first round. So the crux of winning the war will lie in schmoozing the second-round favour of voters whose first choice drops out.

If the Iberians do shock the two frontrunners for 2018, then Qatar might end up pushing the Australians and Americans harder for the 2022 rights than sanity should allow.

It's frankly ridiculous that various luminaries - notably Alex Ferguson and the national teams of Argentina and Brazil - have been lending credibility to the Qatar bid. A victory for the emirate would make a mockery of the tournament's claims to be the world's greatest sporting event.

The Qataris may have the billions (and the grossly exploited, semi-indentured migrant labour) to build air-conditioned stadiums - but in June the mercury hovers between 45C and 50C outdoors. That's just silly. The best thing to be said about Qatar is that it will be remarkably safe, provided you don't decide to cool off in a public area with a contraband beer.

From the vantage point of South Africa, being sniffy from a distance about unfashionable bidders doesn't feel comfortable. Our bid had to defy a long, irritating siege of ill-informed foreign media coverage. Sensationalist negative reporting about Brazil 2014 has already begun in earnest.

And I haven't set foot in Qatar, so perhaps I have no right to badmouth their credentials. But it seems pretty obvious that a country has to offer more than a dizzying surfeit of petrodollars to win the World Cup hosting rights.

And we can safely ignore all that Fifa self-puffery about healing the world. The World Cup is just a fat party. So give it to the Aussies, or else they'll whine for decades.

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Qatar bid is heated insanity

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