SHAMBOLIC, calamitous, stupid, diabolical, ridiculous, blinkered, crooked – pick any of these words and they just about sum up the organization of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
A ball has not even been kicked yet in the tournament, which still has another World Cup to go before it, but the drama which has surrounded it is greater than any of the previous competitions combined. Even Colombia pulling out of hosting the 1986 edition comes nowhere near to trumping this one in terms of a gobsmacking narrative.
As expected, a proposal is being put forward by FIFA which means the competition is going to take place in November and December 2022. It will be a winter World Cup for the first time, although really South Africa’s tournament in 2010 was a winter one too as it was their winter at the time.
The big problem and difference this time is the Qatari bid was always sold as a summer tournament. But even from the outset, this seemed like a very hopeful dream and most smelt a rat. The stench became even bigger when Sepp Blatter opened the envelope and pulled out a piece of card with the word Qatar written on it. Was it really going to be in the summer when temperatures hit 40 Celsius and more? Had FIFA just followed the money and disregarded everything else.
Up until recently both FIFA and the Qatari organisers have maintained the summer plans were on. This has made their u-turn even more embarrassing and shows neither have a clue what is happening.
Even before the FIFA taskforce made their announcement yesterday, plenty of opposition had been voiced to a tournament being right in the middle of most domestic seasons across the world. The loudest and most powerful of these coming from the European Club Association, who last year said a competition in May 2022 would be workable. The domestic leagues could finish early to accommodate the start date and temperatures would be similar to those experienced by players and fans at previous World Cups in the USA and Brazil. On the latter point, it had been done before, so it can be done again.
FIFA have disregarded this though and now all seems set for the November/December World Cup. Leagues around the globe will be heavily disrupted, qualifying rounds for future continental football championships like Euro 2024 will be major rearranging to fit around the dates and even future tournaments like the 2023 African Cup of Nations will need to be moved. It is like using a tank to drive down the road and pick up your bread and milk.
There will still be massive opposition to the plan, but what can teams set to take part do?
Well, here is one thing. Boycott the competition.
The biggest problem is FIFA have made their mind up and as long as the major commercial partners supplying them money, with many believing the Qatari organising committee are on that list, then they will just do what they want. Should we listen to the masses? No, why do that. They are not important.
You can argue all day long to their officials about why the May start date is the only creditable option to them and it would not matter. The FIFA auctioneer has been given his best bid from the crowd and the hammer has fallen. Sale closed.
If the competitors want to force a seismic change of attitude, then they have to do something drastic. So this is why a boycott would work.
FIFA may not be worried financially, but what good is a tournament without teams to compete? It would be the cherry on top of the farcical cake which has been half baked by FIFA. But this would also be a cherry made out of a ton of lead, so it would crush the cake altogether.
Imagine if a boycott happened? Sure not every country would pull out, but if the big nations who will be most effected dropped out, then who would back the tournament financially, let alone watch it? It could be Qatar’s best hope of winning the tournament if they are left with sides like, no offence, Mongolia, Haiti and North Korea to play in the final.
The message would be clear to FIFA and even though they very often do things which most right thinking people cannot explain, even ignoring this would be jaw dropping.
There are some points being raised about positives which could come from the tournament being staged in November and December. Player fatigue would not be so bad going into the competition and the players will be fresh and on form with the first four months of the season behind them.
But these are mute points. Having it in the summer as it has always been makes it an even playing field in terms of fatigue. Everyone barring players from a few leagues such as those in Scandinavia will have just been through a long season and showing how fit your players still are is an aspect which must be taken in when trying to win the cup. Also the on form argument may have some merit, but surely the second half of the season, the best part, would be tainted by tired legs from tournament football.
It is about FIFA were given a big shake to stop them sleepwalking into yet another terrible move and desperate times call for desperate measures.
Credit all authors of images used in both article and as cover image : George Thorpe