Friday, December 3, 2010

Qatar? Are You Kidding Me??

Many of you know I am a big, huge soccer fan. My partner, who played soccer, and I have been to two Women's World Cups, and numerous matches (both professional, and the US Women's team). It was thrilling when we took our godson to Aruba this summer and the Netherlands made it into the finals. We watched the match that got them there with a number of Dutch fans. People all over the island were honking their horns, flying the Dutch flag, generally ecstatic at the Netherlands making it so far. It was a blast.

And so, I was interested to see to whom FIFA was going to award the 2022 World Cup, especially since the US was in the running. Well, FIFA, in their "infinite wisdom," granted to Qatar the 2022 World Cup over the United States. That's right. Qatar. By a vote of 14 - 8, with an all male committee, I might add. Where it is 100 degrees in the afternoon during the summer. Where wearing shorts can get you into trouble. Where Sharia law is the law of the land, particularly in "family matters, inheritance, and certain criminal acts" (though their National Human Rights Committee is working toward equal rights for women. And at least women can drive there, unlike our ally, Saudi Arabia. So there's that.).

Are you freakin' KIDDING me? Qatar is NOT a soccer powerhouse. Hell, it barely has soccer at all! Stadiums? What stadiums? They have to BUILD the damn things first, that's how much of a soccer country Qatar is. This WaPo article makes the understatement of the century:
On the surface, the decision by soccer's international governing body Thursday to award the 2022 World Cup to Qatar - a desert nation smaller than Connecticut with shallow soccer roots and oppressive summer heat - instead of the United States or three other event-tested countries made little sense.

Um, no, not just "on the surface" - below the surface, to anyone with a brain in their head, it makes no sense whatsoever. Oh, but the FIFA people can justify it with some kind of logic, just like choosing Russia over England, the birthplace of "football". Sorry, my head is spinning. Anyway, here's the justification:

But to those close to the process who understand FIFA's complexities and recent mission to forge history, the results of the voting were not unforeseen.

Qatar received the most votes from the executive committee by a wide margin in each of the first three rounds, and when Australia, Japan and South Korea were eliminated, it defeated the United States, 14 to 8, for the right to host the planet's most popular sporting event.

"It's an election, and there are lots of things that go into that," U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati said from Zurich, where, in another surprise, FIFA chose Russia over England and two other European bids to host the 2018 tournament. "It's politics, it's friendships and relationships, it's alliances, it's tactics."

FIFA seemed to regard the United States as the safe choice - the country had set attendance records when it hosted the 1994 World Cup and offered the stadiums, infrastructure and commercial rewards to pull off another successful tournament in 12 years.

But FIFA was also charmed by Qatar's innovative stadium plans, massive financial resources and the promise of promoting harmony in a region fractured by conflict.

[snip] (Click HERE to read the rest.)

They were "charmed" by it? THAT is the new standard for choosing a country with essentially ZERO sports acumen over the United States of America?? They thought the US was the "safe choice"? How about the SANE choice?!

Huh - I wonder just how much "charm" Qatar promised FIFA. I guess they don't expect too many women from abroad to go to the World Cup. Or anyone who enjoys a cold one while at the stadium (hell, I don't even drink, but good grief - it's SOCCER). Or who might want to hold hands with someone who is not yet their lawful spouse. Or any number of other things that are frowned upon there...

Wow. While women in Qatar may fare better than women in other Muslim countries, say, Iran, it is still a conservative country in which women wear the burka, and where most are in arranged marriages (though either party can refuse), and where polygamy is common. Women are allowed to go to (segregated) schools, and can work, but they are not in the upper echelons of society, particularly in the work place.

And so, this is the country FIFA chose over the United States. This tiny desert country with no soccer heritage of which to speak, a conservative Muslim country that is also hot as hell. Oh, yeah - I can see why they were picked over the US - all that "charm."

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