Picture the scene. Sunday July 10 2022. The final whistle blows, and the 213-strong crowd inside Qatar’s Lusail Iconic Stadium go wild as Kazakhstan are crowned World Champions, beating Papua New Guinea 8-6 in the final.
“It doesn’t matter that almost every other team boycotted the tournament in protest at the 50c heat. A World Cup is a World Cup,” proclaims the team captain, Sergei Khizhnichenko.
The final is also a personal triumph for Sepp Blatter, after a corruption scandal over his decision to award the 2026 tournament to Alaska.
Sounds absurd? Not really. Unfortunately, even though it’s nine years away, it may now be time to think long and hard about Qatar 2022. This website has long championed Qatar’s victory in winning the rights to stage the 2022 tournament. It was a great victory for both Qatar and the Arab world. Qatar put together the best bid, and won every single round of the voting process. It was done fairly and squarely, and for all the hype, speculation and innuendo, there isn’t a shred of credible evidence to suggest otherwise.
But since then, much has changed. Whichever spin anyone puts on it, this is the reality today: none of the big teams want to play a summer World Cup in Qatar and most would probably boycott it. Even if they didn’t, the top clubs in Europe would not release their players for a summer tournament on medical grounds, and even less so to a winter tournament because of the disruption it would cause to their domestic seasons. And yes, dare we say it, everyone outside the Gulf thinks Qatar bribed FIFA to win the rights.
FIFA is about to announce a plan to move the tournament to the winter – this will almost certainly prompt a legal challenge from the countries that lost out on the bid, including Australia and the USA. In all probability, the 2022 World Cup hosting rights will end up in the courts for several years and have to be rebid.
It is, at best, a complete mess. At worst, a total, utter and complete shambles - none of which is of Qatar’s making or Qatar’s fault. FIFA couldn’t have botched this up more if they tried.
But unfortunately, Qatar is left holding the baby. What should it do? Well, we believe there is one option. The nuclear option: giving back the World Cup. Telling Blatter and his largely disreputable organisation, “thanks, but no thanks.”