10 December, 2010

'was' we robbed?

Forgive the Cockney colloquialism. But, last Thursday, December 2, 2010, according to most of the British press, both the USA and the UK ‘was’ robbed, stuffed, insulted, put in our place, humiliated, etc., etc., etc.  It will be long remembered, like the December 7th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbour, as another ‘day of infamy’.  Having apparently been promised more, the England bid to host the 2018 World Cup of Football earned a meagre 2 of 22 votes. Out in the first round! No chance to build on a reasonable platform after the elimination of the candidate country with the fewest votes. Football is not ‘coming home’! Half an hour after FIFA chose Russia to host in 2018, the delegates chose Qatar over the USA to host the 2022 event. A small but exceptionally rich Arab Emirate grabs the limelight from the USA. President Obama said the decision was wrong.

This rejection will leave a deep scar on the English psyche. They can’t bid again to host the World Cup until the 2030 tournament comes up for grabs [or should I say ‘up for bribes’?] In the USA, the rejection is more of a minor irritant.  Most Americans probably didn’t even know that the rest of the world was ‘cocking a snook’ at the sporting aspirations of the two major English-speaking nations. The FIFA Executive’s decisions to award the privilege of hosting the World Cups of 2018 and 2022 to Russia and Qatar, while positive in that neither nation has hosted before, fly in the face of the fundamental principle of sportsmanship – “may the better ‘man’ win”! President Obama said so himself: Qatar did not deserve to win!  For Obama it was Copenhagen all over again. Elements of the British press were more forthright, with the Daily Mirror calling Russia a “mafia state rotten to the core with corruption” and Qatar a “medieval state with no freedom of speech”. Ouch! Very sore losers!

Sore and, quite possibly, unfair losers.  Mike Lee, an Englishman who worked on the successful Qatar bid, said the nation should not blame others. While technically one of the best bids, England fell short because its early bid leader alienated FIFA executives.
England may not be getting the World Cup, but if they ever host a major international basketball tournament, I think Ed Gordon might be a future team member for England.

The underlying message in the British press is ‘corruption’. The probe in Rupert Murdoch’s Sunday Times  and the BBC’s Panorama expose did not impress the ‘dodgy fat cats’ at FIFA control. A bad odour hangs over the Zurich HQ of FIFA, and especially over its head, Sepp Blatter. After all, our Prime Minister, David Cameron of Eton, Oxford and the House of Commons, the soon-to-be Sir David Beckham of Manchester United, Real Madrid, the LA Galaxy, England, and Posh Spice, and Prince William of Wales, soon to be married to the Kate Middleton and  later to be king William V, had devoted endless hours of diplomacy and wheeler-dealing to get the games. What a waste! What a lost opportunity: it would have been a wonderful wedding gift to Wills and Kate! To compound the national misery, three to five FIFA voters even lied to the future king, to ‘golden balls’ Beckham, to our most famous member of the Bullington Dining and Drinking club.  If this were the 19th century we’d send a gunboat or two up the local creek to bang heads together. Sepp Blatter, FIFA President, even had the temerity to rub chilli vinegar into the sore by proclaiming that it was the Chinese who invented the game.  Outrageous! Every English school-child and every member of the ICLC’s SPUK group know the truth. It was the English who developed the rules and exported the game round the world. Talk about kicking a man when he’s down – 2 votes and erased from the history books as the inventor of the world’s most popular sport.

The USA will not feel the shockwaves so intensely.  Some will say: “Soccer! Who needs it when we have thoroughbred, proper, indigenous, home grown American games like football, baseball and basketball.  We’ll disclaim paternity of ice hockey as we understand our frozen friends up north have a better claim. Let the Russians and Qataris have their tournaments; we’ll keep the Super Bowl, the World Series, the final four and the Cortica Jug!” But others will recognise the lost opportunity to dig deeper roots of football in American parks, clubs, schools, universities and professional leagues. The US has the potential to be perennial World Cup champions if their best athletes rejected the siren summons of touchdowns [misnomer], homers and foul shots. American women know this. Why don’t American men follow the female lead?

The biggest surprise is that the Swiss are meant to be impartial. Now we know that this generalisation is only true of the greatest Swiss of all time, Roger Federer. FIFA does need investigation by an outside organisation. It seems odd in the 21st century that a small group of men should have so much power. Such a concentration of power invites corruption. Remember the Salt Lake City scandal. And how did London pip Paris at the post at the last minute to gain the right to host the summer Olympics 2012?

-Bill

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