Rock the Qatar

In the news this week there were a few constant themes that played out: the economy is recovering at a snail's pace, WikiLeaks is still crapping in a lot of people's Corn Flakes, and Qatar (not a skin disease) is hosting the 2022 World Cup.  The only thing that was surprising was the 2022 World Cup announcement.

Qatar, a Muslim nation with a love of soccer (the real football), is a bit of a surprise to anyone who follows these things.  The summers average around 104 degrees, and the country has promised to build open air, air conditioned stadiums.  Oh yeah, and they will be carbon neutral.  A feat that sounds impressive, but may be nothing more than a pipe dream. 

America, in its bid, promised to sell a record five million tickets.  Five million tickets.  To soccer.  In America.


Of course, fans of the Beautiful Game were immediately lamenting the fact that women wouldn't be allowed in the stadiums, and that they wouldn't be able to quaff an overpriced beer.  Neither of those things are serious worries, but extremists have come out of the woodwork stating that Qatar would be replaced with a caliphate and that players would be kidnapped.

Yeah, that could be an issue.

The countries that were bidding for the 2022 World Cup were Australia, Japan, South Korea, the United States, Mexico, Indonesia and Qatar.  If you hear that little song in your head that includes the line "one of these things is not like the others," you are not alone. (Mexico and Indonesia had to cancel their bids.)

Initially, when hearing that Qatar won the bid, I thought, FIFA has gone batshit motherfucking insane.  South Africa makes more sense in hindsight.  Qatar has a population just under two million people.  That's three million less than what the US promised to sell in tickets.  What was FIFA thinking?

Quite simply, beyond the business aspect of it (Qatar has the oil), FIFA wanted the Middle East to host a World Cup.  It's the first Arab nation to do so.  It's not a horrible idea, and it's not an idea without merit, but realistically speaking, how many fans are going to be motivated to travel to a country where extremists are threatening action?  They'll sell tickets, of course, but not as many as the other countries would have ... including South Korea.

2022 is a long way off.  A lot can change in that time.  Qatar could get those stadiums up and functioning, and in twelve years we may be wondering why we were surprised by this move in the first place.  One thing that won't change in that time, though, is the number of fans of the game in America.  FIFA had hopes that America would be a soccer powerhouse and bring new fans to the table.  By naming Qatar as the 2022 host, FIFA has nearly guaranteed that won't happen.

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