Belfast Telegraph

Alan Green: There’s no surprise that cash is king when you’re in Zurich

Those who regularly read this column will, I hope, be aware of my feelings towards Sepp Blatter, Fifa in general and what I thought would be the likely outcome of the bid process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.

Was I surprised? Of course not: indeed, I’m ashamed to admit, I felt a little smug in finding my forecast borne out.

Though I’d liked to have seen another World Cup on home soil — I’m old enough to have vivid memories of 1966 — I have little sympathy for those that were shocked at Thursday’s announcement.

You see, trust me I know, saying England had little or no chance was ridiculously held up as being “unpatriotic”.

On another level, it’s akin to an ‘anti-war’ stance being viewed as ‘anti our soldiers’.

As I watched the television coverage of events as they unfolded in Zurich, I shuddered at the flag-waving and over-optimism that had taken charge of the asylum.

Just because a future king and a Prime Minister were there was no basis to believe the English bid would win.

It was utterly laughable that SkyBet had England 2-1 on and I deeply regret not putting money on a Russia/Qatar double at that stage, unpatriotic or not.

But let’s get to the crux. If you’re of the mind that blames the BBC or the Sunday Times for England’s failure, I pity you for your naiveté.

No doubt, you also believe Blatter when he spouts his usual nonsense about “fair play” and “the Fifa family” and you think Jack Warner is as pure as the driven snow that we’ve been shovelling this last week or so.

No, it was all so predictable: substantially, it IS money that buys a World Cup.

Now I accept there is SOME good reasoning why 2018 went where it did: to a vast country that has never had it before. Arguably, Russia deserves a World Cup and not least for the legacy it’ll create. Let’s not mention, shall we, the bedrock of corruption that its society is built on nor the staunch racism of so many of its football supporters.

It won’t affect me. I haven’t the slightest intention of being there.

But Qatar is the decision that wholly exposes Fifa. It is a joke: a mini-sized (half the size of Wales), oil-rich state where, outside the air-conditioned stadiums, fans will roast as if they’ve descended into Hell: as if Blatter and company care about football supporters.

Qatar says these fabulous state-of-the-art stadiums will be dismantled — they’ll have no use for them — and moved “elsewhere” afterwards.

I don’t suppose any of them will end up in the countries of Fifa executive committee members? Check 2023.

Franz Beckenbauer has already mooted the suggestion that the tournament in 2022 could be moved to January. I’d love Fifa to try that and watch how European club football tells them where to go!

Nearer home, once the Football Association, its bid team and the innumerable hangers-on get over their grief might I suggest they concentrate on sorting out football in this country?

That England wasn’t exactly whiter-than-white was emphasised by the long overdue decision NOT to play that ludicrous fixture in Thailand next June.

And, as I’ve said all along, what you have to do to win the right to host a World Cup makes it not worth hosting.

The country should instead rejoice in not having another huge debt foisted on it: we already have an Olympics that we’ll be paying for many years to come.

Belfast Telegraph


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