It was as shocking as it was inevitable.
FIFA President Sepp Blatter stood at a podium in Zurich, Switzerland, and announced to the world that Russia would host the 2018 World Cup, and the tiny Arab nation of Qatar — not the United States — would host the 2022 World Cup. The reaction was swift and predictable. They were the two riskiest candidates. They have serious issues with freedom of the press within their borders. They had far less footballing heritage and ready infrastructure than the other bidding nations. They were also the most oil-rich nations bidding. Clearly, they must have oiled a few palms in the voting delegation to win these bids.
Perhaps they did. Perhaps not. Perhaps some investigative journalist will go digging soon and find out. In the end, it won’t change anything. Russia and Qatar will host World Cups for the same reason that Andre Johnson didn’t get suspended after an on-field fistfight and Cam Newton wasn’t ruled ineligible by the NCAA after his father was caught asking colleges for payment — money. The bottom line is the bottom line. The wide smile on Roman Abramovich’s face should have made that obvious enough.
And really, why should the obviousness of this bother Blatter? He can be as brazen as he wants. Who’s going to stop him? The BBC? Declan Hill? Pikers. Blatter’s power remains fully unchecked, and no journalist, government or monarch on the planet can change that. As Brian Phillips noted in this excellent piece:
Blatter stood behind the podium, panting and gleaming, and opened the envelopes that delivered the World Cup to two oil-rich countries that FIFA’s own inspection team had rated as among the riskiest candidates. “I am a happy president,” he cooed at the end. Why wouldn’t he be? He runs a super-rich, super-secret organization, which exports one astoundingly lucrative product and can afford to shrug off its critics.
Exactly. Blatter and his henchmen can come off as arrogant and unscrupulous all week and twice on Sunday because they have the cash to back it up, and that cash comes directly from us. From our love of football. We enjoy this game too much to stop watching it, and we pay quite a bit for that privilege. That’s where the money comes from. As long as we keep watching this game, FIFA can kick back and play its own games. You wanna host another World Cup, USA? Learn those rules. Morgan Freeman won’t help you here.