The ugly side of football

The ugly side of football

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Hassan al-Thawadi, the head of Qatar's 2022 World Cup organizing committee, has defended the bid.
Hassan al-Thawadi, the head of Qatar's 2022 World Cup organizing committee, has defended the bid.
Photo: AFP

The biggest own goal so far at the World Cup has been scored by football's governing body, Fifa.

In recent months, Fifa has come under increasing pressure over preparations for the 2014 World Cup, the awarding of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar, and allegations of corruption and bribery.

This year's World Cup is being held in Brazil, a football-crazy nation. But while one half of the country celebrated Brazil's opening goal in their first match against Croatia, the other was fighting the police.

Fifa and the Brazilian organising committee had assumed that once the football kicked off, the protesters would stop causing trouble. That has simply not been the case.

Brazil has spent US$14 billion on hosting the World Cup, and people are unhappy.

A Pew Research poll found 61 per cent of Brazilians would have rather seen the money spent elsewhere.

The preparations were also way behind schedule. Some stadiums were not ready on time, and some projects also missed the deadline, including a monorail in Sao Paolo.

Given the huge expenditure, it could be argued that the tournament has failed to benefit the nation as a whole.

Adding to the worry is the fact that Rio de Janeiro is hosting the Olympics in two years' time. If people are this angry now, how angry will they be then?

Fifa, on the other hand, will make a huge profit from World Cup ticket sales and sponsorship deals.

Although Fifa is supposed to be a non-profit organisation, it has more than US$1 billion in "reserves" in its bank account.

Fifa's president, Sepp Blatter, is a controversial figure. He's been accused of being sexist, and has also been slow to introduce technology into football to help referees make good decisions.

But he has remained in charge while other senior Fifa officials, including Jack Warner and Mohamed bin Hammam, have been forced to resign over corruption allegations. These include claims by British newspapers that bribes were paid by Qatar to Fifa officials to persuade them to support the Gulf state's bid to host the 2022 World Cup.

The decision to give Qatar the World Cup has been severely criticised. The country is known for treating its workers very badly, and it is also far too hot during the summer to play football. As a result, there is talk the tournament may be moved to the winter.

The major sponsors of the World Cup have called for an investigation into exactly what happened during the bidding process.

It is a shame that Fifa is casting a dark shadow over the World Cup, which should be a celebration of all things football.

Fifa needs to change. For a start, Blatter should quit. And the focus should shift back to ordinary people and the beautiful game.

This article appeared in the Young Post print edition as
The ugly side of football

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