There is often a recency bias to our thinking, i.e. Barcelona are the greatest club team ever, or, young people these days are the most useless ever, or, the world has never been more dangerous. Now, these statements might be true but equally so, there are good arguments against. In terms of this World Cup and Qatar’s in 2022, we tend to consider these the most corrupt bids ever but does that stand up to scrutiny?
It’s fair to say that eyebrows were raised in a somewhat quizzical manner when Russia was announced as hosts of the 2018 World Cup. But, as is custom these days, what seems like outrageous news one hour is quickly overtaken by something even more ludicrous the next. And so it came to pass that Qatar was then announced as hosts of the 2022 World Cup. A desert country with no footballing lineage to speak of was to host a summer tournament. Of course, sure, didn’t it make perfect sense? It was close to peak FIFA.
There may have been a time when the awarding of tournaments wasn’t as mired in allegations of corruption and bribery as they are today but this column tends to think that, human nature being what it is, that’s fairly unlikely. So instead of damning ourselves through the prism of present-day FIFA and its myriad shenanigans, let’s take a closer look at a couple of real gems from the past. And maybe even the future.
1934 World Cup – Italy
He may have been a dwarf in terms of stature and intellect but Italian dictator and fascist, Benito Mussolini, knew a propaganda opportunity when he saw one and securing the World Cup for Italy in 1934 was quite the feather in his child-sized hat. We’re not saying that the dice were loaded but Italy’s eventual victory may have been aided by the fact that the reigning champions at the time, Uruguay, refused to participate, likewise the British home nations. Broken limbs, dodgy officiating – these things can happen at any tournament but generally, it’s not the done thing for the leader of the host country to dine with referees in advance of a World Cup semi-final in which his national team are playing.
Italy won’t win it this year but you can get the best outright odds with our top bookmakers listed below:
1978 World Cup – Argentina
Although not technically a fascistic dictatorship, the powers-that-were in Argentina 1978 were a militaristic junta who loved nothing more than ‘disappearing’ undesirables, often times from helicopters and planes as they flew over the sea. Such was the scale of the brutal tactics visited upon their own people, that departing this mortal coil in those circumstances might have been considered merciful. Such malign intentions were freely offered to the Argentine players themselves. Following a ropey enough victory over Hungary in their opening game, one of the players was informed by a military officer that theirs might indeed be the group of death, hint, hint, nudge, nudge. Allegations of amphetamine-fuelled players howling in the changing rooms before and after games as well as a drug test confirming that one of the players was pregnant give some indication of what went down. Oh yeah, Argentina won the thing and Henry Kissinger was happy.
2018 World Cup – Russia
But what about Russia, I hear you ask. It’s fair to say that there are concerns relating to fan safety, as well as freedom of association, all the more so for gay people as Russia under Vladamir Putin is, shall we say, fairly hostile to them. Given Russia’s record on state-sponsored doping in athletics, there are legitimate concerns as to how their team will be ‘prepared’ for the tournament. Suffice it to say, the World Cup encapsulates all that is good and ill in the human condition. For every howl of unadulterated delight that rises from the depths of the soul, there is a calculated enriching of some nefarious purpose, which benefits only the wicked few. It will always be thus.
2022 World Cup – Qatar
Here we must engage the services of our DeLorean of the mind and go back to the future, as it were. What we can say without any recourse to speculation is that the idea of a World Cup in the desert during the summer months is up there with the most stupid of ideas ever concocted by the human mind. Whilst it is true that the tournament is now due to take place in the winter, Qatar won the process on the premise of hosting during the summer months. By far and away the most egregious issue of the whole mess is the treatment of the migrant workers in the country. Even though Qatar is one of the world’s richest countries, it is more than happy to pay a pittance to an army of workers from poorer countries who are bound by employment terms which have been described as modern-day slavery by the International Trade Union Confederation. Labouring in dangerous heat and conditions, many have died and many more are expected to but FIFA is happy that the Qataris are doing all they can to swell their coffers, sorry, look after the labour conditions.