|A case of sour grapes? The FFA’s chairman Frank Lowy has cast doubt over Qatar’s bid [GALLO/GETTY]|
Put up or shut up.
That must be the message to anyone including Football Federation Australia (FFA) chairman Frank Lowy who cast aspersions on how Qatar won the right to host the 2022 Fifa World Cup.
Last Friday marked the one-year anniversary of when soccer’s governing body awarded the 22nd edition of the global showcase to the gulf nation.
Lowy claimed this week that the “last word” had not been heard on the controversial vote that “media all over the world is talking about”, adding ambiguously that he didn’t know “where it will bounce”.
In other words, Lowy has no hard evidence of illegal activity but suspects that something untoward happened behind the scenes as Australia, the United States, Korea Republic and Japan were beaten in the vote by the Arab state.
When someone puts up the gossip of journalists as their strongest suite, you can be almost sure that they have nothing to go on.
Despite hyping up their chances and spending $47 million on their bid, the Aussies were embarrassingly knocked out in the first round, receiving just a single vote compared to 11 for Qatar.
Lowy, a shopping centre billionaire who also holds Israeli citizenship, is viewed as the saviour of Australian soccer after his deep pockets helped the FFA set up the A-League in 2005 and propel the Socceroos to consecutive World Cups.
However, his latest comments amount to little more than sour grapes.
The debate rages on about the merits of awarding Qatar the tournament, with the mid-summer desert heat the biggest concern.
Despite all the grand plans of air-conditioned stadiums, critics say that Qatar will simply be too hot for players, officials and fans alike, with its 50 degrees Celsius temperatures. Expecting to climate-control an entire nation has been compared to shark-proofing the coastline of North America with man-made nets.
The disappointing crowds at the 2011 Asian Cup – reportedly the smallest at the tournament for more than a decade – did little to convince outsiders that Qatar will rival Brazil, Germany and even South Africa for atmosphere.
The fans stayed away even though the Asian Cup was held in January with its comparatively mild temperatures. Granted though, watching Uzbekistan face the Korea Republic doesn’t set the pulse raising like potential World Cup battles between European and South American heavyweights.
For better or for worse, Qatar won the vote on that fateful night in Zurich last December. And unless anyone has any concrete proof of money in unmarked paper bags changing hands or suspicious Qatari deposits into delegates’ bank accounts, we should all respect Fifa’s decision.
|The people of Qatar are looking forward to hosting the world’s biggest football show [GALLO/GETTY]|
With his carefully chosen innuendo, Lowy is little better than Phaedra Almajid, the so-called whistle-blower who last July admitted to fabricating claims of corruption against Qatar because she sought revenge after losing her campaign job.
Aljamid leaked false reports to journalists that African Football Confederation president Issa Hayatou, Ivory Coast Fifa member Jacques Anomua and Nigerian official Amos Adamu were each paid $1.5 million to vote for Qatar.
She later signed a legal affadavit retracting the allegations because her “lies had gone too far”.
Earlier, when Fifa general secretary Jerome Valcke wrote in an e-mail to a Caribbean delegate that Qatar had “bought” the 2022 World Cup, he was referring to bid officials using their financial muscle to drum up support instead of blatant bribes.
No doubt there is a hazy border between forbidden practices and aggressive, expensive lobbying used to win the vote – especially in the crucial month of the 2010 World Cup when the soccer fraternity was gathered in South Africa.
And there’s little chance that Mohamed bin Hammam, the banned former Asian Football Confederation president from Qatar, will reveal any inside information in a desperate bid to regain lost limelight.
Bizarrely, Fifa President Sepp Blatter announced last week an investigation into the process to award the World Cup – to Russia in 2018. He said that Fifa was working with anti-corruption experts and added that it was a mistake to have the vote for the 2018 and 2022 tournaments at the same time because of a potential conflict of interests.
But apart from tame statements that “mistakes were made”, there is about as much chance of Blatter announcing any serious wrongdoing as Lowy admitting that Aussie taxpayers’ money was wasted in the failed bid to bring the World Cup to the great southern land for the first time.
Like it or not, Qatar will become the first Middle Eastern nation to host the World Cup. There can be no turning back now.
The soccer community has made its bed in the summer desert in 2022 so now it must sleep in it, however uncomfortable the hot sand might turn out to be.
* Jason Dasey is an Asia-based international sports broadcaster and host of Football Fever, the world’s first international soccer podcast with an Asia-Pacific perspective. Twitter: JasonDasey
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