Finding itself on the back foot in the face of overwhelming global outrage for awarding the 2022 Ethics World Cup to Qatar, Fifa reacted with typically monotonous predictability and quickly hit upon a plan to make things even worse. The thorny issue of the tiny Gulf state’s size was raised, with critics pointing out that there was neither enough accommodation nor transport to cope with the hundreds of thousands of football fans who would swarm into the country for such a jamboree. Sniffily pointing out that it’s not how big your state is, but what you do with it that counts, Qatari rulers promptly imported more migrant workers, confiscated their passports, handed out shovels and set them to work.
Enthused by this completely ethical derring-do, Fifa chief Gianni Infantino hit upon the wheeze of increasing the number of finalists from 32 to 48, bringing forward the original plan to do so at the next competition and giving fans of assorted global minnows something vaguely resembling hope. Sadly, just two days after his appointment as Scotland manager, Steve Clarke suffered his first crushing disappointment when Fifa announced it had shelved an expansion plan that was based on the host country sharing matches with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, who all hate their Qatari neighbours, as well as Kuwait and Oman, who get on OK with them but don’t have the necessary infrastructures.
Having lit several joss sticks, strummed his guitar and given a rousing rendition of Kumbaya, Gianni naively argued that sharing matches might help these feuding neighbours to settle their differences because “football makes miracles”. Having spoken to all parties concerned, he has now arrived at the predictable conclusion that, for all his happy-clappy optimism, it will take a lot more than 22 blokes kicking a ball around a field to make bickering states see eye to eye.
“Following a thorough and comprehensive consultation process with the involvement of all the relevant stakeholders, it was concluded that under the current circumstances such a proposal could not be made now,” droned a Fifa statement. “The Fifa World Cup Qatar 2022 will therefore remain as originally planned with 32 teams, and no proposal will be submitted at the next Fifa congress on 5 June.” So, bad news for Fifa, but good news for anyone planning to travel to Qatar in three years’ time. World Cup 2022 might well be the worst ever, but it won’t be anywhere near as bad as it could have been.
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