I was driving through the Welsh countryside when the news broke detailing the host nations for the 2018 and 2022 World Cup finals. Millions waited in nervous anticipation, as years of planning, investing and campaigning culminated in a single word on a piece of paper.
Before the FIFA president announced who would be staging the former event however, he offered confirmation that the word ‘England’ would not appear from inside the envelope. In what was a strange pre-announcement speech (even for Mr Blatter) he referred to England as the ‘homeland’ of football. I did not require video footage to interpret this rare show of placation, the clarity of which was in stark contrast to my car’s radio Togel Online reception. The World Cup was definitely not ‘going home’.
The suitability as a venue and the strength of the English bid was never in question, yet ironically such pedigree would prove their undoing. Had it not been for 1966, England fans might be reflecting on ‘eighty years of hurt’, but the country would have also been in a stronger position to host the 2018 event. I was genuinely pleased to hear the decision to take the tournament to Russia for the first time – after all, would you rather go to Plymouth or St Petersburg?
Blatter reiterated the importance of ‘growing the game’, and taking it to new frontiers. Finding new hosts and spreading the competition across the continents seems a sensible way of doing this. Russia therefore appear to be the ideal candidate. Sprawling across Asia with a notable presence in Europe and one eye on the Americas, the Russian Federation is impossible to overlook.
What surprised me however was the lack of response to Qatar being named hosts of 2022. Save for the Australians, few would question the choice of continent, particularly given FIFA’s expansive and rotational agenda – seven of the ten most populous countries in the world are in Asia – but as a nation of 1.6 million people, with a landmass half the size that of Wales, how exactly will the 148th biggest country in the world grow the game? Cynics may point out that in global terms, Moscow has more millionaires than any other city, and Qatar has the highest GDP per capita – yet we are led to believe these were not chiefly economic or political decisions, but …