Why Qatar And FIFA Will Cheer On Brazil

This is not a great week for FIFA, who must be hoping that the Brazilian team's performances head off the protests in Brazil. And Qatar must hope for the same...

Last Updated: 09/06/14 at 15:53

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On the one hand, there are continued strikes in Sao Paulo and unrest among Brazilians over the sums paid for staging the imminent World Cup; on the other, there are continued strikes by the Sunday Times and unrest among sponsors over the sums Mohamed Bin Hammam paid while Qatar was campaigning to stage the 2022 World Cup. The Qatar organisers state that Bin Hammam had no role in their bid but this is still an unprecedented dual crisis for FIFA. Luckily, they have the steady, experienced hand of Sepp Blatter at the controls.

The two crises are separate, and each would exist without the other, but they are also related. Both are the result of a distrusted decision-making process and we have never seen such concerted opposition, within a host in one case and against a host in the other.

It should be noted that many now critical of the organisation of the 2014 finals were quiet or even supportive when the tournament was awarded to the most successful country in the competition's history, and to a continent that had not staged the event since Argentina 78. While accepting that a repeat of the 1962 Chile tournament was unthinkable, if the World Cup was too big to be staged by a country with the tradition and burgeoning economic power of Brazil, then the World Cup was too big.

Rather than matching the competition to the circumstances, political and economic, of the host country, this World Cup has most obviously gone native to the extent of acquiescence to the labyrinthine politics of Brazilian football. Stadiums have been built with no attention paid to future need and at prices localities cannot easily bear, with life-threatening incompetence. Matches have been allocated regardless of practicalities for competitors or spectators, which is not conducive to one of the justifications for the expenditure: that Brazil, for all its famed attractions, has a low share of global tourism.

It is a truism that the performance of the host team can be key to an enjoyable tournament. South Africa 2010 could cope with an early exit by Bafana Bafana because of low expectations but no such slack is available here. Never mind the importance of exorcising the ghosts of the 1950 defeat to Uruguay, the burden on this Selecao is more immediate than historic: if Luiz Felipe Scolari's side disappoint then the fragile backing for putting differences aside for the national good will vanish.

FIFA will be hoping that football takes centre stage after Thursday's opening game for the hosts against Croatia but, with Visa and Adidas joining Sony in expressing disquiet over the Qatar allegations and more to come, 2022 will not surrender the headlines without a fight.

It remains astonishing that the tournament was awarded to the desert heat in the first place, with complete disregard to the game's traditional calendar and to supporters, and with plans for the wellbeing of players a combination of extremely optimistic thinking and a mirage. Blatter himself has said the decision was a mistake; if the Sunday Times' allegations are untrue, and Qatar denies all wrongdoing, then FIFA's executive committee members are simply incompetent.

Still, Qatar will cling to their hard-won prize; FIFA make plenty of incompetent decisions by which the rest of us have to abide, after all. But there is the possibility in the next few weeks of a perfect storm conspiring against the Gulf state.

If Brazil the team fail in the last 16 - potential opponents include Spain and Holland - then there will be no patriotic block on the demonstrators. FIFA could be left presiding over a tournament beset by protest, their showpiece threatened with a bitter, drawn-out conclusion, but be powerless to address the immediate concerns as the final two weeks stretch out. How to deflect the focus from the crisis of 2014? With decisive action over that of 2022, not waiting for the report into the bidding process that excludes the Sunday Times' allegations and is not due till after the finals.

Qatar have not qualified for this World Cup. But they should be backing their fellow hosts, while neutrals have a novel reason to cheer against the Selecao.

Philip Cornwall

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