Welcome to Qatar, World Cup Host of 2022

December 9, 2010
 

 

Warning: The following story is one of satire. As an American and soccer/football enthusiast I reserve the right to make fun of other sovereign nations that outbid my country financially for the World Cup 2022. Who would have thought that a desert land with the third-highest GDP in the world would be able to line the FIFA gods’ coffers more than my own American colleagues? How dare such a tiny country win out against the solid money-machines of the United States, Australia, and Japan.

Qatar will host the World Cup in 2022 after extensively paying off FIFA executives more than the United States.

 

 

Qatar, host of the 2022 World Cup:

A pamphlet for soccer fans from the United States

Welcome to Qatar, a peninsular land of vast oil and natural gas reserves. We are roughly the same size as Connecticut, and we have the same population as Phoenix, Arizona. We have never had a World Cup team, but were are surrounded by Middle Eastern countries that have made it to the first or second round—Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Iran, and Iraq. We also had our Under 20 Football Team earn second place in the FIFA World Youth Championship! We love soccer—it’s our favorite sport, just ahead of cricket.

Visitors will find our landscapes breathtaking, if only because the temperature sucks the moisture right out of your lungs. We tried to secure a spot as host of the 2016 World Cup, but lost because we thought it would be best to have the entire South American and European leagues change their schedules in order to play in our “autumn” month of October. But in 2022, we plan on hosting the tournament during our hottest months of June and July, which have average highs of 106 and 114, respectively. Never mind that the heat reflecting off of the sand can reach above 130 (F) degrees! To combat this we will build state-of-the-art stadiums that cool the venues to a respectable 81 (F) degrees. How will we do this? We are investing in billions of dollars in photovoltaic energy that will cool large tanks of water that air will circulate around. Cool air will flood the field and down the backs of the upper decks of each venue. Never mind that stadium architect Jack Boyle says that the design wasn’t “economically viable” for Phoenix, Arizona. Money is no worry! We don’t mind waste, after all, as exemplified that we are the No. 1 country in emissions and CO2 output per capita in the world, just ahead of the United States.

We recognize that our airport only hosted three million passengers a decade ago, compared to 23.3 million at Dulles International Airport on the eastern seaboard of the U.S.—that’s why we’re building a new airport! We started building it so we could win the 2016 Olympics bid, which we lost. We also started building a new city from scratch so we could be a stronger force for bidding for the Olympics and World Cup. We call it Lusail City. We even started building a new stadium before people started to live there! It’s called the Lusail Iconic Stadium, which has a capacity for over 86,000 fans—more than the people that lived in Lusail City until just recently. Isn’t that interesting? The stadium has already served us well after we bought earned the right to host the 2006 Asian Games.

We are on the move, especially after a successful political coup in 1995. We are progressive, even though most people around the Western world don’t think so. For example, we now allow women to drive! We’re also culturally diverse: the majority of people here are not Qatari, instead they are our laborers and servants. We have a really neat system of modern-day slavery called kafeel; but you’ll hear us call it “sponsorship.” We bring over poor, migrant workers from India, the Philippines, Nepal, China, and Africa, and we don’t allow them to change jobs or leave the country without our permission. But do not worry—our rate of sex trafficking and violent crimes against the poor won’t be as showcased as South Africa’s sex trade and murder rate prior to their World Cup debut. We have considered abolishing this slave sponsorship system like our neighbors of Kuwait and Bahrain, but we simply need this labor system in order to continue our quest to host every major sporting event in the world. We’re going to host the 2011 AFC Asian Cup finals and the 2011 Asian Indoor Games. We already used these laborers to prepare for the 15th Asian Games of 2006 and the 3rd West Asian Games in 2005.

And have no fear, you American, Russian, and European hooligans with a taste for alcohol. We actually serve beer and liquor! Drinks and cocktails are available exclusively in our upscale bars and private clubs for a handsome sum. Beware, though, Sharia Law prohibits you from being drunk or having any alcohol outside these establishments. For this reason, we have one company, and one company alone that has exclusive rights over serving alcoholic beverages, and the income goes directly to the monarchy.

And, finally, please behave in our country. We do not follow the International Court of Justice, and we hold people accountable, again, to a combination of Islamic and civil law. We do not tolerate homosexuality, adultery, or apostasy, and we forbid alcohol and pornography. But don’t worry, if you’re an expatriate, we’ll arrest you under your own law, confine you to a police station, and it’s probable that you won’t be given any type of legal or consular assistance. Your statement for your crime must be translated into Arabic, and it’s your responsibility to ensure your translation is correct.

We have beautiful architecture, world-class educational facilities, and our health care is the best in our region of the world. But we don’t know what we’re going to do when our liquid gold runs out in 37 years from now, which is precisely why we need to party it up while we can. We’ll see you in 2022!

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Smiting the FIFA gods with a bit of technology

June 29, 2010

 

United States' Michael Bradley, left, argues with Mali's referee Koman Coulibaly during the World Cup group C soccer match between Slovenia and the United States at Ellis Park Stadium in Johannesburg, South Africa, Friday, June 18, 2010. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

“I’m so glad the World Cup is here!” I exclaim in front of my colleagues out here in WVU’s Coliseum. I’m surrounded by true sports aficionados—men and women who research all manners of sport, sport management, sport psychology, kinesiology, fitness, physical therapy—and my exclamation is met with a sound rebuke:

“Ah, I’m not a soccer fan.” “Soccer is boring.” “What a ridiculous set of rules they have!”

And the tirades go on and on as I try to get people to join in a World Cup bracket pool. “What’s wrong with soccer?” I say. “It’s a beautiful, global sport!”

One peer looks at me dryly, “For one thing, everybody falls down like they’ve been shot,” referring to the players that take dramatic dives in order to draw fouls from the ref. “And another thing, I really hate how the refs are treated as gods.”

Boom. He got me there. And I began to think—mind you this was before the first game kicked off this summer in South Africa—why are the refs treated like gods? And before my train of thought left the station, I was witness to the first hideous call by a ref: a disallowed goal called on USA vs. Slovenia. Malian native Koman Coulibaly took away a good goal from American Maurice Edu. No one was offside, and the multitude of high-definition cameras, placed at every conceivable angle (inside the goal, from the sky, close-up on the feet, above the goal, from the sidelines, etc.), and shown at super slow motion, recorded the fact that there wasn’t one thing that should have disallowed the goal. In fact, the Slovenians had three different Americans in headlocks or bear hugs. An Announcer proclaimed, “That’s one of the worst calls I’ve every seen in World Cup history.” What’s even better? Coulibaly didn’t have to explain anything—to anyone. He was certainly playing the part of a god. The goal was taken away, and thus the U.S. was forced to a draw, stopping an improbable comeback from a 2-0 Slovenian run in the first half.

But I’m not a huge USA fan. Honest. I also used to defend the archaic system of World Cup rules and gods to my NFL, MLB, and NHL-loving friends. “It’s a global sport, guys,” I’d say. “You can’t have instant replay in a lot of cities in third world countries.” And then I’d say something about how we should look outside our country’s mindset, or something similarly pithy.

Additionally, I don’t like how instant replay can bog down a game. I can understand why the NFL uses it, because the rules are vast and complicated, the game is fast and frenetic, and a lot of speed and bulk are crammed on a field much smaller than soccer. Having “video refs” takes away part of the game; it can stop the ebb and flow of a game’s twists and turns.

My turning point was, however, once FIFA started using their dozens of beautiful camera shots, replaying to the world all of the referees’ major blunders over and over again. And in HD, too. I think once you start negating the officials with television, it’s time to make a change, or you’re forever going to face scrutiny.

But don’t take my word for it. Look at the camera shots. What have they captured so far? Read the rest of this entry »


“No Goal” Jabulani – is it all in the ball?

June 17, 2010

Although players will forever complain about new game balls, the Jabulani has been at the epicenter of this year's ultra-low scoring World Cup.

Without a doubt, the first round of World Cup soccer has been rather light in the goal-scoring department. According to the BBC, compared to other World Cup events at this stage of play, it has been 80 years since there have been so few goals. Although conditions have been a bit soggy during the South African winter, players and managers are raising a fuss over the new ball, the Jabulani.

Every World Cup, new game balls are designed, utilizing the latest advances in technology. The problem is, however, that this year’s ball might be over stabilized, causing the ball to keep it’s “lift.” However, according to the ball manufacturer, Adidas, the Jabulani is equipped with “air grooves” that “allow the ball to be handled more accurately than ever before.” Additionally, the ball underwent extensive testing in Loughborough University in England, the Adidas football laboratory in Scheinfeld, Germany, and in wind tunnels. Also involved in the testing were Adidas partners AC Milan, FC Bayern Munchen, the Orlando Pirates, and Ajax Cape Town, who all made suggestions for improvement during testing.

Pictured is a breakaway photo illustration of the paneling design of the Jabulani.

So why are players suddenly complaining now?

First, in case you haven’t been following the World Cup, it seems that every hard shot taken from 30 meters out seems to fly over the posts. As if to culminate this statement, an announcer for the Nigeria v. Greece match said, “Oh dear, it seems that you just can’t shoot this ball from far out or it will hang in the air every time,” referring to Uche’s sail-away shot that looked more like a rugby kick. Also, I’ve seen on at least two occasions where the announcer has claimed that an oddly flying shot was a result of a deflection off of another player, then retracted the statement after an instant replay.

Looking at scoring highlights, it certainly seems that a vast majority of the goals are scored close in: Argentina appears to be doing better with headed goals and deflected shots. USA scored a fluke off of a handling error from England’s goalkeeper. Switzerland upset super-favored Spain with a bungling, tumbling goal. Greece upset Nigeria with a goalie’s mishandled, low-angle shot (and ultimately most likely because of a red card, but that’s another story). It also appears that high crosses—passes from one side of the field to the other—seem to sail past their target on many instances, forcing the wings to sprint down their prey.

But can the ball really be to blame? After all, if the ball is out of control, wouldn’t that force the goalies to cope with harder shots to deflect? Adidas also claims that the Jabulani is made for “stability in all weather situations.” If this is true, then we shouldn’t put too much blame on the modestly wet and cool conditions.

Also mentioned by BBC blogger David Bond is the oft-repeated complaint that the European soccer season is too long. As if to accentuate this point, I should point out the successes of Asia’s teams—Japan and South Korea won their openers, and North Korea put up a much better fight than expected—showcasing the much different season that Asian teams face.

Also mentioned in a passing statement by Argentina’s coach Maradona was a passing missive against the hybrid turf in South Africa’s stadiums (which doesn’t really explain why the ball flies so far in the air).

But whatever the reasoning may be, there is no disputing that it’s difficult to pinpoint any other consistent factor that has been responsible for such a low number in goals from some of the world’s best long distance strikers.


A World Cup primer for South Africa

June 9, 2010

Ah, the World Cup.

This is the point where I’m supposed to write something like, “Every four years the world comes together in an event that stops global production, and unifies cultures like never before,” or something similarly trite. But anyone who watches the World Cup—which is most of the world excluding vast swathes of the United States and Canada—knows that it is a beast that starts and stops wars, ruins careers, makes Christ-like heroes, enthralls criminals and entrepreneurs, and ignites the flame of desire in millions of children and young adults.

And, every four years, the beast morphs into some new type of creature, dependent upon where it calls “home”—United States, Mexico, Italy, Germany, Japan/Korea, France . . . and now South Africa. In the bidding for 2010, eventual winner South Africa was still considered a real gamble: rife with racial tension, possessing a high crime and murder rate (Johannesburg is one of the murder capitals of the world), economically unstable with a disparate proportion of the poor, and largely inaccessible to the middle classes of the world that want to fly and participate in the festivities.

But, in all honesty, that type of thinking is largely what put African Union countries in the back seat of world politics, and, dare I say it, racist tendencies from Euro- and Latin-centered soccer (or football, if you will). South Africa, it can be argued, has been defying conventional wisdom and naysayers. Even though 70,000 construction workers went on strike one year ago, the host cities of Johannesburg, Durban, Cape Town, Pretoria, Port Elizabeth, Bloemfontein, Polokwane, Rustenburg, and Nelspruit still completed or upgraded their stadiums that seat anywhere from 43,500 in Mbombela Stadium, to more than 91,000 in Soccer City, which will be filled to capacity in the first and final matches. The ticketing glitches have been fixed—originally most of the local populace didn’t have access to tickets, since they were sold exclusively online, and Internet access is not commonplace. Instead of seeing racial tensions rise, the country has been experiencing a racial and cultural renaissance of sorts. Although there are several problems on the horizon, we have several unique moments in history to look forward to. Here is a list of some things to look for, good or bad, that may define this World Cup and make it unique to South Africa:

1. Sex trafficking and AIDS – Prostitution exists at all World Cups, no matter the venue, but this year the world has made an unprecedented push to curb sex trafficking, since there is already a problem endemic to urban areas of South Africa like Cape Town. According to one report, an estimated 38,000 children each year are forced into prostitution in South Africa, and the World Cup is supposed to make that number grow exponentially. Additionally, AIDS rates are reported to be higher in South Africa than anywhere else in the continent—12% or 5.7 million out of 48 million people. Additionally, only 28% of AIDS patients were receiving anti-retroviral treatment.

2. The Vuvuzela – If you get annoyed at Korea’s “thundersticks,” England’s bawdy chants and songs, or Brazil’s drums, you may as well avoid the South African venues entirely, thanks to a relatively new invention called the vuvuzela, a plastic horn that, when played en masse, sounds like a deafening buzz. Collectively played, it has been measured at 140 decibels—louder than a jet engine. As reported on Smithsonianmag.com, “You can walk around with a pretty massive headache if you’re not wearing earplugs,” said John Nauright, professor of sports management at George Mason University. There are currently 600,000 more on order from the traditional maker of the horns. Read the rest of this entry »