AFR: The Final Push: 2022 Edition

A Football Report: Soraya Soemadiredja, Manila

Despite several allegations of corruption and breaches of ethics, there are now less than 8 hours left for the bidding nations to convince FIFA to give them the ball to host the World Cup. So yesterday, the 2022 World Cup bidding nations presented their final push for the position and as we write/you read, the 2018 World Cup bidding nations will make their last arguments before the Executive Committee will vote. All 22 (24 committee members, minus the two who were suspended) of them then will vote, whereby a successful host nation should get at least 12 of these votes.

So we’ll go through the 2022 World Cup bids first, in case it has slipped your mind between all the other really important world events. It will from here on be dubbed the “Asia or Pacific Ocean bids”, viewed through the eyes of the easily distracted. (Seriously, for such an exciting event, the lead up to who gets to host it is really. Very. Dull.)

We begin with a National Geographic video of the vast wilderness, flora and fauna of Australia set to rousing modern-meets-tribal soundtrack, ending in Ayers Rock and Hugh Jackman wearing a polo. And bring out the kangaroo kicking a football inviting us to “Come play!” which should definitely be the logo. The Governor-General of Australia invites FIFA to “turbo-charge” football in Asia and the Pacific region before segueing into a Travel Channel video of the sporting-mad culture, the infrastructure and cities and the flora and fauna—including the diverse population of humans and art before the FFA Chairman and CEO emphasise the Aussie sporting culture and diversity, the Aboriginal heritage, the development under settlers and immigrants. Also they talk about how Australia is the only continent to never have hosted a World Cup before talking about how Asia is the world’s fastest growing region which may confuse some because Asia has hosted in the past—before Australia became a breakaway Oceanic country to join the Asian federation, so…since it was before, it doesn’t count. The closer: Elle Macpherson who seems utterly unprepared. But wait! A good old kangaroobbery caper! And Australian celebrities are sponsored by DHL. Vote Australia! Except…during the World Cup month, the popular sports while be having their seasons running in the country which has the potential to detract from local attendance, however the time zone will be friendly toward more of the world’s football loving public.

Dream 2022 of Japan began with a frighteningly enthusiastic young girl who appeared seemingly out of nowhere. She was born in 2002—she wasn’t around for Japan’s cohosting gig with South Korea—she wasn’t around for Brazil v Germany. This should blow some people’s minds. Then Junji Ogura (who is part of the Executive Committee and therefore voting for Japan anyway) and his legion of jersey-over-suit clad groupies introduce the Next Generation World Cup. That is, high technology, what Japan is known for. Japan is bringing the World Cup in Fan Fests to 400 stadia around the world to watch the football matches in life-size 3D, which will bring even more spectators! Hence “208 smiles”—corresponding to the countries and regions in FIFA who can participate in Japan’s 2022 World Cup through these 3D things and has been tested out in 2010 in small villages in Africa. The Japan bid focuses on the future generation, including a “Dream Teacher” Campaign for young children of today teaching important life lessons from football who won’t be as cute and young in 12 years. And of course, the obligatory Sony Corporation appearances because Japan is run by corporations (this may sound like an entirely unfair generalisation but not if you study their politics) and a throwaway comment about rugby versus football. And the statistics—look how many people we can reach in the world just by our technology alone! Hang on, we see through you Japan! Sony! FIFA! This technology is to induce increased profits—oh, regular folk talking about their 2022 dreams… that’s it? Where are the 3D videos?! They should just sell that technology to all future World Cups! What? The 3D technology for the Fan Fests has not yet been created as of now… and financially, they’re not yet fully compliant? Don’t tell FIFA that, don’t spoil the dream.

Et puis, le Qatar, qui a présenté en français avec l’aide d’un PowerPoint en anglais. Qatar is representing the Middle Eastern nations in welcoming the World Cup and football to a new region, where it guarantees “reliability, constancy and responsibility” (cheated, from the PowerPoint), where football meets history, where the world community engages with the Middle East….all that good stuff. The videos are in slo-mo and 10 years of French is still catching up with me faster than those guys on horses. But it is so full of money and it’s a small country with infrastructure is in place. Qatar is spending loads on technology for necessary comforts—since it will be in the hottest season of the year: temperature control technology already tested in certain stadia which will lower the temperature within the stadium to 27° Celsius. But it’d still be really hot outside. There’s also a sustainable soccer aspect—their stadia can be disassembled and given to developing nations. Done, I am legitimately sold! But…there are some “cultural stereotypes”—like the whole alcohol issue. In that heat, drinking alcohol anywhere is pretty tantamount to suicide anyway, so maybe there’s a reason beyond culture why this isn’t allowed. But it’s like, half of the sponsorship! Also, that small country thing is—apparently is a problem, because it could cause mayhem since it only takes an hour to get from venue to venue—wait, how is this a bad thing? QATAR!!!

So…at this point bad things started happening to the internet…or I started to get restless-slash-sleepy (blame the Qatari slow-motion videos)…but I barrelled through for you.

If you’ve ever been witness to/stuck in a bar with a group of red-t-shirted happy Koreans shouting, “Be the Reds! Be the Reds! Be the Reds!”, you know that South Korea knows how to host a spirited World Cup in and importantly has a great love for football. Correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems like this country is the World Cup bid that seems to have taken money to do some serious advertisement place, especially when you turn on to random 24 hour news channels in hotels—which is weird, as the general public doesn’t vote. It’s another recent co-host and smaller nation bid. The infrastructure and stadia are in place, as are a set of guaranteed enthusiastic local host population and spectators. The time zone, however, is not friendly for Western hemisphere football fans. But how can you say no to a bid that advertises the universality of soccer in the country (monks playing on a mountain top, that sort of thing) and the theme of “Unity”. When you put it together with the geo-political “Unity” situation between the North and the South along with the potential kumbaya-type “Unity!” of all of us when we are watching the World Cup how can you not be convinced? I wiped a t… Hey—Ji Sung Park!

If it’s all about money, give it the United States of America! Logically: when the World Cup was hosted in the USA in 1994, it broke all financial and attendance records. (FIFA like this, if it is not yet clear.) 18 stadia are ready to go at 75 thousand per stadia. However it is a large nation and requires long travel time between venues. The only issue is, should it really be hosting so soon after its first (“so soon” being 16 years later, an entire almost-adult later) and will fans worldwide want the US to host? Then again, South Korea and Japan are bidding again fairly “soon” after their last stints at hosting. So, should FIFA not take that into account (it won’t) it is a bid that is guaranteed to make money and profits for FIFA. In any case, it’s not tomorrow or even in five years, and the development of the game is moving by leaps and bounds if you look at the MLS and the presence of the US National Team in the most recent World Cups (several, yes, they qualified by themselves!) could be an indication of just how much soccer will grow in the USA between now and the time they host. And if we go by two other factors: viewership ratings of the USA-Ghana match in the last World Cup which surpassed the NBA and the major league finals, and that US nationals bought more tickets than any other foreign country to the South Africa World Cup (this is true), then why worry about the lack of passion for soccer? Soccer is in them, guys! If that doesn’t convince you, that the presentation included Morgan Freeman—like many have already mentioned, he portrayed Nelson Mandela (and God!) echoing the successful South African bid years ago—sure will! (As long as you tuned out before Bill Clinton came on.)

That’s 2022 down, and 2018 to go. Who are you hoping will bribe the most ExCom members get the glory (and the rapidly emptying bank accounts) to host the two World Cups?

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