AFR: The AFR Team has its say on the curious cases of Qatar & Russia: Neoliberalism at its finest?

A Football Report: The AFR team is sharing its diverse perspectives on the drama that unfolded yesterday in Switzerland in a series of posts throughout the next day or so. The series features perspectives from our writers who call places like Montreal, Paris, Kuala Lumpur, Sydney, London, Manilla, Boston, and Lisbon home. We continue with the perspective of Soraya Soemadiredja, a recent graduate of the University of Toronto now living in Manila. She didn’t hold back. Enjoy.

Russia and Qatar? “YES! FIFA proves once again they’re all about the money!” And, more specifically: “Are you surprised your general culture of neo-liberalism has destroyed your own shot of hosting a World Cup in favour of two countries about which you westerners have unjustified and generally unfair stereotypes and generalisations?”*

In all seriousness, with Qatar’s bid I have a sincere and perhaps somewhat naïve hope that the technology and stadiums they promised for the “sustainability of soccer” will be able to be exported (at a reasonable price!) to developing countries where there is a need and a desire for it, and do so in an (albeit expensive) less environmentally destructive manner, since it’s clear the country has the financial capacities for such research and development. The Middle East has always been a region with populations of voracious football consumers and this will bring Middle Eastern culture to the forefront and allow a new region to contribute to the history of the World Cup while sharing with the world what they are.

As for Russia, I don’t understand how this will “open up Russia to football” since Russia has always had a long history of football—and has a pretty obvious one if we just look at UEFA competitions. But it would certainly give us reason to look beyond Moscow and St. Petersberg as Russian centres and explore further what Russia has to offer in terms of football. I would like to feel that it would impact not just Russia but the Eastern European and Central Asian region as well in terms of opening up the region for more tourism (i.e. “while we’re there, we may as well go here, there, and there…”). Of course I am also hoping between now and then there will be an evolution in the geopolitical issues for the better, and for a more open or at least tolerant world community that will accept cultural differences in a non-hierarchical manner or at least not attack them unduly just because of certain differences (even though I am being hypocritical myself in my response).

These two countries are different from conventional vision of international football and I am liking how the football maps are changing to reflect the true centres of consumption and love for football. But we all know hosting the World Cup, like hosting the Olympics, isn’t really “winning” anything but competition of how fast one can empty the coffers to spend! spend! spend! so… I’d rather these two nations than a developing country that needs to use their money on things like social development, or countries who have had the opportunity to host in the past, just to spread it ‘round. (And so FIFA can say they are equal opportunity bribe receivers. Kidding.)

P.S.: Third world kids get to generalise and stereotype too!

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