Today we discuss the significance of World Cup 2022.
The 2022 Qatar World Cup is a watershed in global soccer every bit as important as the cups held in South Africa and South Korea/Japan, and as will be the upcoming 2023 Women’s World Cup in Australia/New Zealand, or for that matter the 48-team cup in Mexico, USA, and Canada. Each of those prior cups opened frontiers—adding the African and Asian continents. The 2023 Women’s World Cup will introduce us to yet another continental hosting option.
The first 48-team tournament will let us witness if ever increased numbers of “finalists” is really the way to go and yet allow us to call the tournament a collection of the best, highest-level exponents of our sport or if we want the World Cup to be something different. But before we get to those longer-down-the-road future cups we have the Qatar World Cup in front of us.
What is at stake in the Qatar World Cup, of course, the significance of this world cup, is that the cup goes without a hitch—logistically, for the teams and their entourages, for the broadcasters who bring the cup to all of us who can’t be there in person, for the fans at the stadiums, for the visitors at their hotels and restaurants and using local transportation, and for the host nation’s population as they mingle with foreigners who may struggle to acclimatize to Qatari customs. We all want the cup to unfold in total security and with a clear indication to one and all of how the unexpected would be seamlessly handled. All of the above must be met or the experiment—to host a cup where and when there is no reason or logic to host it—will be seen as a fool’s endeavor.
If the Qataris (and Aussies) have the same success rate as their African and Asian counterparts before them, then only Africa north of the Tropic of Capricorn (most of the continent), northwestern South America, India, Southeast Asia, and China would remain as potential host locations which have not hosted the cup. If the Qatar World Cup succeeds then the time of year, location, temperature, environmental conditions, ease of travel for fans and teams, size of the nation, availability of stadia and the needed hotels and restaurants, national infrastructure, and logistical capacity at bidding, will not be disqualifying criteria.
The questions become will FIFA stick to its confederation-based hosting and its rule on the rotation of confederations as hosts or will it break with its own rules and allow recent host confederations to bid on the next cups, and will there ever be cross-confederation bids that are seriously entertained? The significance of the current world cup is that it will provide criteria to answer those questions.
Assuming that after a successful Qatar World Cup, cups could be hosted in India, China, a joint Colombia/Venezuela, and a joint Morocco/Algeria, to pick a few options, FIFA would have held a cup in about every major geographic location on the planet. But do the potential host nations really have the above-listed criteria for successfully hosting covered? Is the disruption of the world’s national domestic schedules worth the hassle of a mid-season World Cup? Can non-adjoining or not very proximate nations safely and efficiently host a cup and is that the best circumstance for the players to be competing in and the fans to enjoy the competition?
Papa is of two minds here. On the one hand, it would be great if every nation that aspired to host a World Cup were given the opportunity to bid on one. And, if an unexpected bid wins then let us all pray it succeeds in delivering a cup we can all embrace. Could it be that there really are so many potentially successful hots out there? Will the Qatar World Cup be the pioneering event FIFA hopes it will be?
On the other hand, not every country or group of countries can or should host the cup. Some have shown they are unable to provide the security or transparency necessary to make everyone feel the sport, fans, players, and the tourney, are in safe hands and that the outcome is a fair one. Some have bribed their way to host and that should always be unacceptable. Finally, some bids past (2018, 2022), current (2030), and future (2034?) should simply not have been or be considered as they were/are pipe dreams and not seriously feasible or only such after much subterfuge.
Unfortunately, our planet’s nations and subregions are all too proud to want to do anything but their own thing their own way, and the question becomes is the cup to be an experiment in national or regional egos and potentialities or a football event that brings the best teams and players, referees and entourages, fans, hosts, and broadcasters together to celebrate and showcase the best of our sport and proclaim a global champion all can say won the trophy fairly?
Papa leans toward a simple sentiment—give the players a time and location where they can perform at their best, fans a place where they can feel safe, comfortable, able to easily move around as needed, and welcome, and the broadcast media a technologically advanced infrastructure to beam the event globally without a hitch, and then consider from among those who may so deliver, who the host may be.
Illustration: Ball in Stadium, Shutterstock ID 187762661, by wavebreakmedia