FIFA continues to let down soccer and its fans
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FIFA is the steward of one of the greatest sports on Earth. It has the ability to cause so much change for the better, both in soccer and society in general.
Instead, it sits on its throne and takes, takes, takes and takes some more. It doesn’t have much concern for its players or fans, but just its corporate sponsors. It drags its feet on any kind of movement within the game, and it usually gets its biggest decisions wrong.
Thursday was just the latest example, when it announced the final game of the 2022 World Cup – which will be held in Qatar – will be played Dec. 18 as part of a late fall tournament. Apparently, when FIFA awarded the tournament (or sold it, depending on who you ask), the powers that be didn’t seem to know or care that Qatar gets pretty damn hot in the summer, too hot to play soccer.
By now, you should be sensing some resignation. This is just part of loving soccer. You get the good, and you get FIFA.
You remember your favorite moments as a fan, like watching Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi do things with a ball that shouldn’t be physically possible. For any American soccer fan, you recall seeing Landon Donovan’s stoppage-time winner against Algeria in 2010 when it felt like soccer was everybody’s priority.
And, much more recently, you might have been at Grant Park or Soldier Field to watch the national team in last summer’s World Cup. Though it was hot and sweaty and cell phone reception was spotty at best, there was no better place to be than Grant Park when John Anthony Brooks rose up to meet a corner kick, heading in the game-winner against Ghana. Later in the tournament, around 30,000 people gathered at Soldier Field to watch the U.S. eventually lose to Belgium despite Tim Howard’s heroics.
Thanks to FIFA’s wisdom, there won’t be scenes like that in 2022. As great as public watch-parties can be, not a lot of people will want to stand outside in November and December to watch a game.
This is the point when you ask if something can be done, whether somebody or some group can inject some sense into world soccer. You can keep hoping and hoping, but each day like Thursday without any meaningful action means this tournament is actually going to be played in Qatar.
There have been reports about the use of practically slave labor to build the venues, and it’s alleged that massive bribery brought the tournament to Qatar. The international soccer calendar will be messed up badly, interrupting the middle stage of the top European leagues and doing untold damage to MLS – which holds its playoffs late in the fall.
But all of this is going to happen because we’re letting it happen. If there’s any talk of boycotts or breakaway federations it isn’t loud enough to be heard. FIFA will only respond and change when it starts losing money and its power over this beautiful game. Corporate sponsors and major networks should flex their muscles, and even the soccer associations from the world’s biggest countries can start to make noise about forming their own federation, free from FIFA.
Until then, we’re stuck with what we’ve got.