Thursday, 2 December 2010

How the Balance of Power shifted in the Football World

After seeing South Africa host Africa's first World Cup competition, FIFA have stayed on track to move the tournament around as much as possible by awarding the 2018 competition to Russia to host and Qatar for 2022.

With Russia hosting the 2018 edition of the tournament, we'll see the first time any country from Eastern Europe has hosted what is arguably the most popular tournament in the world.  The fact that Russia failed to qualify for the 2010 World Cup didn't hamper their bid much to England's disappointment.  The charisma of England's diva, David Beckham is not impressing anyone anymore and it probably would've been better for England to drop him from the bid team this year.

The 2022 World Cup coming to Qatar is also a shocker.  Thought I live in the Middle East and Qatar was being touted in the regional press as the odds-on favourite, I had my apprehensions.  The first of course being the climate in this part of the world during peak summer which doesn't naturally suit the game.  Even though Qatar spoke of air-conditioned stadiums, you can't completely eliminate the 40 degree plus temperatures for those visiting the country during that time.  FIFA is also intent on the fact that the dates of the tournament have to be in the summer and we'll all be waiting with much anticipation as to how Qatar pulls this off.

The other reason I was somewhat surprised was that I was in Qatar during the Asian Games in 2006 and frankly, it was a mess.  While Qatar had superb stadiums in place, the overall organization of the event had much to be desired for.  Many of the hotels and infrastructure projects were delayed and didn't even open in time for the Asian Games.  Having been the Beijing Olympics in 2008 and the FIFA World Cup in Germany in 2006, I know Qatar will have to really get their act together to make it the success we all hope it will be.

Overall though, today's announcements mark an interesting turning point.  South Korea-Japan in 2002, Germany in 2006, South Africa in 2010, Brazil in 2014, Russia in 2018 and Qatar in 2022.  When you look at this list of host countries, it just shows you how the balance of power in the footballing world has shifted.  The old guard who normally hosted such tournaments have largely been left out in the cold (except for Germany in 2006), so who knows now when England, France, Spain, the Netherlands, etc. will ever host a World Cup again.  The fact that Western Europe may have to wait till at least 2026 to host the World Cup again is a thought I don't think would've ever been conceivable a few years ago but has become a reality.

My only thoughts on this are whether England will get to host the 2026 edition of the World Cup or will China pip them to it and ensure that the balance of powers in football is forever changed.  In any case, we can expect to still hear stories of England in 1966 for another 16 years to come...