It is firmly advisable that one needn’t even attempt to come up to speed with developments in this summer’s – probably the next eight summers’ – most absurdly gripping parlance without first flushing a number of distractingly obvious thoughts out of the mind. In getting to grips with the decision – looking more likely with each bumbled and blundering press release – that the 2022 World Cup in Qatar will be moved to the winter months to avoid the wasting heat of the summer in the appointed emirate, a couple of unanswerable questions need to be served up, sniffed at and then chucked into the bin before morbid curiosity leads us to make the fatal mistake of shoveling in a noxious mouthful of Haute Blatter.
For the entree, why, after a probing bidding process during which every assurance was given that a summer tournament was possible in the region and no one at FIFA felt moved to conduct any kind of study into the feasibility of staging 90 minutes of football in 50 degrees plus conditions, are we only now fretting that Qatari officials may have promised, if not the impossible, then at least the humanly implausible? That’s your garlic bread – a predictable starter that offers no surprises but without which what follows would somehow feel unfathomable. Follow that up with a main course of logistical mind benders about how on earth the European calendar will ever be able to re-shuffle itself to allow for 2 months off in the winter and then back again, doing one’s best to eat around Blatter’s casual musings that the whole arrangement “will only affect one season” (the league employees who begin drawing up fixture schedules three years in advance will find that thought particularly indigestible). Afterwards settle the stomach with a snifter of accusatory questions on why, now that Qatar has been shown by all available medical evidence to be unable to meet the terms of the agreement that gave them their prize, are alternative locations not being seriously considered?
These thoughts were all brought to the table back in 2010 and will continue to be chewed upon until long after the tournament is done and dusted. But it would be impossible to really get to grips with the more subtle points of the issue without first picking these particularly distracting pieces of gristle out of the teeth. They all now promise to be part of the landscape for the next decade and football has well and truly tied itself in another knot in its unending quest for growth. It might even be put that the likes of the Premier League and its stars have no right to complain about FIFA putting its own corporate interests first at the expense of its contemporaries when such hegemonic domineering has been the League’s blueprint for more than twenty years. To the game’s power-brokers we might say “it’s your dime”. But what about the others from outside the barbed perimeters of corporate soccer, for whom a domestic football season pushed into the summer months would leave precious little room in which to operate?