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Monday, June 02, 2014 

You can't shame the shameless.

To be exceptionally vulgar for just a second (and with apologies also to the AVGN), learning that there might, just might have been some underhand shenanigans involved in Qatar's winning bid to host the World Cup is a bit like your father telling you he had sex with your mother.  It doesn't exactly come as a shocking revelation; you mean, the richest per capita country on the planet, trying and succeeding in establishing itself as a rival to all those other Arab kleptocracies, may just have slipped some money in the general direction of a select few FIFA delegates?  There I was thinking they had simply been bowled over by the sheer generosity of the Qatari bid, with the offer to dismantle all the stadia built with migrant labour and and reconstruct them in developing nations, and so in the circumstances were prepared to overlook the fact playing football in 40 to 50 degree heat is about as good an idea as plunging your arm into your local chip shop's deep fat fryer.

The problem with FIFA isn't that it's corrupt, as football at the highest level has become so stupidly money obsessed the whole structure will inevitably come toppling down under its own contradictions, it's that it's become glaringly corrupt.  Countries like Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Afghanistan get away with being rotten to the core on the basis they either bribe everyone and/or if you get uppity about it you're likely to be thrown in jail or worse; FIFA by comparison just ignores everything or sets up delaying inquiries like the one being helmed by Michael Garcia, who isn't going to have access to the files leaked to the Sunday Times.

Giving the World Cup to Qatar seemed like a good idea at the time, as these things usually do.  Football comes to the Middle East!  They gave the Olympics to China, how could anyone possibly complain about holding the greatest show on Earth in a country smaller than the Falkland Islands and only slightly less barren?  Its citizens don't pay any taxes and part of the criminal law is based on Sharia, exactly the sort of values FIFA looks for, as it means it doesn't have to impose its own statute temporarily as it did in South Africa.  Only later did it occur to them kicking a bag of wind around at the height of summer in a country where the average high in June is 41 degrees might not make for the best spectacle, or indeed might kill off a few of those spectating.

Still, this is FIFA we're talking about.  We'll just move it to the winter.  This doesn't go down well with the national associations, as it will play merry hell with all manner of club competitions and, far more importantly, aggravate the TV companies paying billions for the right to show the games needing to be rescheduled.  Just as they should be gearing up for their Christmas extravaganzas, those bastards on free to air will be showing the World Cup final!

Only then the media starts noticing Qatar's kafala system of migrant worker sponsorship is leaving many trapped in the country, unable to return home.  And there are also hundreds dying, not just in accidents but of "sudden cardiac death", their hearts failing under the strain of the heat and work.  Qatar's own figures suggest just under 1,000 have died over the course of two years, with the real figure likely to be higher.  Does this worry FIFA? Are we being silly again?

Believing the whispers going round that the latest allegations will force Blatter and chums to reconsider is like expecting a dog not to return to its vomit.  Far too much money has already been spent for the bidding to reopen now.  Just as FIFA swallowed any qualms it may have had in the first place, so too will the sponsors, the same people who brought us Will.i.am carrying the Olympic torch and gave us the closing ceremony.  They just can't be embarrassed, as the entire Richard Scudamore episode amply demonstrated.  Regardless of whether or not you thought his private emails were beyond what was acceptable, and as almost always I find myself agreeing with Marina Hyde on the substance, the clubs he negotiated the best ever TV deal for weren't going to let him be brought down over something so slight.  He might be a spiteful, petulant gimp who expresses sexist bromides to his questionable friends, but he's our spiteful, petulant gimp.

By the same measure, expecting fairness or shock, morality to have any role in what amounts to a bidding war between the vainglorious and the entitled is just asking for it.  David Cameron, bless him, is still put out by how all those countries lied to him when they said they were voting for England.  It just goes to show: if you can fool a former PR man by laying on bullshit an inch thick, you can brazen just about anything out.  This too shall pass.

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