Blazer on the World Cup Process

Wednesday, January 19, 2011 | View Comments
-Jason Davis

First, a few needed statements of belief to set things up: One, I don't believe Chuck Blazer is an unintelligent person, or, if you prefer because we live in a world where nuance is dead and buried in an unmarked grave, I don't believe Chuck Blazer is an idiot. Two, I don't believe Chuck Blazer intentionally works against the best interests of American soccer unless he's totally convinced it will benefit CONCACAF as a whole, as the confederation is officially his constituency (see the new qualifying structure). In other words, Chuck doesn't always work "America-first" but that doesn't necessarily mean he turns his back on America with malice aforethought.

Argh. Nuance. I might already be in trouble.

Of course it's easy for Chuck to speak out now, as he did to Simon Evans of Reuters, claiming that a winter World Cup in 2022 will "upset the entire football world," after the vote, and the damage, is done. It's also easy for us, interested observers buried under a crush of FIFA chicanery and things that look for all the world like malfeasance (but aren't, because FIFA makes certain they aren't), to pass judgment on Blazer as just one of the cronies, a yes-man for CONCACAF Jack, and a part of the problem. On some level, we'd probably be right to call Chuck to the carpet for being what he is.

But Chuck managed to say few things to Simon Evans that should earn him a bit of credit. At the very least, a FIFA Executive Committee member was upright enough to say what many of us are thinking.

Chuck makes an astute observation regarding the talk that a Qatari World Cup could be moved to January; the idea probably didn't just pop up in the aftermath of the vote, but must have been discussed beforehand. Prior to the vote, Blazer criticized the Qatar bid by saying "you can't air-condition an entire country" (or something like that), pointing out that while the bid had fancy air-cooled stadiums, anyone NOT in a stadium would likely be confined to his or her room for fear of heat stroke. Okay, maybe Chuck didn't say it exactly like that, but it's what he meant.

Clearly those in favor of the Qatar bid had concocted an out for themselves, a way to give Qatar a World Cup and workaround the issue of the oppressive heat when it came up, as it inevitably would. The Qataris, for their part, attempted to minimize the heat as an issue during bidding, pointing to USA '94 and the sweltering temperatures in which that World Cup was played. Of course a switch wasn't mentioned before the vote, because that would imply Qatar getting 2022 was a foregone conclusion. Even as the talk of a calendar switch has built momentum through Blatter and Platini, Qatari AFC President (and likely opponent of Blatter in the FIFA presidential elections) Mohammed Bin Hamman rejected the idea. If we can logically surmise that a winter World Cup was in play before the 2022 voting occurred, Bin Hammam is either being petulant or is making a symbolic stand against Blatter (to curry votes perhaps?).

A calendar switch, and therefore a fundamental change in the criteria for hosting a World Cup (i.e., that the nation be able to do so in the Northern Hemisphere's summer) might be enough to invalidate the vote for some. Blazer doesn't go that far, and simply suggests that a comprehensive analysis of the effects January World Cup would on the rest of the soccer world is necessary. Maybe Chuck is the prudent type, maybe he's subtly taking a dig at the ham-handedness and backroom politicking of his own organization, or maybe he's just being dense.

Where Chuck gets back on track is by stating what we all know - if FIFA is going to have the bidders jump through the hoops that they do, then those hoops should mean something to the outcome.

"Somehow we have to be certain that we take matters like that seriously into consideration, I'm not sure how we go about doing that - maybe the inspection gets a certain amount of weight, maybe votes get another weight. I don't know, but we have got eight years to figure that out ... before we vote on 2026," he said.

Damn straight. Figure it out.

Just an FYI - you might have to deal with my being not-timely (anti-timely?) for the next couple of days. Several circumstances (woe is me, life and all that) have me behind the curve. Because I have posts in mind on subjects now a day or two out of the news cycle, everything is being knocked on a day or two. If something happened today and you though to yourself "I'm surprised Jason didn't post on that," just wait a day or two. Hopefully I'll get to it.
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