Early Doors

The blind leading the blind but Qatar World Cup is dead in water

Early Doors

View photo


The gloriously ongoing, outgoing and outspoken chairman of the Premier League Sir Dave Richards, who at 69 has a thatch of hair thicker than boot polish and darker than two in the morning, was back in Qatar this week. Back to the scene of the crime for this intrepid football explorer from Sheffield whose thirst for real ale overrides his appetite for cultural understanding.

It was Richards who gifted us one of last year's most memorable sporting quotes when he washed up in the small Gulf state that has somehow managed to land the 2022 World Cup finals despite having the same attitude to grog as Sir Dave has to teetotallers.

"In our country and in Germany, we have a culture," said the emboldened Yorkshireman.

"We call it, 'We would like to go for a pint', and that pint is a pint of beer. It is our culture as much as your culture [in Qatar] is not drinking. There has to be a happy medium."

Time flies when you are having more than one.

It is difficult to think it has been a year since the somewhat weathered Sir Dave was careering around Qatar on his Club 58-70 holiday promoting the social benefits of booze at an outpost where the sale and consumption of alcohol is wholly frowned upon.

More pub than public relations then, but amid some continuing scenes of chaos in Doha, our Dave collapsed in a water feature during the same type of pointless conference he attended this week. He denied being under the influence. It was probably wise because sinking a few Spitfires outside of a hotel bar can see Jonathan Foreigner Esquire chucked in the local clink quicker than your average camel race under Islamic Shari'a law.

Of course, the alcohol issue is only one of several factors why Qatar's World Cup finals should not see the sunlight of day. These range from the country's record on human rights, prehistoric attitudes towards women and homosexuality, the diminutive size of the state and the questionable legacy it will leave to a small gathering of oil-rich locals. But let us not get into such goings on here.

The most obvious reason why Qatar should not stage the world's largest sporting event remains the horrendous, stifling weather in the Gulf, where it is a struggle to walk the length of yourself in the long hot summer.

Building on the theme of heroically ignoring the PR bods, Sir Dave, warming to his Jack Douglas role in Carry On Up the Doha, was not slow to point out the hopelessness of the situation the other day when asked if the World Cup finals will have to be played during the winter months in Qatar. During the heart of the traditional club season in Europe.

"It (the World Cup finals) can’t be summer," commented Sir Dave. "It’s starting to seem very clear the players can’t play. They’re saying all the stadiums are going to be air-conditioned, but what about the fans? Where are they going to go? They can’t lay on the beach because they’ll get scorched.”

That is before one considers the poor players and coaches. This is a joint where it burns during the day, reaching 50 degrees Celsius, before oppressive humidity takes over at night.

Doha Dave's comments come as some sort of handbags-at-dawn verbal jousting last night broke out between the two most prominent figureheads of officialdom in football. FIFA president Sepp Blatter has berated his UEFA counterpart Michel Platini by claiming that the decision to host Euro 2020 across 12 cities would present a championship "that lacks heart and soul".

Platini retorted by saying that Blatter's comments were not only an attack on him but the "52 out of 53 European football associations" who endorsed the multi-country staging of the European finals.

Being the president of an organisation who awarded the World Cup finals to a spot with a smaller population than Birmingham and a seven-month summer period hotter than a Yellowstone geyser, the Zurich gnome's brickbats lack credibility.

Leaving Blatter in charge of football is like handing Dracula the keys to the blood bank. Here is a figure who can't be trusted not to suck football dry for unseen personal gains rather than apply common sense for the greater good.

Blatter and his cronies had no business awarding the World Cup finals to Qatar when they knew what was coming further down the road. The sweltering sunshine is not impressed by petrodollars. But Platini is not much better.

His train of thought is also flawed when you take into account that he voted for the World Cup finals in Qatar.

The blind continue to lead the blind at the very top of the world game. And the main characters in the circus continue to don aprons and be bitchy about each other rather than think about the fans.

While this charade continues to be played out for now, the smart money is on the 2022 World Cup finals being moved elsewhere. Even if Platini succeeds Blatter as the next FIFA president in 2015, the Qatar bid is surely doomed.

"The Premier League’s view remains unchanged,” a Premier League statement said in a hasty response to its chairman's comments. “We are opposed to the concept of a winter World Cup for very obvious practical reasons that would impact on all of European domestic football."

Richards departs his beloved post at the Premier League at the end of the season. Godspeed, Sir Dave. His annual pilgrimage to Qatar was a real pantomime, comedy gold brimming with true Brits abroad bedlam, but not as shambolic as altering the club season in Europe to accommodate a World Cup finals in Qatar that nobody wants.

Like Sir Dave in Doha, it is time to end this farce now.

Desmond Kane


QUOTE OF THE DAY - "The last 11 years, I've probably drank 14 months out of it. The press say I'm drinking all the time, it's not. I was three years sober and then I had a four or five weeks binge. It's just those little binges so I've just got to stop those binges. When I'm drinking, I forget about everyone and don't realise the hurt I'm doing to everyone but I've also got to think about the hurt I was doing to myself - Paul Gascoigne explains the gravity of his situation fighting alcohol addiction.

FOREIGN VIEW - "I am very happy at Liverpool but you never know in football. A player’s ambition is always there, the ambition of wanting to play in elite teams is always there. I’m in a world-class team, an elite team like Liverpool. We have to realise we have a new manager who is imposing a philosophy and a way of playing that the players are adapting to as best we can. We hope that it will bear fruit next year. If another team comes around with more prospects of competing in international club competition games, which is willing to have me, they are welcome." It may be international week, but club football is never far from the mind of Liverpool's Uruguayan forward Luis Suarez as he prepares for a World Cup qualifier against Paraguay his homeland.

COMING UP - Liverpool's Danish legend Jan Molby offers his thoughts on the latest happenings in football at the back of midday while we have the view from Germany a day before the latest round of World Cup qualifiers.

View Comments