The FIFA World Cup, as we all know, is special. It's so special that no other global event can rival it. Every four years, 32 teams from 5 different continents would showcase their footballing prowess in front of a global audience. It's safe to say that the whole world unites for this spectacle albeit for just a month or two. So in short, it's a matter of prestige and honour for a nation to host the World Cup. It also has the added perks of a spiked increase in tourism revenue and it puts the host nation in the limelight. So it comes as no surprise that a lot of nations fight tooth and nail to host such an important and lucrative event.
The hosting bids for 2018 and 2022 were thrown open soon after the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. It was no secret that England was everyone’s favorite to win the 2018 bid-and with good reason!! Even if one were to set aside their state of the art infrastructure, world class facilities and unmatched popularity, the English still had one thing going for them - the Premier League. Unrivaled in both revenue and fan base, the Premier League was England’s crowning achievement, a towering testimony to their footballing prowess. As if all this weren’t enough, the official ambassadors for England's World Cup bid were David Beckham and Prince William (an ingenious combination of football legend and English royalty!!). Now this was something no other nation could hope to match.
On the eve of December 1st 2010, hours before voting for the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bids, a classic English FA cup tie between local derby rivals Birmingham City and Aston Villa was on show. Everything was going fine until a sudden outbreak of crowd violence and pitch invasion left a number of people injured. This was a complete disaster for England and her World Cup hosting dreams. To make matters worse, this horrific incident hit the headlines just hours before the voting was scheduled to begin. To have her very first episode of crowd violence and that too before such a momentous occasion, the timing really couldn’t have been much worse. Even though English officials downplayed concerns that the incident would adversely affect their chances of hosting the World Cup; the bid ended up being a complete failure. To add insult to injury, they turned out to be the only nation to have been eliminated during the very first round of bidding! Eventually, Russia ended up winning the bid for the 2018 World Cup with an overwhelming majority. It was shocking, to say the least. An investigation into the crowd violence in Birmingham revealed that it all started after someone threw flares into the crowd but it was not clearly understood as to how it could all have gotten out of hand so quickly.
Similarly, the US were favorites to win the 2022 World Cup hosting rights. The voting results turned out to be even more baffling. Qatar won the bid! The 2022 World Cup was going to be held in a place devoid of state of the art stadiums, training facilities, and more importantly in a place where the temperature would rise to nearly 50 degrees during the starting stages of the tournament! The logic and reasoning of those FIFA officials who voted for Qatar must've been completely absurd, or else they made their decision simply because their wallets became a lot a heavier. After all, the one thing Qatar does have is cash - and lots of it!!
The whole bidding process and how Russia and Qatar won the World Cup bids became topics of controversy. Fast forward 5 years, nearly all the high ranking FIFA officials were put behind bars just over a month ago for corruption; newly reelected FIFA President Sepp Blatter said that he would be resigning after 17 years at the helm (he might yet make a U-turn and stay on though). The possibility that the voting was rigged is looking truer with each passing day. There is also evidence coming to light that the bid to host the 2010 World Cup was 'bought' by South Africa.
This is the ugly side of the beautiful game. Its top governing body is corrupt to the core. The 2015 FIFA presidential election was pathetic to say the least. In the run up, a lot of people put forth their names to stand against Sepp Blatter, which included the likes of football legends Luis Figo and David Ginola. As the elections drew closer, all but one withdrew their candidacy. The candidates kept falling like flies for some reason or the other. Eventually Sepp Blatter was reelected but only after his lone challenger Prince Ali Bin Hussein withdrew after the first round of voting. You couldn't make this stuff up even in the movies. On a positive note, European football (governed by UEFA) and its domestic leagues are clean to a certain degree, or at least they are trying to keep it clean. There is even talk of top European nations pulling out of the World Cups. Germany, on the other hand does not have plans to back out of the World Cups. To be fair, they’re the defending world champions and it would be harsh if they were unable to defend their title.
In the wake of the corruption scandal a lot of people are demanding a massive overhaul in FIFA. What comes of all this is yet to be seen. Thankfully for football fans, club football is going from strength to strength and entertainment value is of the highest order. So as a sport, football is still up there at the top of the pecking order.