By Thursday the football federations of Holland & Belgium, Spain, Portugal, England and Russia will find out if all the air miles, banquets, schmoozing, political manouvering and gifts have paid dividends. Only FIFA is guaranteed to come out smiling.
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Can there possibly be a more obscene ritual of hubris and empty rhetoric than FIFA's inflated circus for deciding future World Cup hosts? It may well be the 'biggest show on earth' guaranteed to send professional politicians, lobbyists, PR men, tourist boards and corporate fat cats into juvenile delirium, but where do the fans come into the debate? As usual, their views are way down the list of priorities.
It was logical and correct to send the 19th World Cup to South Africa, the first and long overdue World Cup on that continent. Despite the fears and massive social deprivation, there were no mass stampedes at stadia or waves of muggers streaming from the townships to relieve well-heeled tourists of their expensive trinkets. Power didn't fail, transport and hotels coped, fans from around the world came, watched some fairly ordinary football and went, with a vuvuzuela or two for the kids.
The real scandal took place back in 2000 when New Zealand octagenerian Charles Dempsey ignored the Oceania delegates mandate to vote for South Africa and abstained. Yes, after all that global consumption of gifts, hotels and gluttony the old buffer couldn't make his mind up! This politically motivated manouevre handed the 2006 event 12-11 to Germany - as Blatter wanted - leaving huge African crowds watching the big screens back home stunned into disbelief.
Morocco is another nation to fall foul of the geo-political machinations and profit motive that steers FIFA policy under Blatter. With a mature tourist infrastructure, great beaches, a fascinating history and tolerant administration, the Arab kingdom on Europe's doorstep put together two solid bids in the 90's. In 94 they lost out to the USA by just 3 votes. Fifa fell at the feet of Rothenberg and his corporate cronies, caving in to the promise of Coke and Bud fuelled revenues from a nation with not so much as an organised league.
Morocco tried again for 98. I met their bid leader. Could Morocco really deliver? Indeed yes. Saudi petro-dollars would provide a showpiece event by proxy for the Arabic world he explained. Plans for the necessary stadia new build were advanced and underwritten by the Sheiks. TV schedules sat perfectly within the bulk of the European time zone and the state was 2-3 hours flying tme from every major European capital. And Africa's first organised league had formed in Morocco in 1921, why should this most Westernized of Arab countries not host a World Cup?
Well...because it didn't suit the suits of Zurich. Their moment had come and gone. The thorny issue of when and how to integrate the Arab world into the world's greatest game could be shelved for now. Precedence had moved to meeting the expectations of Asia first, a far bigger market for Fifa to drool over.
So who will grasp the glitteing prize for 2018? Whoever gets the nod, there's no escaping both the process and the final result are irrevocably tarnished with the strong whiff of bribery and corruption. Indeed, the selection committee has only recently shrunk after two delegates were exposed for being just too blatant in their demands for cash in return for votes.
Do England stand a realistic chance? Would that in fact be a good thing? More on this in part two to follow this week before Thursday's announcement.