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La Coupe du Monde ne sera jamais trop riche en traditions

(“The World Cup Will Never Be Too Full of Tradition”)

Get excited because the 2019 Women’s World Cup kicks off today with host country France vs. South Korea at 3 p.m. The United States Women’s National Team (USWNT) are certainly one of the favorites in this tournament, having won the ultimate trophy in women’s soccer three times. As a matter of fact, the women in red, white and blue are the defending champions.

The USWNT’s tournament begins Tuesday for its first group game against Thailand at 3 p.m., which is when coverage will start on Jimmy’s Daily Planet.

For now, it’s impossible for the mind not to wander to the future involving the next men’s World Cup and the soccer stadiums for the 2022 FIFA World Cup hosted by Qatar. Why? Because at this year’s World Cup — hosted by France with its long, distinguished tradition — there’s a clear soccer identity for soccer fans and casual soccer/sports fans to associate with for this world-class tournament that only occurs every four years. French stadiums, ranging in 10,000 – 80,000 seat capacities, have character and history that transports fans to other times and eras of yesteryear. We’ll see this in the next month, even if only through the TV.

The same cannot be said for the next men’s World Cup in 2022 that will take place in the desert (yet crazy rich) country of Qatar.

Being built from the sand up, Qatar will be the center of the soccer universe in just a few years in November and December. The date change from the normal summer months reservation is, coupled with the sheer fact that brand new stadiums and air conditioning apparatuses are being constructed, evidence enough that Qatar can pay for anything it wants except tradition. If it wanted to host the World Cup so badly, it should have clearly established the country’s true love of soccer like every other soccer nation on Earth: Through housing world-class talent, interweaving the sport into the culture and, yes, history and time.

Like sand through the hourglass…

Soccer and tradition go together like America and apple pie. Or France and soccer.

For now, here’s a visual update on the progress being made in Qatar for the biggest stage for the world’s game.

Having visited Qatar and fully enjoyed this unique experience with family, this middle eastern country will, like the fictional John Hammond, spare no expense. And as a non-traditional country for the world’s biggest soccer tournament, Qatar and FIFA are banking on those famous words heard in that Iowa cornfield, “If you build it, he will come.” Change the “he” to “they” and that’s what will ultimately define the success of the 2022 World Cup concerning regional and global attendance.

FIFA gambled with Qatar. Moreover, this forthcoming World Cup seems like it’s being built for FIFA rather than the sport of soccer and its fans, coaches, and players. And there needs to be a real concern that all of the soccer stadiums being built for 2022, though impressive to a certain degree, will be empty in the years that follow. In other words, the post-Olympic downturn could very likely occur. In China, some of the world-class facilities from the 2008 summer Olympics fell to ruin in the subsequent years.

By contrast, the 2006 World Cup in Germany — which I was fortunate to attend with my parents and see some amazing games, stadiums, cities, hotels, players and fellow Quinnipiac soccer teammates — was incredibly unforgettable. And soccer in Germany, it seems, is even bigger now today following the World Cup due to increased global demand and interest in the Bundesliga, the German national team (2014 World Cup champions) and its rich soccer/football culture.

Will Qatar in 2022 evolve into aforementioned Germany circa 2006 or China circa 2008?

That’s a legitimate question, ladies and gentlemen. And one that should have been considered more closely by FIFA when selecting the host country for its biggest competition, specifically following disgraced former FIFA President Sepp Blatter’s resignation in recent years.

At this point, watch and enjoy the many talented teams and players in the 2019 World Cup in France. And while doing so, contemplate whether that special energy on the pitch and off the pitch with teams and fans from around the world will seamlessly translate to a non-soccer nation/Qatar in three years. Will it be the same?

While the new soccer stadiums being built in Qatar may be eye-opening through the lenses of modern design and sustainability, tradition cannot be bought.

Although, FIFA proved winning a bid to host a World Cup can, so there’s that I $uppo$e.

FIFA Bids Farewell to Tradition in 2022

Image result for Gianni Infantino

FIFA President Gianni Infantino

With the 2018 FIFA World Cup coming to a close this weekend–third place on Saturday and the final on Sunday–people are already starting to look to the next World Cup in Qatar.

You know, that soccer-rich culture crazy hot Middle Eastern country that surely has at least one soccer ball within its borders.

While I am not a fan of people immediately dismissing the moment for the future, there was news that broke today that was eye-opening. FIFA President Gianni Infantino (Swiss) confirmed that said World Cup in Qatar four years from now will be November 21-December 18. And in announcing the unorthodox schedule for a tournament meant to be played in June and July, Mr. Infantino added this remark.

“Leagues around the world have been informed already, and of course they will have to adapt.”

“…of course they will have to adapt” is quite the statement to make regarding a host country whose bid process was a bit shady, to say the least. The perception looked like a cash grab by FIFA and Qatar with accusations of corruption in the voting process.

Having traveled to Qatar years back, it’s a nice country and I’m glad I stayed the night, having taken in its burgeoning skyline. It’s sort of a mini Dubai–the new Dubai–to a restrained extent. But when other soccer-rich countries and cultures lost the bid for 2022, that seemed a bit odd.

And now the FIFA president has the gall to speak down to the world’s top soccer leagues–steeped in storied history and tradition, as well as world-class talent–to force them to adapt?

FIFA should have adapted to the traditional needs of the World Cup and its participating coaches and players in awarding the tournament for 2022. Particularly given the historical fallout via corruption charges waged against former FIFA President Sepp Blatter (Swiss) and Co. in 2015 and FIFA officials concerning the Qatar bid, FIFA has yet to earn back the benefit of the doubt in cases like the 2022 bid.

FYI – The road of redemption for FIFA will be long and weighed down in a myriad of heated debates. And it doesn’t help that this road for FIFA is being built to travel through Qatar in November and December.

P.S. Liquor is heavily restricted in Qatar. Well, at least soccer fans aren’t famously known for drinking an alcoholic beverage or two, in a stadium or a pub, when watching the beautiful game…

P.P.S. One unresolved issue still under review is whether the 2022 FIFA World Cup will include 48 teams. No, no and no. It may be time for a competitive marketplace of alternative governing bodies to emerge to challenge FIFA and its endless train of terrible, horrible, no good, very bad ideas as conducted by the Swiss. Perhaps it’s fitting this type of news broke on Friday the 13th. 

Winter’s Sun

Reports are circulating that the controversial governing body FIFA will solidify its controversial decision to reward the Middle Eastern country of Qatar with the 2022 World Cup. The grandest prize in soccer/world football will all but certainly be played during November and December due to extreme heat in the nation’s summer months.

So, what’s the problem everybody? (and yes Sheldon Cooper, that’s sarcasm)

With the exception of Major League Soccer (MLS), virtually every major soccer league in the world competes during the winter months listed above. This includes a heavy majority (nearly all) of World Cup participants and its biggest global stars. It unnaturally interrupts their seasons and the critical evolutionary stage for team chemistry and individual development in training camps and league competitions, as well as the UEFA Champions League. Listing just a few big negatives with Qatar hosting the 2022 World Cup in its winter months starts with why?

That’s easy: money. Literally. Next.

The nation has no rich soccer history or traditions (ironic, right?), the summer heat is unbearably hot and the process for obtaining hosting rights was reported to be blatantly corrupt. Soccer-centric countries like Belgium & the Netherlands were passed on, including the undeniably enthusiastic up-and-comer United States of America. Remember, the USA hosted the 1994 World Cup and did a great job. Consequentially, the nation and its people have been inspired by the beautiful game ever since. It’s domestic league MLS was launched in 1996 and is about to enter its 20th season.

When you think of world-class soccer, Russia and Qatar instantly comes to mind, right? FIFA certainly hopes so because those are where the next two World Cups will be played. There are some countries where the World Cup should not be awarded. Whether it’s unsatisfactory infrastructure and venues, safety, entertainment for ticket buyers, lack of soccer culture and identity, corruption, safety, weather and overall atmosphere. There’s also the small fact that some nations haven’t earned this exclusive right to host a World Cup. Bear this in mind: the Netherlands finished 3rd and 2nd in the past two World Cups, yet they were been denied hosting rights for 2018 and the foreseeable future. South Korea and Germany (speaking from experience for Germany) did an excellent job hosting in 2002 and 2006. Going to games and being in that atmosphere in Germany was unforgettably amazing! It was world-class. In South Africa and Brazil in 2010 and 2014, there were a range of complaints and concerns. Even though Brazil is the most famous soccer country in the world, there were still serious questions that needed answering beforehand.

Recent news surrounding the 2022 World Cup occurring during Qatar’s winter months won’t quell speculation of FIFA’s scandalous decision-making DNA. In fact, it will only further intensify this corrupt reputation, maintaining the stigma that this group has a selling price for its services and, most devastatingly, its values.

Apologies. I meant “values.”

Will Qatar Shine in 2022?

There has been quite a heated debate centered on the 2022 World Cup and whether or not “the beautiful game” can still be played and enjoyed beautifully in 100 + degree Summer heat? Qatar is the host nation (thus far) and is comfortably situated in the desert sands and unrelentingly scorching sun of the Middle East.

Once again, the most obvious and asked question: Why would the World Cup, the most important soccer tournament in the world with the best nations and players, ever be held in the Middle East when soccer/football/futbol is played outside?

Answer: Money.

The answer is literally money.

The FIFA Secretary General, Frenchman Jerome Valcke, recently noted that the 2022 World Cup will be played, ”between Nov. 15 and Jan. 15 at the latest.”

Is this a good change for the sport and its most important tournament?

Important note: I have traveled to Doha, Qatar and it was wonderful to visit. The hotel was top-notch with an unforgettable indoor pool reminiscent of a palace. The city’s skyscrapers shine magnificently in the sun and the night sky as a visual portal into the future of what cities will aspire to become throughout the still young 21st century. The best word to describe the city and country now and in the future is new. The buildings are new, the hotels are new and the future to be seen and visited by the world will be new.

But soccer is old. Pubs that smell of beer, fish and chips and varying degrees of heartache and jubilation are filled with men and women, young and old, telling stories of that goal or the save to their children or grandchildren or even a perfect stranger. Framed pictures of cherished moments, colorful scarves and jerseys with legendary last names hang on walls. The pub, in and of itself, it just as much a club as the soccer club its patrons cheer so passionately for during the week and on those perfect Saturdays afternoons.

The sport is old. The love is old. The traditions are old. The stadiums are old. And the stadiums that aren’t old in appearance are old in spirit. The passion is old, but vibrant and palpable.

Walks along narrow, crooked neighborhood streets in the cold rain on the way to the game matter. Trekking up a hill or across a field in Germany to a match at sunset with fans of both nations is an incredible feeling. Walking around a historic city square with men, women and children proudly sporting their nation’s colors and singing their respective anthems matters as it sends chills down one’s spine.

Atmosphere matters. Being surrounded by history, unforgettable stories and memories is significant and something to be treasured, celebrated and honored. Culture is special and is earned with scars, suspense and success.

Make no mistake: the stadiums and amenities in Qatar will be spectacular and luxurious and the host nation will spare no expense.

Except on the things that cannot be bought.