BY Stanley Holmes 01:19AM 01/17/2011

On Frame: Taking a cut at Qatar

Blatter blather, the Cosmos and why Argentina isn’t coming west

Once again, FIFA President Sepp Blatter proves he can't hear common sense. (Wikimedia Commons/Agencia Brasil)

Let’s call this the “Qatar Experiment.” Emphasis on irony here until all facts are confirmed and vetted, preferably in a fish bowl. Until that time, the decision to award Qatar the 2022 World Cup has to be the most bizarre in the history of the World Cup. Few outside of Qatar and the World Cup selection committee endorse it. So many fundamental questions were ignored before the vote.

Now, top FIFA officials are changing their stories or resigning as quickly as the wind whips up a desert storm on the Arabian Peninsula. The most recent string of embarrassing moments that continue to cast doubt on this whole laughable affair:

  • Sepp Blatter, FIFA president, crony master and Nobel Peace Prize seeker, is now agreeing with almost all soccer experts that the 2022 event should be switched to winter to protect the players from the scorching summer heat that can hit 125 degrees. Duh. Imagine playing soccer in an oven with a sock full of burning coals in your mouth, and you get the picture. Which begs the question why? Why did FIFA choose Qatar? Why weren’t these questions addressed prior to the vote? Any reasonable person knows that hosting a World Cup on the Arabian Peninsula during the peak summer months is like hosting the Winter Olympics during the peak winter months at the South Pole.
  • Michel Platini, Union of European Football Associations president and wannabe FIFA ruler of the world, is trying to outperform his mentor, suggesting that Qatar should share its World Cup with other Gulf states. Well, that’s certainly disrespectful, isn’t it? So what if it’s a tiny sand speck of a country the size of Connecticut. After all, FIFA insists the vote for Qatar was free of bribes.  If that’s true, then shouldn’t Qatar be allowed to run the tournament as it wishes? Fair and square, right? That would be the same as telling the U.S. it has to share some World Cup games with Mexico and Canada. So, the Qatar Football Association has drawn its finger in the sand and has told Fric and Frac (Blatter and Platini) that FIFA can forget about changing the World Cup to winter or share it with its neighbors, according to The Guardian. Wow. Take that, FIFA. I almost feel like rooting for the little guy here.
  • But not really. Why? Too much evidence points to enough hanky-panky to be participated in by all. The recent resignation of a FIFA ethics committee member, who claims FIFA had zero interest reforming its much-maligned (some would say rigged and open to the highest bidder) voting system, is a reminder that Newsweek columnist Jonathan Alter’s allegations (on Twitter no less) that Qatar paid $10 million to each World Cup committee member is probably not so far-fetched. FIFA, of course, insists the vote for Qatar was free of corruption. Gunter Hirsch, former president of Germany’s highest appeals court, said FIFA showed “no real interest” in trying to clean up the organization. “The events of the past few weeks have raised and strengthened the impression that responsible persons in FIFA have no real interest in playing an active role in resolving, punishing and avoiding violations against ethic regulations of FIFA,” Hirsch wrote in the letter.
  • Blatter, in his most recent comments on the matter, didn’t really dispute Hirsch over one of his central assertions. Blatter said there really were no plans for an anti-corruption unit, but he does want to set up a body to help people believe in FIFA again and “give some credibility” to the governing body. “I want to put together a sort of compliance group. People from outside of FIFA but being involved in politics, in culture, in economy, whatever, also in sport.”
  • As the clever Bill Clinton once said, in a spirited defense when facing his own allegations of hanky-panky, it’s all in how you define the word “credibility.” Who would have thought the former leader of the free world and the world leader of soccer nation would have so much in common. Clinton and Blatter: soul mates in semantics.

Bling! Bling! The New York Cosmos are coming back?

In a fascinating and detailed interview, Sports Illustrated’s Grant Wahl questions one of the key people behind the effort to secure a second Major League Soccer franchise for the New York area. And that person is none other than David Beckham’s best friend and former personal manager, Terry Byrne, now the director of operations for the Cosmos. That’s right. The Cosmos are the most famous soccer team in America and well known around the world. This is the team of Pele, Giorgio Chinaglia and Franz Beckenbauer. They scored goals by day and scored chicks by night at the hip and fashionable Studio 54 disco.

Byrne is part of a group of English businessmen who have a serious plan to relaunch the Cosmos into the MLS. They bought the rights to the Cosmos name for $2 million. They have signed a contract with Umbro to market Cosmos apparel worldwide. The team has even persuaded MLS and U.S. National Team star Cobi Jones to join the bandwagon as associate director of soccer. Pele has been added as an honorary president, and Beckham (pure speculation) could even be one of the potential owners (he has a right to purchase an MLS franchise). Just the Cosmos name and its reputation immediately elevates MLS street cred to, well, uh, the cosmos, if this group can pull it off. The Cosmos is one of the best names in sports — certainly in professional soccer. Still, as Wahl outlines in his extensive interview, there are many hurdles to overcome. The biggest: getting MLS Commissioner Don Garber to go dancing.

Why Argentina is not coming to Seattle

We could mention many things that could trip up one of the world’s most attractive national soccer teams from coming to Seattle. Organizing an international soccer friendly is a very complicated endeavor. There could be disagreements over money between the organizers and the federations, questions about natural grass and whether the international friendly might overshadow the Sounders home opener against the Los Angeles Galaxy. It could have been as simple as other cities making a more attractive bid. So why did Seattle miss out on watching Lionel Messi and team put on a sparkling display against Landon and the boys at Qwest Field? Why is the match being played at the Meadowlands? It’s really simple, according to the U.S. Soccer Federation: Argentina wanted to play on the East Coast.


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