Much to Learn

Satish Sekar
By Satish Sekar March 5, 2018 16:13

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Much to Learn

By Satish Sekar in Sochi © Satish Sekar (February 28th 2018)

Third Time Lucky?

The North-African nation, no stranger to World Cup bids, will be hoping that it’s third time lucky. In 1998 it lost out to France, and in 2010 to South Africa, the latter leaving a bitter taste as there is some evidence that ‘sharp practices’ denied them a fair crack of the whip.

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It is particularly ironic that the beneficiaries of that corruption were the then leaders of CONCACAF, Jack Warner, and his protégé turned nemesis, Chuck Blazer. The US Federation chooses not to talk about Blazer, and highlights the new era under Canadian President of CONCACAF, Victor Montagliani.

A Microcosm of All the Ills

Former President of the US Federation Sunil Gulati heads CONCACAF’s bid for the 2026 World Cup. Gulati delivered the coup in CONCACAF that Blazer had tried and failed to – Gulati found a way to nullify the numerical disadvantage the USA faced at the hands of the Caribbean nations – the reason Warner survived so long.

CONCACAF in microcosm exhibited all that was wrong with FIFA. Of its 7 Presidents, three have been indicted by the US – one has pleaded guilty already – and a fourth was banned by the Ethics Committee. The first two Presidents were out of office by 1990, long before the murky side of football emerged to the full light of day.

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Montagliani has inherited stables that makes those of the mythological King Augeus – one of Heracles’ labours was to clean the King’s stables of years of accumulated horse manure – look clean, but that may actually help. The threat of arrest or even investigation overcame the numerical disadvantage, allowing the regional heavyweights’ the control Blazer had craved.

Infrastructures

It resulted in a bid that at first glance looks astonishingly unwieldy. Three nations – two of whom are political, economic competitors – and according to the President of one of those nations, in need of a wall to separate them. Geographically, the challenges are immense – the World Cup bid comprises all of North America, from Mexico to Canada. How will fans cope with transport requirements? How will the organisers deliver a smooth-running transport policy? How will it be affordable? How can such an event be covered by media? Any small media cannot hope to cover it all.

Hotels may be no issue in the USA, although like many nations there may be issues with stadium locations too. I saw a couple of matches in Florida ahead of the last World Cup. The stadium in Miami was fantastic in every way, apart from getting there. That was a test of resolve. Imagine that multiplied by the length and breadth of the USA, and then add Mexico and Canada to that.

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Hey! It’s Our Turn!

Recent articles in US media claim that it is their turn again – an interesting take. Since Uruguay quite rightly hosted the first World Cup in 1930, there have been 15 World Cups – Russia will be the 16th. CONMEBOL – South America’s Federation hosted in 1930, 1950, 1962, 1978 and 2014 – despite being the smallest Confederation in terms of number of members. UEFA is the other dominant Confederation, although it has over 50 members – it hosted in 1934, 1938, 1954, 1958, 1966, 1974, 1982, 1990, 1998, 2006 and will again in 2018. CONCACAF, despite doing relatively nothing on the pitch since the inaugural one in 1930 has hosted three times, 1970, 1986 and 1994.

The two largest Confederations, geographically, are Asia and Africa and the latter is largest in terms of member nations, yet both have hosted precisely once, 2002 and 2010. And in Africa’s case, it required the now defunct rotation system to get it there at all.

Tell me again, why is it CONCACAF’s turn?

The Bid

Morocco’s current bid was launched at the recent UEFA Congress by Fouzi Lekjaa, President of the Moroccan Football Federation. They attended the Team Workshop. There are issues with Morocco’s bid though.

Its hotels and infrastructures are up to speed, but its rail network is archaic – trains are slow, overcrowded, and invariably late. Moroccans plan for trains to be late. The buses work better, but journeys are long – they’ll have to fix the transport problems as they have to cope with an influx of visitors.

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They have at least 4 world class stadiums that were used in the recent African Nations Championship (CHAN) competition.

If it’s anyone’s turn, surely it’s Africa’s, and especially Morocco’s.

Satish Sekar
By Satish Sekar March 5, 2018 16:13