England 2 Russia 13: maybe we’re not the greatest after all

As attentive readers will know, Monsieur Salut is in Zurich, reporting on the outcome of the Fifa vote – not for the British media but for a newspaper that is delighted with one of the decisions taken. The National, Abu Dhabi is enjoying a spot of reflected pride at Qatar’s choice for the 2022 World Cup. Meanwhile at home …

When Niall Quinn has a go, the world listens. Sunderland fans have no monopoly on admiration for their club’s chairman; he commands respect and attention throughout the game.

And Niall is deeply unhappy about Fifa’s humiliating rejection of a bid its president called outstanding and remarkable but then joined almost every other member of the committee in ignoring. Two votes, one of them the English one anyway, and summary elimination after Round One: sounds reminiscent of Sunderland’s performances in the last two relegation seasons.

This is what Niall told the official club site:

“For us as a region it’s really hard to take, because we all felt we had a great chance.

We had everything in place. From day one there was a responsibility on us to put a good bid together. We were highly commended during the national bid process and were then selected to look after the FIFA delegates on their inspection visit.

We took that very seriously and we know we scored well on the technical report. We felt that there was no guesswork in our bid – everything was there.

What I hadn’t bargained for is the politics of FIFA, and what I can’t digest is that we went out in the first round of voting.

If that happened then there certainly is something mysterious involved in the politics. If a bid of our strength can’t get past the first round then we have to look at other reasons as to why it failed.”

Niall told Sky he wanted a full inquiry into what went on in the voting process. “I’m surprised Russia got it. I thought there was too much guess work when evaluating Russia’s bid and I was more fearful of the Portugal/Spain bid.

“The dogs in the street in Zurich were saying what a great bid England had but it almost meant nothing in the end. Blatter said himself England were ready to host a World Cup, we saw the presentation was an incredible offer on the table for football …”

I share Niall’s disappointment. I may not always seem too bothered about international football, but the chance to see the World Cup back in England for the first time since I had hair was an attractive one.

It remains to be seen what cost us the 2018 prize.

The role of the media, and especially the BBC and Sunday Times, has been discussed at length. I have mixed feelings: the press has no duty to do the bid team’s work for it. There ought to be a degree of patriotism but no slavish flag-waving. But exposing wrongdoing and injustice IS one one of its duties. even if I was unimpressed by the BBC’s decision to run its Panorama documentary so close to the vote.

If Fifa, or members of its executive committee, can be shown to have had something to hide, then the revelations were justified. So far, we know only that the two men most heavily criticised after the Sunday Times report have been suspended; that sounds like vindication but Fifa wanted it both ways, responding to malpractice within its ranks but deploring its exposure.

In any contest, there have to be losers as well as winners. We cannot just go around telling anyone who will listen that English football is the greatest on earth and that the rest of the world had better just accept it.

Maybe Russia and Qatar can be seen as having advanced excellent proposals of their own. Time will tell whether they can emulate South Africa’s laudable achievements, achieved against a background of doubts equivalent to those expressed about Thursday’s winners.

Despite our disappointment – for England, for fans here and, as Niall has pointed out, for regions such as our own – I found myself warming to a comment posted by “Dean of Luton” to the BBC website almost an hour before the result was hesitantly announced by Sepp Blatter.

“As much as I’d love to see it here,” he wrote, “if Fifa wants to prove this is a global game and have a lasting effect worldwide, Russia and Qatar should be the hosts. It’s the World Cup, let’s take it around the world.”

4 thoughts on “England 2 Russia 13: maybe we’re not the greatest after all”

  1. Hard to say which is worse, FIFA or the IOC. But it’s a pretty sure bet that England would have been much better off with the 2018 World Cup than the 2012 Olympics, which by 2018 still won’t be paid for.
    Corruption begets corruption and Russia’s World Cup could turn into a nightmare of red tape, bribery and broken commitments. Tom is quite correct in what he says. He’s right, too, about Qatar. Female fans will need to be well aware of what they might face there.
    You could look on the bright side and say the two tournaments are years in the future and the situation in both countries might change. That’s hard to believe, though. FIFA did international football no favours yesterday.

  2. England should now adopt the Millwall ‘No one likes us we don’t care’ stance and concentrate on getting a decent team together that can have an impact at future World Cup tournaments. FIFA are allegedly an organisation riddled with corruption and whilst we had no divine right to host 2018, the fact is that only an idiot could deny that there is something remarkably suspicious about the number of votes we received [how come Holland/Belguim got four votes in round one to our one and only two thereafter?]. The Eurovision song contest voting strategy is less politically contrived and ridiculously insulting. Russia and Qatar were obvious choices in relation, rightly or wrongly, to most people’s perceptions of FIFA. Russia is a country riddled with corruption, internal mafia domination, Putin’s outrageous treatment of political opponents and intolerance to media outlets who have an opinion that does not tow his party line, inherent racism prevalent in many sections of their society and so it goes on. Ask some of the England fans who travelled of their experiences at the last Russia v England game in Moscow. Many alleged police bribery-fans stopped in the streets and asked to pay on the spot ‘fines’ in cash for non exsistent offences that would be made up if they refused with the prospect of a spell in a local jail put to them-intimidation by local thugs on the underground transport system and on the streets. Many England fans caught early flights home it was that intimidating in many circumstances. Qatar? A real footballing hotbed [not]-40 degrees plus-women treat like second class citizens-expensive etc.. Never mind though, its an extremely wealthy place and FIFA like wealth [allegedly!]. The selection of these two countries will put off the travelling fans but what do FIFA care about them? What is the footballing legacy from the last tournament in South Africa where the infrastructure for supporters was a nightmare and local businesses near stadia could not operate due to FIFA insistence that only their corporate partners could make money out of THEIR tournament? Nothing-its a rugby nation with abhorrent poverty and racism still around to an alarming degree. FIFA stinks and its about time they became answerable to the increasing doubts and questions surrounding its ethical, moral and practical exsistence. We shouldn’t mind losing the 2018 bid if it was fair and if the process was operated by a well respected, above board set of reasonable football minded individuals. Can anyone argue that FIFA are such?

  3. We were stitched up like a Craster Kipper, what is the point of having a bid if the merits of the bid are ignored. Blatter and Platini are untransparently anti English and we have been taking there nonesense for too long. Let the dogs loose on the corrupt and devious FIFA executive they are all on the take Blatter included. 22 untouchable despots choose were the greatest event in the world will take place based on backhanders. Qatar unbelievable they have gone too far and this isn’t over

  4. There’s obviously something wrong with a system that makes Engalnd’s bid so far from acceptable that it is rejected in the first round. I take Dean of Luton’s point, but a “committee” that contains Blatter simply cannot be trusted, in the same way that one that entertains influence from Jack Warner (world football’s answer to George Reynolds). Chris Wilson in the Northern Echo sums it up well when he says we should stop cosying up to FIFA and start acting like nosy neighbours, questining every dodgy decision they make. No organisiation that purports to represent any global sport/industry should be allowed such a lack of transparency.

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