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.”