Corruption in football and the remarkable road to the World Cup in Qatar | world cup 2022

WWith the noise surrounding human rights, worker deaths, whitewashing and more, it’s easy to forget what Qatar 2022 is really about, the founding message at the very heart of this global football festival. Which is, of course, corruption.

The committee members live drugged with someone else’s pig. Development money that was never developed. The fat, wet handshake wrapped up in a TV rights deal. It is time, six weeks before the FIFA Winter World Cup, to consider the base note of this matter.

At this point an important disclaimer is required. There is no chain of evidence linking Qatar to any type of corruption to ensure the success of its World Cup bid. Qatar’s supreme handover committee has always adamantly denied any such involvement. That’s right. A two-year investigation by FIFA’s ethics committee found no significant concerns.

In fact, both Qatar and Russia could reasonably claim that they have been unlucky, attacked from all sides by other people’s corruption, and forced to operate within this nexus of bad optics and sour grapes. Even if, by happy coincidence, the decisions made within that environment also aligned with the interests of both.

Either way, Qatar 2022 remains an event tainted from the start by a great deal of individual corruption between the FIFA executive committee and key players outside the voting room; almost all were physically present at the time of the award ceremony on December 2, 2010 in the Messe hall of Fifa House, Zurich, arguably the most important day in the history of modern football, and an occasion that future historians will surely seek details of. color. as they develop their study of the carbon wars of the early 21st century.

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The Qatari delegation reacts by winning the right to host the 2022 World Cup.
The Qatari delegation reacts by winning the right to host the 2022 World Cup. Photograph: Michael Regan/Getty Images

There’s still a double-take feel about that extraordinary tableau, with its cast of rainmakers, nabobs, and hustlers. FIFA headquarters is strangely unrepentant in its aesthetics. What kind of organization actively chooses matte black walls and tinted glass, a bug-proof basement meeting room, the unshakable sense of self, above all else? a lair?

On Bid Decision Day, the entire building was seized with a sense of event glamour, buzzing with rumors and counter-rumours, talk of votes cast and promises made. The ad deadline glided glamorously. Eventually, the world’s media found themselves gathered in a horde of zombies, vetted and fined, ready to fill the remaining seats in the glamorous auditorium.

From the beginning, things were happening there. The first chill of English uneasiness came from seeing David Beckham near the front shrugging his shoulders and looking sad.

Ironically, some would say, given Beckham’s subsequent deep personal interest in the success of Gulf region football: his ties to Saudi Arabia, his re-launch as Qatar’s billionaire ambassador (every man has his price). Beckham is at least pretty specific about his.)

There was the extraordinary sight of Sepp Blatter onstage, a super-soft, shimmery gold statuette of a man, pawing and stroking and stroking the trophy itself, seeming to know even then that this, too, was some kind of farewell.

Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, Sepp Blatter and Russian Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov following the announcement that Russia and Qatar would host the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.
Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani (left), Sepp Blatter (centre) and Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov after the announcement that Russia and Qatar would host the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.
Photograph: Philippe Desmazes/AFP/Getty Images

And around the room was a case of here comes everyone. Here is Bill Clinton looking politely puzzled. Here’s Roman Abramovich, not the kind of guy who enters an envelope-opening competition when there’s a chance the contents might be a surprise. Here are Morgan Freeman, Seb Coe and Elle Macpherson. Here is Chuck Blazer, the Pimpernel mobility scooter.

After the announcement, Boris Johnson could be seen chatting about muttering sadly about deals behind deals. Most shocking was the appearance of Vladimir Putin, walking alone to center stage, there to preen, shrug, and drag his responses to the assembled sports press. Putin had previously said that he would not attend “so that they can make a decision without any pressure from outside”, presumably an example of his famously sly sense of humor.

What really happened here? The basic outline is amazing enough. In the years since then, 16 of the 22 former voting members present in that room have been implicated or investigated for some form of alleged corruption or malpractice.

The most significant event was the 2015 arrests in Switzerland and the subsequent investigation. The FBI filed a 47-count indictment against various soccer figures. Julio Grondona, a 26-year-old FIFA executive, died in 2014 and his old friends certainly blamed him. Jack Warner, 79 years old and still dealing with his affairs in Trinidad, remains the prime suspect for the US Department of Justice.

Brazilian investigators took Ricardo Teixeira to the ground, but never found the rope to untangle the rest. Garcia’s report provided startling details, particularly around the English bid team and their dealings with Warner.

Other developments have come off of this, via leaks, media digging and opaque FIFA investigations. With much of this, there is a clearing house feel, FIFA using past misdeeds to remove their own executive. Sometimes it feels like putting together the world’s most corrupt puzzle, but the core segment is always missing.

Mohammed bin Hamman
Mohamed bin Hammam has been banned for life from football. Photograph: Saeed Khan/AFP/Getty Images

And in the end it’s hard not to go back to that room. Ultimately, the main actors behind this spectacular World Cup double bid were Blatter, Michel Platini, Vitali Mutko, the supremo of Russia’s bid, Mohammed bin Hammam, the Qatari president of the Asian Football Confederation, Nicolas Sarkozy, the President of France and Putin.

Fast forward to the current timeline and Blatter, Platini and Bin Hammam have all been banned from football. Sarkozy has a criminal conviction for dubious electoral practice. Mutko has been implicated in a state-sponsored doping scandal. Putin is waging a ground war in Europe.

And yet none of this has really affected Qatar, which remains essentially blameless, a bystander to the accusation of others. There have been some spectacular accusations towards connected people.

In 2011, the Sunday Times published a story alleging that Bin Hammam had made payments to powerful soccer agents totaling $5 million through 10 bribery funds.

Bin Hammam, it was said, organized parties in which cash was distributed. He allegedly paid $1.6 million into a bank account controlled by Warner, half of it before the World Cup vote. He allegedly paid the Somali Football Federation $100,000 through his daughter’s bank account. And why not, huh? Bin Hammam has been banned for life from football, then unbanned, then banned again. He is seen as a hero in Doha. He is 73 years old. He’s not going to talk to anyone any time soon.

In 2019 there were allegations that FIFA had profited from a $400 million rights deal with Al Jazeera, Qatar’s state television station, offered just 21 days before the bid decision, with an additional top-up of $100 million if Qatar succeeds. FIFA denies that this was material to any decision made. Garcia’s report revealed that Sandro Rosell, who had connected deals with Qatar, had made a €1.45 million payment to the bank account of Teixeira’s then-10-year-old daughter. Rosell had previously sent an email to his Qatari contact promising: “This means that I will be able to invest this money for my interest, which I hope will ultimately be yours.” What does that mean? Means something?

There was mention of lucrative friendly matches, of Qatar gas deals, of financed projects, of Michel D’Hooghe, a former Belgian member, “compromised” by his son’s offer of a job at Qatar’s Aspire Academy.

Nicolas Sarkozy and Michel Platini in 2010
Nicolas Sarkozy and Michel Platini in 2010. Platini switched his vote to Qatar after a lunch with the former French president. Photo: Laurent Gilliéron/EPA

In addition, there is the other big scene of that candidacy period, the lunch at the Elysee Palace in November 2010 when Sarkozy, the president of France, received Platini and the emir of Qatar. Platini changed his vote to Qatar around this time. He denies that the two events were connected. Later, the emir’s government would buy Paris Saint-Germain, increase its stake in a French media group, and buy the rights to French soccer. France has since enjoyed productive trade relations with Qatar. Everyone present denies there is any connection.

At the end of which there is a feeling that all we really have is the echo of something, the foam at the margins. For all the trauma, the cost, the heat in that room in Zurich, the release of a generation of old and leathery greats has failed to derail the machine at its core.

Gianni Infantino was being investigated by the Swiss authorities for possible criminal conduct, although this process seems to have stalled and cooled. He now lives in Qatar, closer to the real business in question. For the Game, For The World, as the motto of the governing body says. FIFA will end up with the usual World Cup winnings of $3 billion.

Qatar will come to stage its show, to present a face to global cameras. As always, it is only the players that change.

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