Thursday, December 2, 2010

Bola Bang's Picks on World Cup host (Particularly 2022)

2 December 2010 will see the hosts of FIFA World Cup 2018 and 2022 being decided in Zurich, Switzerland.

With such intense build-up to the bids, no surprises when conspiracy theories and accusations begin to fly from different corners of the ring.

2018 is set to be held in Europe, whether it goes to England (my personal choice), Holland-Belgium, Spain-Portgual or Russia.

What is more interesting is the race for the 2022 bid. Co-hosts of the 2002 edition, South Korea and Japan, have presented separate bids this time. The other contenders are Australia, 1994 hosts United States of America and Qatar.

This could well be a much closer and possibly controversial call on who will get to host in 2022. I am certain that edition will be held in the most populous continent, so sorry Yanks better luck next time.

That leaves the quartet of Australia, South Korea, Japan and Qatar. It is lamentable that the present poor state of Chinese football domestically and internationally have ensured that China will at best present a bid for 2026 and beyond, otherwise it will probably be a less tight contest that it is in the present.

Despite their strong football cultures and institutionalisation, South Korea and Japan will probably be out of the running as they have hosted the first World Cup of this century. So only two remain: Australia and Qatar. Neither of them have hosted the World Cup, even though Australia played host to the Summer Olympics twice (in 1956 and 2000).

The Aussies have a strong sports culture. Their sporting infrastructure is one of the best in the world and their successful track record of hosting large-scale international events put them in good stead to host the world's biggest and most prestigious sporting showcase.

While the Qataris' sporting culture is still relatively in its infancy, they have the gold and ambition to be the first nation from the Middle East to host any international event of significance.

Their successful running of the 2006 edition of the Asian Games, while at a few quarters pointing it as very football-centric (as hosts they won the prized gold medal in football that year), puts them in good stead in convincing the key men in the corridors of FIFA of their case.

And they have one man who can really make all this possible. His name: Mohammad bin Hammam.

FIFA vice-president and AFC chief, the Qatari has brought Asian football to the dizzying heights it is enjoying today with his persistence and vision for the betterment of the game in this part of the world.

With all the frantic lobbying going on in Switzerland, be prepared for a few surprises when the votes are finally tallied and the hosts decided come Thursday evening local time.

While Australia believe they have a strong case for 2022, my sneaky feeling is Qatar will stun the world by winning the right to host the tournament that year.

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