“A lifetime of training for just ten seconds” – Jesse Owens
“Some people think football is a matter of life and death. I don’t like that attitude. I can assure them it is much more serious than that” – Bill Shankly
We should have known when no one laughed at Prince William’s joke about his upcoming wedding that it was going to be a long day. Despite this, people up and down the country including a group of freezing cold fans in London watched anxiously for the announcement of the host nation for the 2018 and 2022 World Cup. It was a long drawn out process that almost seemed a deliberate attempt to see how many Englishmen’s hearts could be sent into arrhythmia at once. First there was a delay in voting, which made me crassly assume that someone’s check had bounced. Then even though voting was completed there was another half hour delay for which there seemed to be no reason, other than to make it seem like a longer process than ticking a box. By then however, the rumours had already started to circulate.
England had lost. Not just lost, but got completely pounded. Only two voters thought England was the best choice for host, and we have to assume that one of those votes came from our own delegate. Instead it was Russia who was awarded the World Cup, who as I understand is the first Eastern European nation to do so. The second it became clear the England bid was a complete failure, we knew what would be coming next – months of excuses and accusations.
Personally I think David Beckham summed the whole thing up in one perfectly simple sentence – “we didn’t get enough votes.” If only his fellow England 2018 delegates thought of it the same way. Bid Chief Executive Andy Anson insists that it is all the media’s fault, namely the BBC, because it is the reason the voters have given him. No offense to Mr Anson, but this is probably nonsense. Let’s not forget that these are the same voters who he claimed lied to him and said they would be voting for England, so why exactly should we listen now? Given that Sep Blatter entered the room of voters and reminded them of the media attention, it does seem like a pretty easily accessible excuse. Either way Anson cannot launch any kind of vendetta against the BBC, who in scheme of things did the right thing in exposing a corrupt system.
There is of course the old saying that when you point your finger at someone there’s three pointing back at you. What about how we approached the bid? Fifa seem to enjoy the buzz of going into a country that is in some way worse off than the rest of the world, for example in terms of human rights or a third world nation in terms of South Africa. They like taking football to a nation where the World Cup can create an image as an almighty peace bringing force. Russia’s campaign was based around how being host nation would benefit them, while our presentation was based around how it would benefit the rest of the world. Maybe this simply wasn’t what the voters were looking for in a host nation. Same goes for 2022, where the United States lost their bid to Qatar. It is no coincidence that they will be the first ever Middle Eastern nation to host the tournament.
We shouldn’t forget either what happened in the derby match between Aston Villa and Birmingham the previous night. The last thing the bid needed was a top news story about fans invading the pitch and causing violence. Then again, maybe I am reading too much into it. Maybe old Becks is right, we just didn’t get enough votes.