Jerome Valcke, the General-Secretary of FIFA, told reporters on Monday that the decision to choose Russia for the 2018 World Cup and Qatar for the 2022 World Cup was indeed political, as I argued in my previous post.
While he denied rumors that Qatar's bid committee paid $1.5 million to two members of FIFA's executive committee or was ready to pay almost $80 million to Argentina's national soccer organization, he did say frankly that the decision was "political."
Russia deserves it, and Qatar will be an interesting story. We have eight years until Russia hosts it, with a huge commitment on the part of Putin. And 12 years for Qatar, which has huge resources.
So, it really was a combination of self-interested politics and "an interesting story." The Middle Eastern angle plus "huge resources" won out over a more environmentally friendly bid from the U.S.--a bid which would have also built on the increasing interest in soccer among Americans who celebrated Landon Donovan's last-minute-of-extra-time, "shot heard around the world" goal to beat Algeria and win Group C this summer.
How many Americans will make the trip to tiny, hot Qatar? I hope to be among them, but I suspect there won't be many of us. It's disappointing for Americans who love soccer that FIFA wasn't interested in building a fan base here. That, along with a lower environmental impact, would have also made a great story--and would have saved everyone a lot of money.
But that's politics. It constantly surprises us.