An insufferable little windbag by the name of Sepp Blatter—president of FIFA, the governing body of world soccer—has just disclosed to the world that Russia will host the soccer/football World Cup in 2018 and Qatar in 2022. The United States, bidding for the 2022 event, was bounced out, as was England, to many the favorites for 2018.
The selections, made by 22 men in suits over lunch in Zurich, are provocative—unattractively in the case of Russia, and beguilingly so in the case of Qatar.
There can be no question that Russia was—for the soccer fan—the least appealing candidate for 2018. Vast, repressive, unwelcoming of foreigners (especially those with dark skin), with an intolerant social culture and a thuggish ruling class, the country is a far cry from the balmy openness that was on offer in the bids from England, Spain/Portugal, and Netherlands/Belgium. I’m betting Vladimir Putin will still be in power in 2018: How could he pass up an opportunity to declare the World Cup open?
On the plus side: Russia does, of course, have a proud sporting tradition, even if we discount the totalitarian dimension of the Soviet era—and its soccer team has always been a force to reckon with. And it does, now, have the chance to turn itself into a more civilized place.
(photo credit: Axel Burhmann)