Why FIFA made the right choice as England fell flat on its face

by Robbie Blakeley

Friday, December 3rd, 2010

It was all perfectly set up for failure. The media hype, the misguided optimism of fans, the self assured arrogance of the bid team. On Wednesday afternoon, David Beckham had told reporters, “It’s our time.” On whose watch, Becks? Certainly not Blatter’s. Now England are staring down the barrel of humiliation, having suffered the ignominy of a first round defeat to such giants of world football and politics as Spain, Russia, and, er, Belgium.

The Times cringingly published a table yesterday on their sports pages charting England’s path to 2018 hosting; predictably, it didn’t have us crashing out at the first round, having earned only one vote besides Geoff Thomson, that of the Japanese ExCo member, Junji Ogura. And after all the bold forecasts made by pundits, journalists, supporters and the players themselves, England is today coming to the sobering realisation that we are not liked very much by the rest of the world.

Like an unpopular adolescent trying to make a few mates, England’s slogan “England United, The World Invited” attempted to offer an open invitation to a month long party. Bring your mates and bring your country’s national football team, and we can all have a ball. Unfortunately for England, the other FIFA members were washing their hair that night.

England’s bid team, led by Andy Anson, have already started passing the blame around, accusing FIFA voters of lying to the bid team. But what’s new? This is politics, Andy. USA ExCo member had already candidly pointed out earlier in the week that “if everyone got the votes they had been promised, there would be a lot more votes than 22.” You have to do a bit more than take a few old men in blue suits out to dinner and hope for the best. The point that cost England the 2018 World Cup was the bid team’s naivety when it came to the brutal reality of FIFA politics. Oh well, only £15 million down the drain.

On a positive note, it is a relief that Russia, rather than Spain-Portugal, or indeed England, did get the World Cup. “We go to new lands,” Sepp Blatter announced yesterday, and taking sport’s biggest tournament to Eastern Europe for the first time is a huge step for footballing progress. Already there are murmurs that this is a risky strategy, given that the Russians have to build eleven stadiums from scratch, but given the unequivocal success of South Africa 2010, where the world was shown there is more to the country than racial prejudice, crime and poverty, far more doors will be open for a football legacy in Russia than would have been in England.

England represented the ‘low-risk’ bid, and that was about it. FIFA have made a brave decision, and following on from the 2014 Wold Cup in Brazil, another venture considered ‘high-risk’ but where huge strides are being made in both sporting and social terms, Russia now has a massive opportunity to join world football’s elite.

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  • dexylongshot

    I’m still gutted.

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