Reuters Soccer Blog
World Soccer views and news
Visitors to the Marriot Marquis Hotel in downtown Miami on Tuesday were greeted by a typical conference ‘Welcome Desk’ in the hotel’s spacious lobby area. Behind the desk was a banner declaring the 50th Congress of CONCACAF – the governing body for football in North and Central America and the Caribbean was gathering, along with FIFA president Sepp Blatter, to review the year, discuss key issues and – top of the agenda – to decide whether to back Blatter in June’s FIFA elections or to support his opponent, Asian soccer chief Mohamed Bin Hammam.
It was the first time I had seen the logo of the congress. There had been no promotion of the event on the Confederation’s website, no communiques from CONCACAF inviting the press to the gathering and, somewhat strangely, the three seats at the welcome desk were empty. A rather odd ‘welcome’ to what was, in world soccer governance, a crucial meeting.
It was a crucial congress not only because of the agenda but because it was the first gathering of CONCACAF’s membership since the World Cup vote when, their bid, for the U.S to host in 2022, was defeated, sparking anger and bitterness in the American soccer community.
When FIFA awarded the hosting rights to the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar, after a selection process which had been heavily criticised in the media and was subsequently attacked by some of the losing federations, particularly England‘s, there was a huge amount of pressure on soccer’s global governing body to increase its transparency and accountability. The secret voting, the endless lobbying meetings and the impression that financial weight rather than purely the merits of the bids was a key factor, created a mood of frustration and anger amongst fans, especially coming after reports of votes being sold resulting in the suspension of two members of FIFA’s executive committee.
The first day of the fourth month means April fools day, so we would really love to hear from you if there are any dubious stories doing the rounds.
The sport is more global than ever, highlighted in December when Qatar was awarded the 2022 World Cup ahead of the United States, Japan, Australia and South Korea despite the fact a Middle Eastern country has never before hosted a major global sporting event.
Well well well. Now the Champions League really is wide open..
So here’s that quarter-final draw again:
Real Madrid v Tottenham Hotspur
Chelsea v Manchester United
Barcelona v Shakhtar Donetsk
Inter Milan v Schalke 04
As Gary Lineker put it, there will be an English team in the semi-finals, but could Tottenham make it two sides? Real are certainly not invincible.
Now, before taking a look at all the domestic leagues over the weekend, a recap of Thursday’s highlights from the Europa League. Quite a night of upsets.
There will be a lot of fashion-conscious footballers holding their breath for item “V.1.b” at the International Football Association Board’s annual meeting next month.
Forget goal-line technology and positioning of goal posts and the other very sensible items on the agenda, the one sure to get a few people rather hot under the collar is the “wearing of snoods” – those snugly neck warmers much loved by the likes of Carlos Tevez and Samir Nasri.
What Sepp Blatter wants he usually gets. So when the FIFA president said that the Qatari World Cup finals will “probably” be in the winter because of the summer heat you can safely begin preparations now for your trip to the Middle East in January 2022.
The decision to move the date of the first World Cup in the Middle East, which first needs to be ratified by FIFA’s executive committee, is going to have huge ramifications on club and international soccer up to five years before the 2022 tournament as well as on other sports.
It’s strange that when 2009 winner Lionel Messi was awarded the combined FIFA Ballon d’Or award on Monday there was shock in the Zurich auditorium and around the globe.
He is clearly the best player in the world but most fans and pundits had expected one of Barcelona team mates and Spain World Cup winners Andres Iniesta or Xavi to take the prize.
So it will be Qatar and not the United States who host the 2022 World Cup finals – a decision from FIFA’s executive committee that left many fans in the U.S. angry, dismayed and a little confused.
The machinations of FIFA decision making are far from transparent as U.S Soccer chief Sunil Gulati implicitly acknowledged when he said that the vote wasn’t just about the merits of the bid: “It’s politics, it’s friendships and relationships, it’s alliances, it’s tactics.”
We’ll be following all the presentations and the vote itself as FIFA’s executive committee decides on the hosts for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.
Spain/Portugal, Russia, England and Netherlands/Belgium are the four rival bids for 2018, while Australia, South Korea, Qatar, United States and Japan battle it out for 2022, with the vote to come on Thursday.
The chill winds of corruption allegations swirling once again around FIFA’s Zurich HQ have got world soccer’s bosses busy battening down the hatches in the forlorn hope that, if ignored, they will all just blow away.
But if they were to peep out of the windows of their ivory tower overlooking the Swiss financial centre they might see that, in the eyes of much of the world, it is their credibility that is blown and that the process of selecting the hosts of the 2018 and 2022 World Cup finals has been seriously tainted.