Even Sepp Blatter is now however belatedly and superfluously, seeming to question the logic of staging the competition there in the ferocious 50-degree heat of its summer. That it should ever remotely have been thought of, with its dangers not merely to players but to the thousands of spectators who could hardly be expected to remain throughout in air cooled grounds, never made minimal sense and raised the sour stench of corruption.
To give Blatter his due, however reluctantly, at least FIFA has contrived to appoint an American investigator of impeccable status. “We do the right things for the right reasons,” says Michael J Garcia and on his impressive record there is no reason to doubt it.
That there has been dirty work at the crossroads has already been made all too clear by the accusation that land valued at £27 million owned by the family of the FIFA executive committee Marios Lefkaritis was sold to the Qatar Investment authority.
Switching the tournament to the Qatari winter would plunge European club football into chaos, as Richard Scudamore well knows. Hence his valued opposition. Garcia is looking at the 2018 World Cup and its award to Russia as well. With FIFA allegedly promoting a campaign to stamp out racism, the idea of holding the tournament in a country where racism in football is rampant, looks cynical to a degree.
Michel Platini’s part in all this looks increasingly hard to explain. I don’t doubt the integrity of this once famous footballer for a moment, but how could he embrace a summer World Cup in Qatar at all? Not to mention his present advocacy for a winter one.
Meanwhile Blatter seems determined to postpone the evil day. There will be no “final report” until at least after the ensuing World Cup. If then. If ever?
The extraordinary farce about Jack Wilshere smoking a cigarette in public has been ludicrously disproportionate; and I speak as one who has never smoked in his life. It was, for heaven’s sake, just a cigarette; not a cannabis joint or anything as noxious.
Shame on Arsene Wenger for coming down on Wilshere so publicly and heavily. One day perhaps this talented young player may even be as good as Gerson, the left footed Brazilian inside left whose passing was spectacular, who struck a ferocious goal in the World Cup Final of 1970 against Italy in the Azteca Stadium, Mexico City.
Gerson was said to smoke 60 cigarettes a day. Oh, and Maradona smoked too; as did France’s Zinedine Zidane. As for setting a poor example to the young, one sees schoolchildren smoking all over London. I deplore the fact, but I don’t think Wilshere can be blamed.
Alan Hansen, who for me, though not seemingly, for everyone else, does a good solid job on Match of the Day and will be missed when he goes, tells us that “one of my greatest personal disappointments” was not to be picked for the Scotland squad which contested, if that be the word, the 1986 World Cup in Mexico.“I look back,” he says, “and I am still not sure why I was not in the squad.”
Well, I think I can tell him. For all his poise, intelligence and elegance as a centre back, he did tend to give second chances. I well remember reporting a match in Cardiff, when John Toshack, for Wales, ran rings around Hansen and the Scots were soundly beaten.
Alex Ferguson, who managed Scotland with no great distinction at that 1986 tournament, clearly thought he would be courting risks were Hansen picked. But was this, though strongly denied by the player himself, why Kenny Dalglish, in glorious form at the time and expected to excel in Mexico, suddenly pulled out of the squad with an injury?