It's been almost three years since Fifa announced the host nations for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, but both sparked surprise and intrigue, particularly the latter. The World Cup in Qatar has been surrounded by controversy from the get-go and it's still over eight and half years away. Or just over eight, it depends on who's asking.
The announcement of the hosts for the 2018 and 2022 tournaments brought about a highly hostile reaction from the English media, with various papers labelling the decision a 'fix' and a 'disgrace'. It was a strange decision for the 2018 tournament, considering England had the most sound technical report and the two bids that won had the worst, according to the Chief Executive of the England 2018 bid, Andy Anson. The Sunday Times did an investigative report and former FA Chairman Lord Triesman accused some of Fifa's committee of requesting rewards in exchange for their vote.
Initially, my response was one of huge disappointment that I wouldn't have a World Cup on my doorstep, but I was also wary of the FA and the English media's scepticism. I couldn't help but feel it was an incredibly bitter response to what I felt was Fifa giving everyone in the world a chance to host the sport's ultimate competition. However, recent revelations and debates have only shown me to be as short-sighted as the Fifa vote back in late 2010.
Russia 2018 aside - which despite its controversies is in comparison doing okay - Qatar doesn't even know exactly when they have to be ready for. Anxieties over the summer climate in Qatar may force Fifa to move the World Cup to the winter. A pretty prominent predicament you may have thought, but a possible winter tournament was not even mentioned in Qatar's bid evaluation report when Fifa voted for them to hold the World Cup in the first place.
In the report, Qatar's climate is shown in a table citing the temperatures in June and July where they don't drop below 31 degrees on average, let alone record highs of over 50 degrees. To counter the sweltering conditions, it states that stadiums will have environmentally friendly cooling systems. Though ambitious, at least they were addressing the issue.
However, the decision, or lack of it so far, to possibly move the world's greatest sporting tournament from its traditional June/July setting was something not considered in the bid report, nor was a question asked by Fifa when they voted for Qatar in droves. A huge decision which will create a lot of headache for European domestic competition scheduling which will back football associations, players, managers and fans into a corner, forcing them to accept. It's a huge decision that wasn't even conceived in the original bidding process.
Fifa President Sepp Blatter sums up the fiasco and his naivity by contradicting himself:
"The Fifa World Cup is played in June and July.... It is my duty, my responsibility and my right to defend Fifa's principles. One of these principles was: June, July." (October 2012)
"I came to the conclusion that playing the World Cup in the heat of Qatar's summer was simply not a responsible thing to do." (September 2013)
Blatter has long been losing the faith of the footballing world and lord only knows how he is still in charge, but to say it would be 'irresponsible' to host the World Cup in the Qatari summer entirely undermines the organisation itself.
The climate issue is just one of the many controversies. As if this wasn't enough, a Guardian report has revealed the use of slave labour to build the 2022 World Cup stadiums in Qatar. Migrant workers, many from Nepal, have been subjected to appalling conditions with nearly one worker dying a day, many of them from heart problems due to extensive hours in the unimaginable heat.
But, as is so often the case with the controversy ridden Blatter, he has separated himself and his organisation from the issue, saying in The Independent that,
"I will meet with the new Emir for a courtesy visit to confirm the World Cup 2022. We will also touch on this concern, the working conditions, but we are not the ones that can actually change it. It does concern us [but] this is not Fifa's remit."
To say he will merely 'touch on this concern' of modern-day slavery is beyond belief for a man in charge of the world's greatest sport and is a huge stain on Fifa and its President's reputation.
It's almost guaranteed that the run-up to 2022 will be a treacherous minefield of political and social issues. Post-Brazil 2014 will be an ongoing fight for Fifa to regain its credibility and it's not going to be won too easily.