THE mistake was, said ex-Fifa president Sepp Blatter with the air of the man who had just found the Mary Celeste, that Qatar was too small for a World Cup.
The handsome merchant brigantine — that’s the ship not Blatter — was found drifting minus the whole crew and later sold off only to be deliberately wrecked in an insurance scam.
Rather like the supreme committee who elected Qatar. They have also disappeared, one or two of them to prison, most others in hiding tarnished by accusations of bribery, fraud and money laundering.
They left us all with the biggest sporting event after the Olympics to be held in a desert. Old man Blatter’s confession understates the country’s unsuitability with a schoolboy excuse.
Too small? It’s also too hot, too prejudiced, too sober, too restricted, too male-orientated, too undemocratic. Readers might wish to add to this list.
Now some chap who was once a local footballer — and incredulously said that homosexuality is “damage to the mind” — asks us all to be kind to Qatar and leave it in peace to get on with hosting.
So has Fifa chief Gianni Infantino, who by the way moved to Doha a year ago. They are entitled to their opinion, as are we all.
Mine is simple. When Qatar launched what was to be its surprisingly successful bid (an obvious choice once the Cayman Islands wasn’t available!) it should have done so in the knowledge that there was going to be a lot of verbal stone-throwing.
The guilty parties who voted for Russia and Qatar were not only politically blind but geographically stupid.
The original proposal for summer football in Qatar, despite promises of air-conditioned stadiums, was preposterous.
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When that sank in, the competition dates were changed to November and December, which capsized domestic leagues across the globe.
At this point, Fifa should have pulled back and chosen a summer competition in countries where there are already plenty of big stadiums and football is played and watched by millions.
My suggestion would have been the UK and the Republic or Ireland, where summers are warm rather than devastatingly hot. We have the infrastructure. Grounds would be full, the welcome generous and tolerant.
I am told we have no chance of a successful bid for decades to come but there are a number of European countries who would have been ideal.
But no, promises had been made and money paid so it will be played among Doha’s towers, or in outlying deserts among the oil wells and camels.
Qatar is insanely rich and constantly looking for ways to spend its oil money.
Until the 1960s the Emirates was a British protectorate, now it’s one of the UK’s greatest investors in property.
It now owns property which spans more than 1.5 times the area of London’s Hyde Park worth £40BILLION, including The Shard, Harrods and part of the London Stock Exchange.
But even if it repaired the Houses of Parliament and rebuilt Hadrian’s Wall, human rights protesters wouldn’t be silenced. Nor should they be.
If the media had not reported the deaths of hundreds of stadium workers in Qatar, would anything have been done? We have to doubt it.
I am sure the Qataris hoped that hosting the World Cup would put them on the world stage.
It certainly has, which is why you must be careful what you wish for.