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About this business of Qatar, World Cups and … tanks!


I know it’s easy to bag and bust on the choice of Qatar as a World Cup site. I certainly have.

It’s a silly choice, and most of us would love to think it’s just a bad dream, like the one where you’re back in school at the end of a lost semester, about to take a huge test without a chance in heck of passing the doggone thing. (You have that one, too, right?)

But this thing is happening. Qatar and a World Cup. Heaven help us and please pass the sunscreen.

The weekend brought us reports that Qatar would purchase tanks and other heavy weapons from Germany ahead of the 2022 World Cup. Cue the snark and the outrage over a World Cup and how, as one PST reader wondered, if armament is required then “maybe they should rethink the idea of having the tournament in such an unstable, violence prone region.”

Here’s the deal: security at a World Cup is serious, serious business. As it should be. All contingencies, starting at terrible and ranging up to the unthinkable, must be considered – not just in Qatar, but at all of them.

I feel a little uneasy about this subject; I’m pretty well-versed in soccer but I am no security expert. I do, however, know this:

I have walked plenty of times into stadium areas being used as pre-game tactical staging points, and the arms at the ready are substantially intimidating.

I know that this big monster to the right (above right, in the photo), along with a bunch that looked just like it, was parked about a quarter of a mile from my hotel room in Hamburg during World Cup 2006. (Which means it was less than a mile from where the United States was based that summer in Germany.)

I know that plenty of domestic police departments have light armored vehicles. Apparently, it’s not just the city and county entities getting into the heavy weapons security act.

I know that F-16s are at the ready during Super Bowls right here in our land; as targets of opportunity, I’d put a World Cup up there with a Super Bowl, right?

And I happened to be a cubbie reporter during the 1992 riots in Los Angeles; I sat on a balcony watching armored vehicles control curfew after dark.

There are bad people out there. We all know that. If tanks, even as deterrent, are in order to ensure that people like me are writing about soccer in 2022 and not about something far more awful, then I’m OK with having the hulking vehicles around. After all, haven’t they always been around, or close by at very least, at World Cups for a long, long time?

Sam Allardyce to open talks with Sunderland

Sam Allardyce, West Ham United FC
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Now that Liverpool have selected and named their new manager, it appears Sunderland are finally ready to move forward with their own managerial search. (That’s clearly a joke, because it implies Liverpool and Sunderland ever duke it out for the same managerial candidate.)

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Anyway, the Black Cats will have to hire someone to replace the recently-departed Dick Advocaat at some point. We all knew that, despite the fact he’s probably earned a shot at that level, Bob Bradley was never really going to be considered for the job. With that in mind, if you’re not going to endear yourself to the entire United States of America with this hire, you might as well go for the best unemployed manager who’ll actually consider your approach.

That’s what Sunderland chairman Ellis Short appears to have done, as it was reported Thursday that despite an initial reluctance from Sam Allardyce — let’s be honest, he actually was holding out hope for the Liverpool job — the 60-year-old most recently in charge of West Ham United was willing and ready to enter into negotiations with the northeastern club.

One of the major sticking points during Sunderland’s courting of Allardyce is expected to be his demand for autonomy in the transfer market as well as a sizable transfer budget to sign his own players during the January window.

[ MORE: Advocaat: Sunderland squad too thin, chairman to blame ]

Allardyce seems like the no. 1 guy you’d like to bring in to steady a capsized ship — cough Sunderland cough — in any situation. Not only does he have a successful track record in the Premier League, but he’s the kind of no-nonsense leader a club like Sunderland so desperately needs as they find themselves in yet another relegation battle just eight games into the new season.

Short hopes to have Allardyce signed, sealed and delivered when the Premier League returns to action next weekend. In that event, Allardyce’s first game in charge of Sunderland would be a trip to West Bromwich Albion. His first home fixture? Home to Tyne-Wear derby rivals Newcastle United, a club whose boisterous fanbase still holds a great deal of disdain for Big Sam. Sometimes the football gods really are looking out for us.

Statement from suspended UEFA president Michel Platini

Michel Platini, UEFA & FIFA
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Statement from suspended UEFA President Michel Platini:

Early this afternoon, I was informed of the FIFA ethics committee’s decision to impose on me a provisional 90-day suspension with immediate effect. That decision, which I will of course contest in the appropriate manner at the appropriate time, had already been the subject of a deliberate leak, and I gave my opinion on that earlier in the day.

I reject all of the allegations that have been made against me, which are based on mere semblances and are astonishingly vague. Indeed, the wording of those allegations merely states that a breach of the FIFA Code of Ethics “seems to have been committed” and that a decision on the substance of the matter cannot be taken immediately.

Despite the farcical nature of these events, I refuse to believe that this is a political decision taken in haste in order to taint a lifelong devotee of the game or crush my candidacy for the FIFA presidency.

I want everyone to know my state of mind: more than a sense of injustice or a desire for revenge, I am driven by a profound feeling of staunch defiance. I am more determined than ever to defend myself before the relevant judicial bodies.

I want to reiterate in the strongest possible terms that I will devote myself to ensuring that my good faith prevails. I have received numerous messages of support today from UEFA’s member associations and the other confederations encouraging me to continue my work serving football’s interests. Nothing will make me give up on that commitment.