Theo Zwanziger

Report: FIFA “seriously” considering moving the 2022 World Cup away from Qatar

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There may be some respite after all.

According to German paper Die Welt, a person only identified as a “senior FIFA employee” said that despite FIFA’s public claims that they are adamant about making Qatar 2022 work, moving the event to another country is a “serious option.”

This comes on the heels of a report in The Guardian that over 400 Nepalese immigrant workers have died since construction began on World Cup stadiums in the sweltering hot country.

With the human rights situation in shambles, the report suggests that a decision will be made by the final 2014 meeting of the FIFA Executive Committee.  The senior employee said “there would be enough time for the tournament to be reassigned.”

The Guardian report on the Nepalese death toll comes from the Prevasi Nepali Co-ordination Committee, an organization the Guardian labels as a respected human rights group.

It also warns that the death toll could reach a staggering 4,000 by the time the 2022 World Cup comes around. This number was posed back in September, but apparently it did little to scare FIFA off at the time.

The human rights allegations, coupled with the need to move the World Cup to the winter to avoid stifling heat, could apparently be enough to move the venue location.

However, at least publicly, FIFA president Sepp Blatter and the rest of the organization have held firm in their belief that an in-house solution can be found.

The Executive Committee has not been 100% behind the decision to award Qatar the massive undertaking. Back in the summer of last year, Executive Committee member Theo Zwanziger labeled the decision a “blatant mistake.”

Zwanziger as recently as this Thursday said, speaking at a human rights hearing by the European Union, that in Qatar, “regarding human rights there is no more time.” The hearing apparently resulted in an ultimatum to Qatar that they must come up with a plan to improve working conditions by Wednesday.

FIFA Executive Committee member: Qatar World Cup a “blatant mistake”

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It’s only 2013. We’re just under a decade away from the 2022 finals, and already can’t get the Qatar World Cup out of the headlines. Imagine how ridiculous the conversation is going to be as approach the actual tournament.

But given the circumstances surrounding the Middle East’s first World Cup, you’ve going to hear more people echo Theo Zwanziger, with the former German federation president and current member of FIFA’s executive committee labeling Qatar’s awarding of the 2022 event a “blatant mistake.”

From the AP’s reporting:

A member of FIFA’s executive committee says awarding the 2022 World Cup to Qatar was a “blatant mistake” and that even moving it to avoid searing summer temperatures wouldn’t be ideal.

Former German soccer federation president Theo Zwanziger tells SportBild that a suggestion by FIFA President Sepp Blatter to play the tournament in winter would seriously affect the European leagues and threaten the “unity of German football” …

“If the decision at the time was really wrong you have to cancel it and avoid burdens on those previously uninvolved,” Zwanziger said.

As increasing ludicrous as the 2022 World Cup is looking, there are two sides to this. Yes, there are serious questions about the way Qatar was awarded the event. The 100-plus degree summer temperatures, size of the country, and lack of existing infrastructure (namely, stadiums) would have been enough to doubt the decision without the increasingly substantiated allegations of voting collisions and outright bribery. There are plenty of reasons to disagree with this decision, this process.

But some of what Zwanziger says also reeks of a certain elitism. Why the “unity of German football” should be a primary concern (or at all relevant) in awarding or scheduling World Cups is unclear. The idea that rescheduling the event would seriously threaten European leagues is an exaggeration. Better to say seriously inconvenience them (some rescheduling isn’t going to threaten something as strong as European football). And if those factors are playing a major part in Zwanziger’s view that there should be a re-vote, there’s more than a little European elitism in that view. There’s more than a little reason to doubt his biases.

We never discuss this, but there should be a mechanism that allows areas of the world with more favorable January climates to host World Cups. Locations shouldn’t be forbidden on summer climate alone. There should be a way to have a “winter” World Cup, be that some standardized rescheduling of August-to-May leagues or a unilateral change to that year’s FIFA calendar. To essentially forbid places like the Middle East, north and west Africa, and southeast Asia (among other places) from hosting the tournament does a huge disservice to a large swath of the world’s soccer fans.

So there are two sides to Zwaninger’s rhetorical coin. Is he right to point out the absurdity of how Qatar was awarded the World Cup? No doubt. But he goes to far, essentially making the argument that the Middle East should never host a World Cup. And ultimately, by creating a system that turns its back on an entire region of people, Zwaniger’s advocating a criteria that may be even more unfair than the process that awarded 2022.