At 3:45 p.m. on Thursday, December 2, “Quatar” was trending on Twitter. Legions of soccer fans took to social media sites to discuss the shock vote that awarded the World Cup to this tiny Middle Eastern country.
Problem is, the name of the country is actually spelled “Qatar." That's the irony of Thursday's decision -- the biggest event in the entire world had just been awarded to a nation most people didn't even know how to spell.
Obscurity aside, there's no doubting the influence of this diminutive, but wealthy nation. Though comparable to the size of Connecticut, Qatar's rich oil and natural gas reserves enabled it to attain the second highest per-capita income in the entire world. And credit their bid committee for pushing the belief that a Qatari World Cup can bridge the gap between the Western and Arab worlds.
Philadelphia soccer fans, Union players and coaches, and city officials packed the Tir Na Nog bar on Thursday, but they went home disappointed. Despite a strong pitch from a delegation that included former President Bill Clinton, Landon Donovan, and Morgan Freeman, U.S. ambitions for 2022 fell short.
“Disappointment ... that's really the only way I can put it,” Union captain Danny Califf told philadelphiaunion.com. “At the end of the day, it's not a huge surprise. I think that FIFA has been trying, as a trend, to put this event in places that are maybe a bit under-explored. But I have to feel like money played a huge factor in both of these decisions (Russia was awarded 2018), and I think that maybe sacrifices the quality of the event. I mean, obviously, you can never tell. I think (the United States) could put on the best event that there could have been, and that's what's disappointing.”
Union goalkeeper Chris Seitz echoed those sentiments.
“I was pretty disappointed, obviously," he said. "I think all of us in Philadelphia, everyone in the United States, wanted to see the World Cup come here. All we can do now is continue to grow soccer here, and make (the World Cup) a better option in the future.”
Califf drew some comparisons between this decision and the failed 2016 Chicago Olympic bid. The Windy City lost out to Madrid, and eventual winner Rio de Janeiro. The fallout following that bid led to political finger-pointing, and some even suggested a waning American influence on the world.
But the Union captain doesn't feel the decision is an indictment of the United States, believing instead that FIFA is focused on bringing the game to new corners of the globe.
“I don't think it says anything less about the United States," Califf added. "I think it says (more) about which direction the bid committee and FIFA wanted to go in from the very beginning. I think the Olympic committee showed that in the last decision, and I think that was reflected in the decision with South Africa, and the way they want to go about it for the future."
Late in the bidding process, the United States and Qatar were considered to be the two frontrunners for 2022. Seitz says the hype over American chances added to the eventual disappointment.
“I'm sure Qatar is excited, and thrilled, and it will obviously be the first time (the World Cup) has ever been there," he continued. "But for the U.S. - I'm always gonna root for the U.S in that situation. I really thought we had a very good opportunity and a good chance and I'm just bummed we didn't get it."
Perhaps the most concerning factor relating to a Qatari World Cup is the heat -- blistering, scorching heat. Summer temperatures in Doha average around 120 degrees Fahrenheit. But Qatar's engineers unveiled an elaborate plan to use advanced air conditioning technology to cool its stadiums and playing surfaces, ensuring player safety.
While Qatar's heat is incomparable, the recent Philadelphia summer was pretty sticky by our standards. Both Califf and Seitz played in that heat.
“I think the people that are making the decision don't have to be on the field, so I don't think they're all that concerned about it,” Califf explained. “They hear about air conditioning and they think that it's going to be okay, but they don't have to step on the field and go for 90-plus minutes either.”
Added Seitz: “Listen, they've got the money to do anything. Whether that means an indoor game - I don't know what they mean by throwing an air conditioner in there ... but it should be interesting. And I'm sure they're gonna do great, but, it's (still) disappointing.”
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