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Sport

FIFA faces media storm over controversial World Cup choices

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2010-12-03

A media frenzy is underway after FIFA’s announcement Thursday that it had awarded the next two World Cups to Russia and Qatar, which are now the targets of speculation over corruption and the influence their oil wealth had on FIFA's decision.

AFP - FIFA was in the eye of a global media backlash on Friday as newspapers from the losing bidding countries amid outrage at the decision to award Russia and Qatar the World Cups in 2018 and 2022.

From London to Tokyo, from Washington to Madrid, newspapers were singing from the same hymn sheet with claims of corruption and the power of petrodollars over traditional footballing values.

The English media led the protest, claiming Thursday's vote in Zurich in which England's 2018 bid mustered only two votes -- was rigged.

"Fixed!" screamed an outraged Sun in its headline.

"Russia, a mafia state rotten to the core with corruption; Qatar a medieval kingdom with no freedom of speech; Both are swimming in oil money," the tabloid Daily Mirror splashed across its front page.

"How on earth did they persuade the dodgy fatcats at FIFA to give them the World Cup? SOLD."

In The Times, an editorial claimed: "The system of World Cup elections is abysmally corrupt,. It is too small, making it easily manipulated, and it is too secret, protecting it from scrutiny."

There was a similar reaction in Spain, which lost out to Russia in their joint bid with Portugal.

The centre-right El Mundo ran the headline: "The power of gas and oil."

"Russia and Qatar, with projects that were technically very weak but with huge fortunes, win 2018 and 2022 respectively," it added.

The Netherlands, joint bidders with Belgium, were equally scathing.

Dutch daily AD wrote: "With Russia and Qatar FIFA has chosen its guarantees in gold and oil," suggesting that FIFA's Zurich headquarters would be "swimming in banknotes".

"The Netherlands and Belgium were under the impression that FIFA would be sensitive to the ecological nature of their bid," the paper added in an editorial.

"With Qatar, FIFA has chosen an attack on the environment, for a World Cup in air-conditioned stadiums consuming enormous amounts of energy."

Left-leaning daily Volkskrant suggested FIFA had opted for the "the least democratic of the nine candidates".

"Welcome to Russia: corrupt and with no future" was the inside headline in another publication, NRC next.

"In eight years the football World Cup will be held in an authoritarian country where nothing changes."

Japan lost out in their bid with South Korea for 2022, and business daily Nikkei reckoned their bid had also been scuppered by money.

"Qatar, which has never qualified for the World Cup finals, had a weapon in its abundant financial resources based on oil money," it said.

The Asahi Shimbun newspaper said that FIFA must have found Japan's "next-generation World Cup", complete with virtual stadia, lacking.

"There were (FIFA) executives who thought real stadia are more important," it said.

A similar sentiment of shock and dismay was to be found in the US media after the United States' 2022 bid bit the dust.

"Qatar? Really?," wrote the Seattle Times.

"FIFA, world's soccer's governing body, thumbed its nose at the United States' bid on Thursday and awarded the 2022 World Cup to soccer-poor, oil-rich Qatar... All this announcement does is fuel the already-existing suspicions of collusion that have haunted the entire bid process."

The Wall Street Journal said FIFA's secret vote "came amid allegations of kickbacks, bribes and collusion," adding: "Safe to say that ambitions to popularize the 'beautiful game' in the US aren't helped by the spectacle."

Time Magazine said that the results reflected "geopolitical trends."

"Both Russia and Qatar are ruled by strong, uncompromising governments -- one steered by post-Soviet apparatchiks with the tacit backing of a tycoon oligarchy, and the other the hereditary bequest of a family that can trace itself back to pre-Islamic times," Time said.

Even in Russia the mood was not all champagne and roses as local media questioned whether the country could afford to host the marquee event.

While Russian Prime Minister Vladamir Putin put the cost at around 10 billion dollars, some commentators warned the eventual bill could be nearer five times that amount.

"The example of the Sochi Olympics proves that whatever numbers the government gives, they should not be considered final," Kommersant newspaper wrote.

"One could accept any expenses if their structure was transparent and the project's financing controllable," wrote Nezavisimaya Gazeta daily.

Date created : 2010-12-03

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