Bad Sports Open Thread: Qatar’s World Cup

Back in 2013, I ran across a most informative & entertaining series by Dave Roth, explaining the genesis of Qatar’s bid for the 2022 World Cup:

FIFA is FIFA, which is to say it’s this sort of smuggo mafia of puffy, predatory globo-elite males in suits, all of them dedicated to extracting some sort of rent from the world’s totally helpless and justified love for soccer. And FIFA being FIFA, it has all these wildly un-transparent internal processes — everything done by design in secret, endless dodgy handshake deals between men whose handshakes are mostly worthless — that seem almost to incent lawlessness

More recently, in 2020, questions were raised about whether the new miracle vaccines would be effective enough to prevent a global superspreader event.

And now — FIFA has been strongarmed into ‘suspending’ Russia, for the moment.

As a totally unqualified spectator, I have to assume that’s gonna screw up some of the already tight qualification scheduling between now & November, yes?


As head of the German soccer federation, Theo Zwanziger was among his sport’s most prominent critics of the decision to award the 2022 World Cup to Qatar. He publicly attacked the energy-rich Gulf nation’s human rights record. He questioned the wisdom of staging the world’s most popular sporting event in searing desert heat.

“The infinite wealth of this small country of Qatar spreads almost like a cancer through football and sport,” Zwanziger once said. A member of FIFA’s executive committee, he urged world soccer’s governing body to reverse its 2010 decision.

The Qatari government was so concerned by Zwanziger’s criticism that it took action. It paid more than $10 million to a company staffed by former CIA operatives for a multi-year covert influence operation codenamed “Project Riverbed,” according to internal company documents reviewed by The Associated Press.

The records indicate that the goal of the operation was to use spycraft to silence Zwanziger. It failed…

The Qatar World Cup, now scheduled to start in November, is the culmination of more than a dozen years of effort and untold billions spent to help propel the tiny desert nation onto the world stage.

The endeavor has long been dogged by allegations of corruption and wrongdoing. U.S. prosecutors said in 2020 that bribes were paid to FIFA executive committee members to gain their votes. Qatar has denied any wrongdoing.

Documents reviewed by AP provide new details about Qatar’s efforts to win and hold onto the tournament, specifically the country’s work with former CIA officer Kevin Chalker and company, Global Risk Advisors. The documents build on AP’s previous reporting about Chalker’s work for Qatar.

Qatari officials did not respond to requests for comment…

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