UP AND RUNNING


On my drive from Bromley to Eltham this morning, I was struck by how few England flags there were on display in houses and on cars.


There has been so much negativity around the choice of Qatar to host the World Cup that I think that many fans have had their enthusiasm dulled for a competition that is always looked forward to with great excitement and anticipation around the world.


The BBC chose not to show the opening ceremony on Sunday and began their coverage with an in-depth review of the reasons it felt the tiny Gulf State should not have been awarded the tournament.


I have always been an advocate of sport being above politics. We live in a world of conflicting morals and values and the truth is that there will always be justifiable reasons why certain countries should be prevented from competing. Russia for its aggression in Ukraine, Qatar for its record on human rights and the treatment of migrant workers, Saudi Arabi for its record on human rights and the list can go on and on. Many organisations in the UK called on England to boycott the tournament.


Now that the World Cup has started there should be no pressure on the players involved nor on the team management of the 32 countries because it was not their decision to select Qatar. They are football players, not politicians.


The decision to award it was taken by FIFA and the behaviour of their senior officials throughout the process shows them to be unfit to administer the greatest sport of them all.


The Netflix documentary was compelling in terms of the alleged corruption within FIFA surrounding the selection of a country that had no football pedigree. The disgraced former FIFA President Sepp Blatter was a big advocate of Qatar and now he says it was a mistake. Three months out from the start of the tournament, FIFA moved the tournament start date back a day which caused issues for some fans of Ecuador who had booked their travel.


The rambling speech by the incumbent FIFA President Gianni Infantino a few days ago criticising ‘the West’ over its excesses for some 3,000 years was a rambling and ill-judged monologue. The assurance from FIFA that fans could buy alcohol inside the stadia was in tatters just a few days ago and has upset fans and FIFA’s leading sponsor Budweiser in equal measure and then on the day of the England game today they announce that any captain wearing a rainbow armband would be given a yellow card by the match referee, despite the fact FIFA were advised some months ago that the captains of various countries would wear that armband. FIFA never acknowledged or responded to that notification until today.


Now that the tournament has started let’s hope as football fans, we can enjoy the matches. England made a brilliant start with a 6-2 win over Iran and there is no doubt we have the talent in the squad to go a long way in the competition. Let's hope they can win it and let’s hope also that VAR can be used with a greater level of consistency as a couple of the decisions today were risible.