The excitement of 2014 FIFA World Cup BrazilTM finals is still ever present in my system, where the liveliness of a flamboyant people presented a wonderful atmosphere on and off the football stadiums. The tourist experiences, from the Corcovado to the Sugarloaf Mountain in Rio de Janeiro, through to the hustle and bustle of the Copacabana beach filled with swimmers and surfers all day, were simply unforgettable.
Yes, the experience was memorable, even if you did not see a single game. Now that it’s over, and I’ve taken the long plane ride back to my country, I’m simply left with the best memories of the year.
Writing of 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia was not yet in my plans, seeing that it is four years away, and knowing that the challenge of hosting this prestigious tournament for any country is never without problems of one kind or another.
Further, FIFA is not allowed to rest on their laurels as past World Cup events have been scrutinized and criticized by various voices across the world, and views on host countries have sometimes become conflicted.
Because of my past experiences with FIFA, the organization for which I was a technocrat for the past twenty years, I have developed absolute trust in their management skills and ability to ensure that every aspect of management, security and all areas relating to the game itself, are dealt with competently.
However, the pendulum seemed to have swung dramatically in various countries across the world, some creating discomfort to their neighboring territories, others, even laying down the gauntlet for the start of civil unrest among their own people.
Russia is one of these countries which has drawn the attention of many powerful nations in the world who sat up to take notice of a “war’ which appears to be brewing against Ukraine, a country which had gained its own independence when the Soviet Union separated into numerous countries.
Oftentimes, conflict between countries don’t seem to be of major concern, until of course, one launches a military attack against the other, with hundreds of people dying and the promise of more violence.
The warnings of the United Nations do not appear to shake Russia, who appear bent on aggravating their Ukrainian neighbors, who are taking defensive action in the best way they can.
What are FIFA’s thoughts in light of what’s currently happening? Surely, they sense that most world leaders abhor the behavior of the Russian leader?
Some folks claim that FIFA selects the World Cup host country far too early; but this is necessary as it allows the football body to monitor and approve massive World Cup preparations over an extended period of time.
My question is: Has FIFA opened any in-house discussions as to whether or not they must ask Russia to reiterate the areas in their contractual arrangement where they have guaranteed absolute airtight security for the teams, officials, and spectators who will enter their country during the World Cup? My second question is: Can the Russians make such safety guarantees while battling with Ukraine in a conflict they seem to have ignited?
The decision regarding the World Cup host country does not belong to any individual nation, but to each and every one of the FIFA family members.
FIFA has set examples in the past, maybe not completely similar to what presently exists, where they have taken the tournament away from a host country that seemed vulnerable, and given it hastily to another.
It would be prudent if FIFA takes the issue to the Russian Federation now, and seek answers well in advance of what appears to be an escalating problem, drawing the attention of many of the world’s leading football countries. Some political giants have placed these concerns on the front burner of their political communications.
The football world is far too efficient to allow any form of irresponsible authority to take the preparation through a complex and uncertain stage of security guarantees when the job of host country can be handed easily to quite a few of the leading football administration giants, such as England, Italy, Spain, (or even the USA, who must offer travel guarantees without complications for visitors to the tournament).
In my humble opinion, FIFA should place this humanitarian and security issue on the front burner, seek opinions from their member associations and stakeholders, and determine whether a new direction should be taken for the next World Cup.
They will surely recognize the negative effect that an endangered World Cup can have on those planning to travel to Russia.
World Cup football is big business and sponsors will be reluctant to plan and execute marketing strategies in such an inflammatory atmosphere.
Even the large clubs will seek to protect their players from this situation. The ball is in FIFA’s court.