The Last Word: More questions for Qatar

Instant millionaires like Ezekiel do not require the world’s vigilance. It is the rejects of a system which feeds on desperation who must be protected

Imoh Ezekiel began a new life when he arrived in Doha on Friday evening. His escape from the poverty of his Nigerian birthplace, Lagos, was complete. He will earn a minimum of £8 million playing for the Qatari club Al Arabi over the next four years.

Given the financial benefits of the striker’s £7.5m transfer from Standard Liège, it is difficult to depict him as a symbol of economic oppression, or a victim of a grotesque human experiment. He is 20, gifted and the embodiment of a global dream.

He is also an unashamed opportunist, a product of an era in which allegiances are blurred and conventions of citizenship are flouted. Ambition vaults national boundaries; Ezekiel was courted by Tottenham, Marseille, Fiorentina, Werder Bremen, Hertha Berlin and Schalke 04.

He had announced his intention to play for Belgium before making a sudden international debut for Nigeria, as a late substitute against Mexico in March. Since that was only a friendly, staged in the US, he has the option of again shifting his stance.

His apparent willingness to submit to a five-year residential qualification programme in order to be eligible for Qatar’s 2022 World Cup team is a potential game-changer. Rumours of a £3m bonus if he does so remain unsubstantiated, but the prospect of a systematic poaching policy is politically toxic. Qatari officials are coy, but talks are planned later this month with Ezekiel’s mentor, Liameed Gafar, chief executive of 36 Lion, the Nigerian nursery club which discovered him. Gafar insisted: “If he does well for Al Arabi and adapts, just as he did at Standard Liège, then he has a chance to play for Qatar.”

The concept is not new – a decade ago Kenya’s Stephen Cherono, the world- record holder in the 3,000 metres steeplechase, changed nationalities and his name, to Shaheen Saif Saaeed, in return for a guaranteed income for life – but remains hyper-sensitive. Qatar’s bid to host the 2019 World Athletics Championship is founded on a promise that such a strategy has been abandoned.

Sepp Blatter has been at the front of the controversial decision to award Qatar the 2022 World Cup Sepp Blatter has been at the front of the controversial decision to award Qatar the 2022 World Cup Only the hopelessly naïve would expect the Qataris to succumb meekly to the natural limitations of a state with only 300,000 citizens. Money is not the issue. They haven’t endured global cynicism, accusations of corruption and allegations of institutionalised human rights abuse to be derided because of a lack of athletic credibility. Qatar’s current Under-20 football team, seen as a test bed for 2022, lost 7-0 to Brazil and 3-0 to England in this summer’s Toulon Tournament. Though they did achieve creditable draws with Colombia and South Korea, they will need to improve exponentially, and quickly. Their methods deserve stringent scrutiny.

The implications of Aspire Football Dreams, a recruitment programme which has involved the screening of  3.5 million young athletes in 17 nations across three continents over the past seven years, are particularly disturbing. Boys as young as 13 emerge from national trials, to be housed and educated in academies in Qatar and Senegal. T

he best of the best are then exported to KAS Eupen, a feeder club in Belgium’s second division. The Qataris depict it as a humanitarian project, and highlight such success stories as Diawandou Diagne, a Senegalese defender who has just signed for Barcelona B, but scepticism is understandable. Andreas Bleicher, a German coach who heads the Aspire project, admitted to the New York Times: “I suppose maybe some of the players feel like they would want to represent Qatar, because Qatar helped them when their home countries did not.” In that event, he acknowledged, “everyone will kill us”.

Instant millionaires like Ezekiel do not require the world’s vigilance. It is those boys whose names we will never know, rejects of a system which feeds on desperation and delusions of grandeur, who must be protected.

Clarke is no crowd-pleaser

Jimmy Anderson will be welcomed at Old Trafford on Thursday as a homespun hero, even if his demeanour suggests he is ready to give Morrissey, the poet laureate of pessimism, lessons in being miserable.

He is fortunate the hobby of His Honour Gordon Lewis AM is saving cricket from itself. The richly deserved contempt with which the retired Australian High Court judge regarded Anderson’s playground spat with Ravindra Jadeja was an overdue application of common sense.

England bowler James Anderson England bowler James Anderson It leaves Lewis open to bureaucratic vengeance by those within the ICC, cricket’s discredited governing body, who are only too happy to do the bidding of Indian administrators and their allies. They are conditioned to regarding a man of strident independence and unchallenged integrity as a liability.

The game is so weak and ill-managed that individuals such as the ECB chairman, Giles Clarke, retain undue influence. A self-proclaimed marketing genius who is apparently content for England’s Test team to be watched by crowds that would shame a League One football club is surely surplus to requirements.

Lampard suits City’s suits

Since Frank Lampard kisses the badge with an adolescent frenzy usually reserved for the last dance at the school disco, it was fitting his short-term loan move to Manchester City evoked fourth-form angst.

One social inadequate slurped all over social media: “Lampard is dead to me! What a traitor!” Another overwrought Chelsea fan ceremonially burned a shirt. They, and the rest of the hysterics, missed the point.

Lampard joined New York City FC Lampard joined New York City FC Since City’s executives boast their recruitment plans are strategic, I suspect this was planned long ago. Ever the model professional, Lampard is merely doing his new employers a favour in the era of Financial Fair Play, and being a conveniently British body around the place for six months.

Small earthquake on Twitter, no one hurt.

Usain Bolt watching a women's netball match between Jamaica and New Zealand Usain Bolt watching a women's netball match between Jamaica and New Zealand Stop bowing down to Bolt

A thought for craven BBC cheerleaders and assorted apologists for Usain Bolt to consider: if the Commonwealth Games are as life-affirming and democratic as they claim, why does their genuflection before the sprinter’s celebrity, in the sideshow of a sprint relay, demean the very event they are eulogising?

News
The dress can be seen in different colours
news

Life and Style
Divers at Bouldnor Cliff underwater site in the Solent off the Isle of Wight, where the silt sample containing the einkorn DNA was found
life
Life and Style
A monstrous idea? Body transplants might no longer be science fiction
Science An Italian neurosurgeon believes so - and it's not quite as implausible as it sounds, says Steve Connor
Sport
Demba Ba (right) celebrates after Besiktas win on penalties
footballThere was no happy return to the Ataturk Stadium, where the Reds famously won Champions League
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
arts + ents
News
Mia Freedman, editorial director of the Mamamia website, reads out a tweet she was sent.
arts + ents
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
The write stuff: masters of story-telling James Joyce, left, and Thomas Hardy
arts + ents...begging to differ, John Walsh can't even begin to number the ways
Sport
Jose Mourinho on Sky Sports
footballEXCLUSIVE COLUMN Paul Scholes: It was not a leg-breaking tackle, as the Chelsea manager had claimed
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower