Tom Peck: Perhaps Sepp Blatter and Co have figured that by the time Qatar 2022 comes around fans will be enthralled by fantasy embezzlement
Come World Cup time, the players are knackered and the football's crap
In fairness to Fifa, whose investigation into corruption in the Qatar World Cup bid will conclude as planned on Monday without having looked at the millions of leaked documents offered to it by The Sunday Times, it is already June now, it's far too hot to be considering any fresh allegations. Much more sensible, surely, to move the whole investigation to the winter, or even better, not to do it at all? And besides, it's party time. From the dark heart of the Brazilian jungle all the way to its incomparably golden coast, the excitement is building.
In makeshift huts, housewives are soaking the ends of torn-up rags in jars of petrol, as their navvy husbands clamber urgently up and down the scaffolds in the still unfinished stadiums. The water-cannons are full to bursting, the tear-gas on ice, the make-up freshly caked on the faces of the armies of child prostitutes and, much closer to home, the final fragrant notes are being stirred into the next bucket of excrement tomorrow's newspapers will launch from point-blank range right down the already soiled robes of Qatar's football overlords.
It is tempting to wonder how on earth Fifa gets away with it, but the answer is obvious. No one who matters cares. The fans don't care. The sponsors don't care. When the whistle finally blows in Arena Corinthians in Sao Paulo on Thursday night, a football-addicted planet will get its first sweet quadrennial pull on the World Cup crack pipe and all will be right again.
It is this addiction that hides from the football fan the extraordinary truth. Here is an organisation that makes billions from doing precisely nothing.
Think of the World Cup as a movie, and Fifa its Hollywood impresario. It doesn't pay for its locations – that's the host's job. It doesn't pay its actors – that's their clubs' job. Yet still it trousers all the box office takings and the huge product placement fees. (All right, so it doesn't get the cash for the actual tickets, but for most fans the box office is their TV screen, and the wildly lucrative broadcast rights for that are Fifa's to sell).
The leading national football associations and the powerful clubs know, if they acted together, they could break it. Gazza's tears, Rossi's rolling eyeballs, Zidane's forehead have always belonged to them. They don't have to hand them all over entirely gratis for a clique of lawyers to sell the advertising space on, but they don't have the stomach for the fight.
Your half-hearted cynic might think Qatar 2022 could cross the tipping point. Terrible, even for the fans at home, at least in the powerful European nations, trying to enjoy a World Cup in November or December when it's cold and dark outside, the barbecue's in the shed, and the beer garden's shut.
And eight long years to come of continual allegations (dare one say it, proof?) of the most rancid corruption that might make even the men at Budweiser and adidas and McDonald's start to think twice.
But it's likely the Fifa men have gamed this all out long ago.
It won't have gone unnoticed that of late, come World Cup time the players are knackered, the football's crap, there are no magical hidden talents unearthed, no great shocks, just for the most part underperformance, a lot of very edgy 1-0s, and a hell of a lot of penalties.
It might just be, then, that by the time Qatar comes around, Blatter and his acolytes have calculated that it will only be the outrageous scandal and corruption over hosting rights that will maintain any interest in the tournament itself.
And if you can stomach the stench, it might be fun. Imagine little kids sticking up corruption wallcharts in their bedrooms, swapping stickers in the playground of their favourite blazer-wearing African sports ministers and shady Swiss bankers.
Hear the roars of laughter emanating from lager-soaked pub tables where grown men mercilessly mock each other's performances in their fantasy embezzlement leagues, with big prizes on offer from the newspapers for whoever can secretly channel the most virtual cash out of their nation's national coffers and into the offshore bank accounts of corrupt sports administrators. "This lad, he's only gone and stuffed half a mil under the Ghanaian's hotel door! He ain't even on the Ex-Co! Mug!"
Then there'll be the low-rent comedians of the day popping up as talking heads, ruminating hilariously in archive clip shows about their favourite World Cup stitch-up: "Remember that Azerbaijani bloke? What was his name? Huge beer gut. Wore a cape. Held the tournament in his own back garden? HIS OWN BACK GARDEN! Poor little Wilfried Zaha. One loose volley into the rhododendrons, had his head chopped clean off."
Just think, the venal vote-casting could be broadcast live throughout the world – all the fun of the Eurovision Song Contest, without the misery of the actual songs, complete with Ray Winstone's face popping up in the ad breaks. "Alright. You wan anuva one? Souf Sudaaaan. Still mired in sectarian straggle, but most amenable to the ol' sly one. 'Av a bang on nat!"
Of course, it could possibly be that in the baking desert of Qatar, Fifa has finally flown too close to the sun, the waxy wings of its private jet melted away, but don't 'av a bang on that any time soon.
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