Only Rich Countries Should Host the World Cup

World Cup

The World Cup is the greatest sporting event in the world. Every four years, each earthling makes the small migration to the nearest television to watch the newest crop of soccer stars square off against each other. It is terrific because everyone decides to care about this epic tournament and that level of unity is usually reserved for World Wars. It is conversation common ground for the entire planet.

The dazzling speed, improvised collaboration, and burning passion of soccer players reaches new heights every four years. There may be more super-clubs in the LigaBBVA or the Barclays Premier League, but the World Cup offers each nation at least a puncher’s chance to compete. Each match is important because even less storied nations can tap into some upset magic on the world’s biggest stage.

It’s an unpredictable drama. In the last cup, who could forget Spain’s surprise early exit, James Rodriguez’s rocket to stardom, or Germany’s systematic dismantling of BrazilThe World Cup combines sublime talent, classic moments, and all the world’s cultures to create this perfect sporting extravaganza. It’s the best.  

However, the one problem with the World Cup is that it is tremendously expensive. The last World Cup cost Brazil a tidy 14 billion dollars to build the necessary stadiums and infrastructure to host the event. That’s roughly the entire GDP of Cambodia.

For a country like Brazil with such a high level of civil unrest, poverty, and corruption, it seems that 14 billion dollars could have been better spent on social services, hospitals, and schools instead of a month-long event. There should not be multibillion dollar stadiums within walking distance of slums.

Even worse, these newly crafted stadiums are now almost entirely useless as there are few other occasions that need to house such crowds of people. Although Brazil did a wonderful job of hosting the Cup, the thought of billions wasted on useless stadiums while millions suffer is enough to make anyone a bit uncomfortable.

The World Cup is unquestionably wonderful, but it should not mortgage the future of its host nation. Brazil as wonderful as it is, was not fit to host that last World Cup. It should not have forced its people to choose between the game they love, and their own livelihood.

FIFA recently removed hosting responsibilities from Qatar for the 2022 Cup after nauseating reports surfaced. First, hosting priveleges were essentially bought by Qatari billionaire Mohamed bin Hammam’s well-placed bribes to FIFA officials. Additionally, the stadiums were being built like the Egyptians built the Pyramids, with slave labor and plenty of death. It’s the type of situation we like to imagine no longer exists.

Not to mention, that all this atrociousness was for a World Cup in a sweltering desert country that would have no use for the massive stadiums after the epic tournament as the total population of Qatar is only 2 million or roughly the same as New Mexico. It was a short-sighted, highly suspicious place to host the Cup, but not particularly surprising as FIFA has proved itself more corrupt than Boss Tweed.

FIFA officials obviously need to be less nefarious, but also choose countries that make sense to host the Cup. The World Cup should only be hosted in nations that can absorb the tremendous impact of the event. We need to put it in countries that have proved they are capable of hosting matches of this scale like England, America, Spain, Italy, Germany, France, or any other nation with at least some existing infrastructure to handle the Cup.

As much pride as hosting the World Cup can bring to a nation, it is not fair to put that responsibility on a country that has to sabotage itself to host it.

In 2018, Russia hosts the World Cup and should do fine as their massive GDP can absorb the cost of the tournament and their legendarily large population can find some use for the stadiums after the final whistle is blown. FIFA should choose a similarly situated nation for 2022.

The World Cup is humanity’s greatest party, but even the best party can be ruined by the wrong host.

The Beautiful Game

san-antonio-spurs-2014-nba-champion

Basketball players are the pinnacle of evolution. In more primitive times, these men would have been slaying beasts and saving maidens. Had Lebron lived in ancient Sumeria, the legend of King James would have been found alongside Gilgamesh.

Nowadays, these legendarily proportioned men exert their energy playing basketball, where the physically gifted are perfectly suited to put a ball through a hoop ten feet in the air. They can drive through or elevate over their opponent to score at will. For the most talented players, teamwork, though important, can be seen as optional, especially when their astounding individual performance reaps not only victories, but also awards, money, and fans.

Soccer players are different. Star players look like guys who didn’t get picked to play on the basketball team. If they weren’t in impeccable shape, elaborately tattooed, and preposterously coiffed, they would not turn a head. Messi, stands 5’6″ and weighs less than 150 pounds. Cristiano would be small for point guard. Ibrahimovic and Kobe are the same size.

But, soccer stars don’t need to win the genetic lottery, because no matter how dominant an athlete may be, it is near impossible to score a goal alone. First off, the rules forbid using HANDS, the appendage crafted over billions of years of evolution for the specific purpose of catching, holding, and throwing. Without HANDS, dodging ten defenders and shooting past a goalie is a ludicrous venture.

In soccer, selfishness is the seed of failure. Players can not seek to excel on their own. They must be a cog in the machine. Opponents cannot be plowed through by a single player, they must be dissected by a team. Passing is paramount. Often the most important play is not the goal, but the superb through ball that unzips the defense.

Soccer requires the best elements of human nature: selflessness, creativity, and passion. On the greatest plays, averaged-sized humans transcend their individual shortcomings as part of a team and create the spectacular. Viewing this collaboration is beautiful. Being a part of it, is addicting.

Whereas Americans adorn their childhood walls with NBA players posterizing opponents, international youth idolize the great sides posing in team photos with arms draped around one another. They start playing soccer when they learn to stand and are bottle-fed the heroin of harmony. For most, soccer satiates their cravings, but those who seek bliss with more zip turn to basketball for their fix.

In the NBA, most teams look for the next Herculean superstar, but San Antonio seeks foreign-born harmony addicts. Of the nine most used Spurs players, seven were born outside the United States. A Spur seeks the joy of cooperation over the glorification of self.  A Spur passes up good shots for great shots. A Spur is a teammate.

They play basketball like soccer. Their elaborate whirring offense rivals Barcelona working the tiki-taka. Every player touches the ball, moving towards an increasingly deadly position until the made basket is a formality.

SPURSPASSING

In five seconds, a balding Argentinian, a wee Australian, a middle-aged Virgin Islander and a pudgy Frenchman eviscerated the most athletic defense in the league.

On paper, the Spurs have no business contending for a title. They’re big, slow, and old in a league getting smaller, faster, and younger. But, the Spurs excel in transcending their modest physical gifts into spectacular team performance.

In the words of my Kindergarten teacher during clean-up time, “Many hands, make little work” and the many hands of the Spurs made little work of the entire league this season.

In the seventeenth year of the Duncan-Popovich Dynasty, after an unfathomably devastating Finals defeat, the Spurs unleashed a scorched earth policy and played the most perfect basketball of this generation.

The World Cup started last week, but we’ve been watching the beautiful game all year.

 

P.S. Don’t say I didn’t warn ya.