• 4717

Qatar Flexes its Balls


Without the necessary infrastructure or even any “football culture”, Qatar was always a funny choice for the FIFA World Cup – it’s too small, its population too docile and, evidently, too sober. Then there is the climate, which can kill you if you aren’t careful.


And now the world is in a righteous uproar. It’s not how FIFA awarded Qatar the event – the Qatari’s bought the event with cash and hookers just like everyone else. It’s not even the human right violations: If you are going to stomp your feet about sportswashing, China and Russia are where you need to focus your liberal ire. Sure, Qatar is sort of awful, but their Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) is keeping keeping the lights and furnaces on in Europe this winter. And after building the world’s largest airbase, both the USAF and the RAF have relocated their Middle East commands there, away from Saudi Arabia which, on balance, is slightly more awful.


No, it’s none of that… it’s the damned beer. Granted the Budweiser knew years ago that the real beer wouldn’t be sold inside the stadium but around the outside in kiosks that, as the stadiums were built, crept further and further from the gate. It was the U-turn 48 hours before the opening match banning beer even on the perimeters of the stadium. Which is even more galling because there is a very good chance (that organizers will never admit) that the beer question wasn’t a U turn at all – they’d meant to do it all along.


The Qataris didn’t get what they are being stupid. It really isn’t much of a country – a family plantation is more accurate. It’s a queer little peninsula in the Persian Gulf (or, depending on which excitable local you ask, the Arabian Gulf) created by rising sea-levels back before anyone can remember. It’s the size of Vermont and it isn’t getting any bigger. That’s fine, though, it’s only got the population of Birmingham, Alabama. None of whom are inclined to do much heavy lifting. Once a node in a larger trading network known chiefly for pearls, the discovery of crude oil in 1940 changed the fortunes of the country and made the citizenry too lazy to defend themselves. They never got around to and army and were one of the few British protectorates that didn’t really want to go independent in 1971. When it did happen, they immediately became vassals of the Saudis.


Which changed in the mid-90s with the creation of the international universities and Al Jazeera – the CNN of the Middle East – which put Qatar in the center of the international news cycle even if nothing much was actually happening. It would also put any invasion front and center, as well. They may not have been a world player, but they sure as hell looked like one – like a non-violent North Korea with better funding. So, now they’ve bought themselves a World Cup, killed a bunch of foreigners to build the stadiums and infrastructure, took Budweiser’s $63 million in sponsorship money and moved the beer stalls out in to the desert. And are watching the world take it.


If that isn’t a geo-political I don’t know what is.


Unlike Kim Jung Un’s flinging ballistic missiles all of the neighborhood, Qatar’s flex has caught the world’s attention with no real negative blow-back. Budweiser is big, but it isn’t pre-breakup AT&T big, so it’s isn’t overthrowing the government. Europe may be aghast; but only Americans will admit that they can not watch soccer sober. And with college football season wrapping up, most of us don’t care anyway.


So Qatar – a commodity rich sand-bar that willed itself into existence – has pissed off Europe at the point where it is desperate for the country’s LNG, annoyed a huge American corporation on a global scale, and in a single stroke ensured that no Middle Eastern country will ever get a World Cup again. There’s will be the one and only.


You have to give it to them… well, played boys. Well played.