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World Cup in Qatar: Wrong time, wrong place for the wrong reasons but let’s try to enjoy it anyway

The 22nd World Cup is being played in the wrong place at the wrong time for the wrong reasons. But it’s happening now, so might as well make the most of it.

There’s an air of escapism to being able to sit in front of your TV day in and day out watching the best players in the world battle it out for football’s greatest prize from thousands of miles away. And right now, there’s plenty to escape.

But for some, this tournament will be unavoidable because of the bad taste it leaves in the mouth.

Hopefully the dirty day in December 2010 when FIFA, for reasons best known from its officials’ bank balances, voted to hand over its showpiece event to Vladimir Putin’s Russia in 2018 and a narrow-minded desert state unsuited to the Summer football four years later falls as the low point in FIFA’s shameful history of corruption rather than another part of the slippery slope.

VICTORY CELEBRATION: Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani lifts the World Cup trophy after FIFA President Joseph Blatter announced the country as World Cup host 2022 12 years ago

Greed has escalated the situation to produce a situation where the best footballers in the world are under-prepared to show their best football – or at least those lucky enough not to have had to retire due to injury like Saido Mane , Ngolo Kante, Reece James and Paul. Pogba.

When the vote was taken to host the tournament in Qatar, it was on the principle that it would be held during the European summer, as the World Cups are. When it was admitted that it was inhumanly unfeasible, the games were stuck in the domestic season as uncomfortably as some of the lyrics of any version of Three Lions Baddiel and Skinner’s latest is with no one seemingly willing to give enough ground to create respite for him.

Big injuries beyond, one can only hope it doesn’t affect the quality of football, but that seems unlikely.

Players have a job to do but must not obey FIFA’s directive to ignore unacceptable things they see. Just because Qatar bought a sportswashing World Cup doesn’t mean we have to play the game.

NOTABLE ABSENT: Injured Senegal striker Sadio Mane

Top marks for England – a football team with a conscience the country can be proud of under the leadership of Gareth Southgate and by no means the only one – for arriving on a plane decorated with ‘Gay Pride’, having staged a training session for migrant workers and giving away free tickets for the games.

Apologists say this World Cup has highlighted some of the problems in Qatar, but if the Danish and Irish media have been treated so badly this week – prevented from filming in a public place by authoritarian officials – it doesn’t bode well. good for LGBTQ+ supporters, for Example.

Organizers recruiting fake fans also show little promise for what will look like a fairly plastic-free World Cup in air-conditioned stadiums.

That the disputes over beer sales are only happening now sums it all up.

POLITICAL GESTURE: England rising star Jude Bellingham (foreground) signs a shirt for migrant workers at Al Wakrah Stadium in Doha

Qatar’s record could have been brought to light without it being rewarded with a prestigious international sports tournament.

But these arguments come years too late.

Once the Faustian pact is consummated when Qatar take on Ecuador on Sunday at 4 p.m., we have to hope that football compensates for politics.

It will be a farewell World Cup for two all-time greats, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo – one aging more gracefully than the other at the moment. The players from Argentina and Portugal would like to send their talisman with a winner’s medal around their neck.

PASSIONATE GOODBYE? This will almost certainly be Lionel Messi’s last World Cup

Wales won’t be able to give Gareth Bale that send-off, but the motivation is the same, and Uruguay and Croatia could take Luis Suarez and Luca Modric away.

Unfortunately, one of the candidates to emerge as a new world talent, Frenchman Christopher Nkunku, suffered another injury this week, but some will burst.

Just seeing the evocative Brazil and Netherlands jerseys – although the makers of the latter seem to have worked on the wrong color chart – brings a World Cup to life and they have players worthy of filling them. With Dutch coach Louis van Gaal set to retire after the tournament as he suffers from prostate cancer, there is another romantic story available.

European champions Italy have failed to qualify and France look badly beaten, but African champions Senegal – with Sheffield United’s Iliman Ndiaye – will be there, potentially eyeing England in second turn, while Denmark look like dark horses, if they are semi-finalists at the last European Championship can be described as such.

Germany appear to be in better shape under Hansi Flick and the exciting youngsters Spain showed two summers ago have a bit more experience.

As for England, they bring a curious mix to the table.

Their form in 2022 is poor but their tournament record under Southgate is formidable. Harry Kane, Declan Rice and Jude Bellingham appear to be overworked, Yorkshiremen Kyle Walker, Kalvin Phillips and Harry Maguire undercooked. Their team is embarrassingly rich in some areas, embarrassingly lacking in others.

With no clear winner either way, the unusual timing, preparations and conditions could make this an even more open tournament.

It could be a good World Cup in spite of itself or a monument to greed rather than common sense. One wonders which one when it’s over.