Russia, Qatar Take World Cup To New Lands

Russia won the right to put on the 2018 World Cup, the first time it will have been staged in Eastern Europe after 10 editions in the western half of the continent.

Qatar, which has never qualified for the World Cup finals, will stage the 2022 tournament, a first both for the Middle East and for an Arab country. It will also be the smallest nation ever to host the World Cup.

Both new hosts are major energy producers and both had planned larger and costlier investment in infrastructure and new stadiums than all their respective rivals.

FIFA President Sepp Blatter, who announced the winners after a vote of his executive committee in the Swiss financial capital, said: “We go to new lands.

“Never has the World Cup been in Russia and Eastern Europe, and the Middle East and Arabic world have been waiting for a long time so I’m a happy president when we talk about the development of football.”

This year’s World Cup was held in South Africa, the first time it had been held on the African continent.

FIERCE LOBBYING

Soccer’s governing body’s executive committee voted for the two winning bids after a fierce lobbying campaign which saw world political leaders and top sports personalities gather in Zurich to press their case for one of the most prestigious and lucrative prizes in global sport.

Russia defeated the challenge of three other European bidders, England and the joint bids of Netherlands/Belgium and Spain/Portugal.

Russian president Vladimir Putin flew to Zurich after the victory was announced and was due to give a news conference at 2000 GMT.

He had stayed away from lobbying in Zurich, complaining about “unscrupulous competition”, an apparent reference to British media allegations of corruption against some FIFA executive committee members.

Qatar took the honours for 2022 over rivals Australia, Japan, South Korea and the United States.

They committed in their bid document to FIFA building nine new stadiums and renovating three existing grounds at a cost of around $3 billion.

Russia deputy prime minister Igor Shuvalov, whose delegation whooped with delight on the announcement, said: “You have entrusted us with the FIFA World Cup for 2018 and I just can promise, we all can promise, you will never regret it. Let us make history together.”

Qatar bid chairman Sheikh Mohammed bin Hamad Al-Thani told the FIFA executive: “Thank you for backing us and expanding the game. You will be proud of us and you will be proud of the Middle East.”

The voting process took place against a highly charged background after the recent British media corruption allegations.

The executive committee, reduced to 22 after two were suspended over the allegations, voted in secret.

ENGLAND HUMILIATED

Russia won on the second round of voting in which an absolute majority was required. England, motherland of soccer, was humiliated, going out in the first round with just two votes despite three days of lobbying in Zurich by British Prime Minister David Cameron.

Observers said they may have suffered from an adverse reaction by FIFA to the corruption allegations and to Wednesday’s serious outbreak of soccer hooliganism at a cup match in Birmingham.

The Russians, leading with nine votes on the first ballot, obtained 13 votes on the second round, ahead of Spain/Portugal on seven and Netherlands/Belgium with just two.

Qatar led in the 2022 ballot on each of the four rounds, obtaining 14 votes against eight to the U.S. in the final round. Australia made a first round exit with just one vote and Japan and South Korea fell out in turn on the next two rounds. Reuters