The Conversation


Written in 2009 by Umberto Plaja and Steffi Decker.

Edited and Updated in 2013 by Ian Bruckner, Vinay Kumar, Colby Shanafelt, Tuck Stapor, and Jordan Pearson

NOTE: This page was written in 2009, before the 2018 and 2022 World Cup decisions were made. It expresses the analysis and opinions of the authors at that time. For information regarding the 2018 World Cup in Russia or the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, please click the links here or navigate to those pages from the ‘Selecting A Host’ page.


<<Selecting A Host<<The Bids>>The Decision

S: Let’s start with one of the hotly contested issues in this round of World Cup host selection – joint bids.  What do you think?  Are two countries hosting the World Cup double the benefit as one?

U:    Let’s take a look at Korea/ Japan 2002. In discussing the decision making process for the Korea/Japan 2002 World Cup, Oliver Butler, in his article “Getting the Games,” mentions that giving the games to both Korea and Japan “could be see as establishing a precedent. UEFA had already decided that Belgium and Holland would co-host its European Championships in 2000 and there was talk of the four Scandinavian countries of Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland proposing a joint bid for the 2006 World Cup. Takeuchi Hiroshi believes it was with this in mind that the FIFA inspection committee sent to check the candidatures of Japan and Korea in November 1995 reported no great difference between the nature of the two bids, when in fact there was, and recommended consideration of co-hosting.”[1]

So where does this fit into 2018 or 2012 you may ask?

S: That is exactly what I was going to ask…

U: Right. So, although this does not directly relate to the bids themselves, I do believe there is a conceptual or thematic parallel. For one, it stresses the politicking involved in the decision making process and thus, how difficult such things are to predict. However, on a more profound level it brings to light the two joint bids which are being placed for the 2018, or 2022 World Cup: Spain and Portugal, and Holland and Belgium. Although it is intriguing that Spain, a developed and size-able country comparable to France or Germany, who have both hosted recently, would want to host the World Cup jointly, as in Butlers quote, it seems that Japan and Korea has in a way legitimized the dual bid. I do not see these joint bids as having had the chance to come about without the previous successfully organized joint venture. On another level, a joint bid is a way to spread costs and stadium construction.


S: Some very interesting points.  What is particularly peculiar is that Sepp Blatter initially said he did not want joint bids.  He said, “After the World Cup 2002, the executive committee took a decision: Never again a double candidature because it was absolutely wrong.”  However, it seems now that Blatter is reconsidering the joint bids from Holland/Belgium and Spain/Portugal.  One key difference between these and the 2002-cup joint efforts though, is they are both organized by central planning committees, not two independent Local Organizing Committees (LOCs), as was the case in 2002.

Blatter’s point though is well taken – why have two host countries with two separate bureaucracies to work through when you can have one country that can handle the same demand?  Plus, as you point out though, it is curious why Spain, a country as developed and capable as Germany or France is aligning with Portugal in the endeavor. Neither Holland nor Belgium could host the event independently though, but are determined to prove that good things can come in small packages and that small countries are no less capable of hosting a World Cup than are big countries.

U: I bet the most enthusiastic supporters of that sentiment work for the Qatar bid committee.

S: True.  I think small countries have succeeded in hosting major sporting events, Switzerland, for example has hosted the winter Olympics, Singapore is hosting the first  Youth Olympic Games in 2010.  However, I would be surprised that in such a competitive field of bidding nations, if FIFA ultimately selects either a small nation or a joint bid

Picture 4

(Picture from, the former website for the Holland/Belgium bid)

U: While I understand the down sides of joint hosting and small bids, one thing the joint bids uniquely present is an element of unity which is very much in the spirit of the World Cup. Unity has emerged as a focus in the bid campaigns of may countries. The Holland Belgium bid coins the slogan “Together for great goals.” England’s slogan is “England united, the world invited.” Obama himself emphasizes the power of football to pull people together. “As a child, I played soccer on a dire road in Jakarta, and the game brought the children of my neighborhood together,’ the president wrote in a letter that was hand-delivered recently to Joseph S. Blatter, the president of soccer’s world governing body, known as FIFA…’As a father, I saw that same spirit of unity alive on the fields and sidelines of my own daughters’ soccer games in Chicago.” Obama goes on to mention that “Soccer is truly the world’s sport, and the World Cup promotes camaraderie and friendly competition across the globe”[2]


This factor of unity seems to be increasingly important to FIFA. It seems only logical that FIFA would want a host which embodies this ambition. When awarding the World Cup to South africa in 2006, FIFA president Joseph Blatter declared,  “Who better, than a country which presented itself with three Nobel peace prizes, to send a message of peace in football?”[3]

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Watch the Qatar 2022 Introduction Video

This instantly makes Qatar, in my opinion, one of the more interesting bids to watch (for 2022). In similar fashion to Holland-Belgium and Obama (for the US bid), Qatar casts the World Cup as an opportunity to bridge something; in this case it is dramatically presented as an opportunity to bridge the world. The Qatar bid website says, “it will be the first time the World Cup will come to the Middle East, a region brimming with sporting potential and passion. In Qatar, history and the future will come together in historic choice of Host Nation. In a global age with media and technology bringing continents closer together – Qatar is truly in the Middle, neither in the East nor the West. Qatar proposes a World Cup that will thus perfectly reflect the FIFA slogan “For the Game; for the World.”[4] This appeal is most eloquently put; as with South Africa 2010, this gives FIFA the opportunity to give the games to an up and coming nation, which is often politically turbulent.

S: It’s funny that as much as soccer brings people together, it can also tear them apart.  Right now, looking at Algeria and Egypt, it seems that soccer is creating a dividing line in an easily aggravated region.  Egyptians in particular are associating the loss to Algeria and the failure to qualify for the World Cup with the decline and deflation of Egypt’s role in regional and global politics.


That seems like kind of a stretch to me, but historically we have seen football used as a display for already existing tensions.  I think this happens because global politics are not a particularly cut and dry type of arena – with a government saying one thing, interest groups pushing another, and people not really paying attentions, it’s hard to understand where a country like Egypt truly falls on the global stage.  Football, on the other hand, is simple.  One team wins; one team loses.  This is not a clash that takes centuries to unravel like conflict in the Middle East for example; it takes 90 minutes. After 90 minutes you know exactly where you stand.  One team, or by extension nation, is more dominant than another.

The beauty of the World Cup though as a unifying force is that out of 32 teams, there is only one winner.  While one country can take their World Cup victory and parlay it into a narrative about national power (a la Italy in the 1930s) the majority of the world (assuming the winning team is neither India or China) is left to create a community of football fans who gather to either celebrate the game or commiserate their loss, together.  In that logic, I would argue that where the world cup takes place does not really effect how the world unites.

U: So where does that put you in Qatar 2022?  And keep in mind, they have plans to build an 11,000 seat underground stadium?  That’s pretty cool, how do you say no to that?

S: An underground stadium would be pretty cool (of course, aside from the fact that it would be 29,000 seats shy of the FIFA stadium demands) I agree that putting the World Cup in Qatar would be a profound statement about global politics and economics.  A World Cup in Qatar would be a not so subtle nod from FIFA, a multinational, hugely profitable corporation, that Qatar, and maybe by extension the Middle East, has similar capacity in terms of development, infrastructure and stability as do countries like Germany, France, the US, and others who have hosted recently.  FIFA would be catapulting Qatar into a group of states that it yearns to be in and much of the world is skeptical it belongs.  Will it happen?  In 2022, I would say unlikely.

One question that I continue to wrestle with as we look at the progress of the bid committee campaigns a year out from selection is how much does it matter?  Australia has 123,000 facebook fans, England has 1,500 twitter followers, and the United States has 260,000 petition signatories. On December 2nd, 2010, 24 FIFA executive committee members, with an average age of over 55, will convene in a room and will select who will host the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.  I would be skeptical as whether or not they care how many people follow each country’s bid on twitter or how well designed a country’s website is.

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Picture 1

(Picture from, the former website for the USA bid) 

The USA bid for example, has poured money into its grassroots effort. Looking beyond the traditional sports media companies, the USA Bid has employed Blue State Digital, a DC based media firm that does mainly political campaigns, most notably the Obama campaign.  Blue State has designed a website for the USA bid that is very similar to what you might find on a campaign website for that matter.   You will find many sections on the website that are designed for supporters to “take action.” Furthermore, they are applying a lot of the grassroots strategies that the Obama team used to leverage, enable and perpetuate the support of regular people throughout the country.  So the takeaway message is suppose to be that you don’t have to be Landon Donavon or Mia Hamm to help bring the World Cup to the United States and that every little bit matters.  I’m curious whether it does.


The Chicago 2016 Olympic bid also used Blue State Digital and also used a similar strategy.  Clearly it did not pay dividends for them.  The post selection clamor is that the divides and leadership turmoil at the USOC plus the tension between the USOC and the IOC over the creation of a US Olympic cable channel was enough to push support to Rio De Janerio.  While I get that the Olympics and World Cup are different, the October selection in Copenhagen very clearly demonstrated that regardless of how democratizing or equalizing we think the internet is – it is still elites, in dark smoke filled rooms who decide, not 260,000 people who sign a petition or 123,000 facebook fans.

This might be an overly cynical perspective though. What do you think Umberto?  Even though football is suppose to be “the world’s game” how much control does the world have on the game?

U: I think that is a really interesting question.  It’s ironic and a litte funny that the bid committees are spending massive resources trying to convince the world that they should be the host of the World Cup when in fact, the world has no say – it is 24 people in a room who decide and could change their votes depending on which way the wind blows.

However, on a slightly more uplifting note, I would like to believe that the enthusiasm of a nation is reflected in the decision.  Brazil, for example, was chosen to host the 2014 World Cup partly chosen because of the country’s raw and genuine enthusiasm for soccer.  And I’m sorry to the United States and Australia to say, but a country’s love for football cannot be measured by twitter followers or facebook fans.

So how much will the grassroots efforts influence the executive committee? I would argue that it is a relatively small factor in the wider decision.

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How to cite this article: “The World Cup in 2018 & 2022,” Written by Steffi Decker and Umberto Plaja (2009), Edited and Updated by Ian Bruckner, Vinay Kumar, Jordan Pearson, Colby Shanafelt, and Tuck Stapor (2013), Soccer Politics Pages, Soccer Politics Blog, Duke University, (accessed on (date))

[1] Butler Oliver “Japan, South Korea and the co-hosted World Cup” in Japan, Korea and the 2002 World Cup ed. John Horne and Wolfram Manzenreiter, (London: Routledge 2002), 49.

[2] Vecsey, George, “Obama lends Weight to World Cup Bid,”  from the New York Times (April 15 2009):

[3] trans. (by Umberto) from Licari, Fabio, and Buongiovanni, Andrea “Il Mondiale di Mandela” in La Gazzetta dello Sport May 16, 2004 [online] via


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