Something terrible happened to me this weekend. As the Champions League final between Liverpool and Real Madrid came to an end, I looked out the open window and noticed how beautiful the spring day was. Seventy-five degrees and sunny, and a heaviness in the air that promises more heat and sun in the coming weeks. A gust of wind blew through the window, and the smell of flowers and freshly cut grass filled my nose, and a strange, unintentional thought took hold of my mind: Oh yeah, it’s almost World Cup time. After a split-second, destroy. Because my body and my heart briefly forgot that my mind already knew: we have been betrayed.
Everyone is aware of the fact that the 2022 World Cup will be played in winter for some time, but whenever it comes to my head it does not make it any less annoying. The unmistakable patterns on the sports calendar set a certain rhythm to life, and at the moment I associate summer with something close to a cellular level, with international football tournaments, mainly with the World Cup. The World Cup is coming out of bed at 7:00 am, the first hint of oppressive heat lingering in the air, turn on the TV, for your great pleasure, that Croatia is playing with Nigeria, and then spending the rest of the day watching football from the sofa; Spending the day in the backyard of the bar, Ohhh And Ahing With dozens more people each through ball and curling shots; It’s looking at a young attacking midfielder you’ve never heard of before tearing up the group stage, and then the following week your favorite club team is trying to figure out if he has a shot to buy; It has been caring for nothing but football for a whole month.
This year, the World Cup will run from November 21 to December 18. What should I do with the World Cup in winter? Wrapping myself up in a crowded bar on a 33-degree day, with a room-temperature beer in one hand and my winter jacket bundle in the other, and watching Tunisia play Denmark in this environment? Television networks will certainly try to make a big deal out of the US-England game scheduled for Black Friday, but this game deserves better than being stuck in one of the busiest parts of the American sports and cultural calendar. The World Cup is meant to be enjoyed at leisure, with each stage enjoyed by spectators free from any other distractions. It’s nowhere near the horrors of airline travel, American consumerism and the Lions football game.
The reason for its absence is worse than the possibility of a summer without a World Cup. By now you must have heard of some terrible things that happened to Qatar as the host country of 2022, but it was like running through the list again. In short: the tournament had to be moved to winter because Qatar’s summer is too hot for football to survive; FIFA awarded the 2022 tournament to Qatar when officials were shamelessly bribed; Over the past decade, Qatar has built the infrastructure for the World Cup in violation of the human rights of migrant workers, thousands of whom have died while working on unsafe construction sites. This World Cup, to a greater extent than any other in the past, is a monument to the ugly aspects of international sports.
Of course I will still watch the World Cup with everyone, and I’m sure that when I score the first great goal of the tournament, everyone who is with me in that packed bar will start to think for themselves, Oh, it’s not that bad! And sure, maybe it won’t be that bad, but there’s no reason to forgive some of the bad guys in the world for making such a favorite tournament. Enjoying a World Cup game while the sun shines on your face is a small pleasure, no different than eating some wings while watching an NFL game or drinking the biggest beer you can imagine in a baseball game. As I said, small things, but each of those little pleasures is a huge part of adding to a pile that makes the following games so satisfying, sometimes even more so than games. The loss of this kind of thing will not ruin anyone’s summer in any meaningful way, but it does not mean that we should forgive the corrupt people who have taken it so madly. So this summer when you find yourself alone one day, filled with feelings of uncertainty and missing something important about what to do with yourself, take a moment to shake your fist in the sky and curse FIFA. And then do the same thing when Christian Policeman inevitably pulls his hamstrings in the 10th week of the Premier League and he has to miss the World Cup completely.