Sunday, January 9, 2011

2011 AFC Asian Cup

In most parts of the western world it may have gone unnoticed that the 2011 Asian Cup is taking place as we speak in Qatar. The same Qatar that will be hosting the already controversial 2022 World Cup. I watched the matches from the comfort of my sofa in Eastern Europe and witnessed some average football. But more than the football I was intrigued by how lightly attended the matches were, despite what the official figures stated. Qatar were beaten 0-2 by Uzbekistan and the home nation seemed to have little fanfare. According to statistic the Khalifa International Stadium holds 50,000 people, and 49,143 people were supposedly in attendance. But watching the match on TV the stadium had pockets filled with empty seats and looked more like no more than 20,000 in attendance. It is rather normal for FIFA and its confederations to fudge the results on things such as attendance. But if it is difficult to get Qataris interested in their country's national team now, how will it be in 2022 for a World Cup that is currently scheduled to be held at this time.

I was all for Qatar receiving the 2022 World Cup. Football can break down barriers and taking the World Cup to the farthest reaches of the world can do a lot for a country. The 2002 World Cup was, at the time, a very controversial World Cup. Japan was awarded the World Cup and shortly after began to prepare for the first World Cup in Asia. However, South Korea who has always been in Japan's shadow and has had numerous political and military conflicts since the days of being a Japanese colony, mysteriously was given  the chance to co-hold the cup. Many believe there to have been plenty of under-handed dealings to accomplish this. Though, it seems this has been lost to time much like Mexico '86, showing FIFA has been corrupt for decades. If you read the informative Sneaker Wars: The Enemy Brothers Who Founded Adidas and Puma..., you will find how money driven and corrupt FIFA has been since the '60s with the help of Adidas and marketing companies co-owned by Adidas executives.

Despite what may or may not have happened World Cup 2002 was a success. No, not in a football sense as heat, fatigue, time change and diet all affected the players and games. But it was a true success for opening up a country to the western world. Despite hosting the 1988 Olympics, which at the time was Seoul, South Korea's coming out party, South Korea was still an insular country. However, with the new money, tourism and interest in the country the politicians realized they needed to catch up with the times. Prior to the World Cup, outside of Seoul (and even inside it) it was like taking a step back into 1950s America and many people still held true to the ways of the past. It also opened up women to sports as many stadiums were packed with female Koreans while their husbands were at work during the day; giving females a voice they previously may not have had. The market for football in Asia was blown wide up in Asia following the 2002 World Cup with football gear and memorabilia everywhere you look. I have experienced living and working in Korea post-World Cup and despite the openness that it now possesses it is still a very conservative country. It just shows the steps it has made since co-hosting World Cup '02.

Despite how the 2022 World Cup was awarded to Qatar and controversies of what season it will be held in, the ability to buy beer and the sponsors who will undoubtedly become rich because of it; there is no doubt the western world can use this to learn more about a part of the world that most people, especially Americans, don't understand.

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