Thursday, 2 December 2010

The $45 million vote

Australians woke to the news this morning that their $45 million investment in attempting to secure the 2022 World Cup hosting rights had yielded just one vote among the 22 FIFA executives.

For the bid team, the news that Australia was eliminated first in the voting process, failing even to trump either South Korea or Japan came as total surprise. Ultimately, this has simply provided another reminder of Australia's modest status and influence in world football.

Respected FFA chair Frank Lowy may boast a successful track record in influencing local politicians, but world football politics is many steps beyond. The ultimate, perhaps, well beyond even playthings such as the Olympics. Asian Football Confederation president Mohamed Bin Hammam demonstrated the benefit of his wide experience at the highest level, directing Qatar to glittering success at the expense of the US.

For FFA chief executive Ben Buckley, success with Australia's bid would have provided the ultimate adornment to his CV and provided a launching pad for greater personal glory. Instead, he along with Lowy will wear much of the blame for Australia's pitiful showing. Others will come in the firing line - Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who stayed away from the final bid presentation ( did she smell failure?) and other less obvious targets such as Aussie Rules chief Andrew Demetriou, cast by Aussie soccer fans as the prime villain for his code's obstruction in the bid process.

The response of the hardcore of Australian football critics within the country will be hard for lovers of the game to bear, but we've been there before, most typically in the wake of past failures by the Socceroos, or with the at times halting progress of the national league. Their pronouncements will be be predictable and painful.

The response of the local populace at large will be more interesting to monitor. There will be those who will crudely dismiss FIFA - and football - as corrupt, dismiss the voting as a simple success for the oil-wealthy, lambast Australia's bid as a total waste of time and effort, and find solace in the familiar, local pursuits which we understand better and with which we have greater success.

Genuine local football followers, devastated, will bounce back. While we will dream of what it would have been like to land the World Cup, and for those of my vintage reflect on the fact that the tournament will now most probably never be hosted in Australia within my lifetime, we are well used to setbacks to our beloved code in our country. As the pundits reflected last night, today feels more than a little like the morning after Iran 2-2 in 1997, and Uruguay 0-3 in 2001. But life goes on, the round ball continues to roll. We keep the faith!

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