Sherifdeen Olamilekan writes,

From 11 June to 11 July, 2010, the biggest football competition, FIFA World Cup, homed in Africa for the first time. Branded as South Africa 2010, the famed event followed FIFA’s decision to shift to the dark part of the world this time. In 2004, the international football federation, FIFA, selected South Africa over Egypt and Morocco to become the first African nation to host the finals, after the bidding process for hosting the tournament had been made open only to African nations.

FIFA World Cup has been held every four years since the inaugural tournament in 1930, except in 1942 and 1946 when it did not hold due to of the Second World War. However, none of its edition has ever taken place in Africa, which is why it was more than a nightmare to get the cue that it was Africa this time – not just Africa, but a black African country, South Africa. 

With fear, curiosities and the least expectations ever, everyone now wanted to know Africa’s’ fate as to how they’ll document their history regarding not only football, but sports in general. 

Africa was chosen as the host for the 2010 World Cup as part of a short-lived rotation policy by FIFA to rotate the event among football confederations. After this opportunity, five African nations then placed bids to host the 2010 World Cup, which were Egypt, Morocco, South Africa and a joint bid from Libya and Tunisia. 

The winning bid was eventually announced by FIFA on the 15th of May 2004 in Zürich. South Africa, which had narrowly failed to win the right to host the 2006 event, was thus awarded the right to host the tournament. Even with the 2010’s full right, South Africa faced several stakes and high attacks with several media houses, journalists and some of the past FIFA officials stating that the their bid only got successful due the fact that FIFA had been bribed, revealing that it was Morocco who were the actual bid winner – a global fiasco which was perceived by many as a discrimination against black people.

But after trudging through the Tsunamis of banters, criticisms and online attacks, South Africa eventually celebrated their win and now accepted that it was time to tell the world how immense their capacity has been. Campaigning for South Africa to be granted host status, Nelson Mandela had previously spoken on the importance on football in his life, stating that while incarcerated in Robben Island prison, playing football made him feel alive and triumphant despite the situation he had found himself in”. With South Africa now winning their bid, an emotional Mandela raised the FIFA World Cup Trophy. And months later, he went on to prove every critic wrong with a colorful tournament revealed that Africans can also do it.

Of Qatar 2022 and the Middle East Football

Also, since the inception in 1930, having featured almost every world’s regions in a total of 21 editions, the FIFA World Cup hasn’t ever been to the Middle East. This is the Arab world; a region comprising of Southwest Asia and Northwest Africa.

This was another moment of uneasiness when Qatar won the bid for hosting the 2022 edition. “Like South Africa, would the Muslims also be able to navigate things through?” This was the question almost everyone asked rhetorically when the news breezed to them that it was the Arabs this time.

The questions however, instead to cool, rose over time when, in order to avoid the extremes of Qatar’s hot climate, the event was shifted from the normal June-July stipulated schedule for World Cup and announced to be held during November and December. To make this happen, clubs football stopped, causing plausible inconvenience for both players and team, and most especially to coaches, with the first legs of leagues’ matches yet to reach 19, including all of the major European leagues, which had been obliged to incorporate extended breaks into their domestic schedules just to accommodate a fanciful event.

Everyone then thought of what Qatar would do and how they will do it to make every sacrifice football made for them to be able to their write their history in their own way count and worth it. But in the end, it was clear as to how everyone’s palpitations later turned into appraisal and validation.

With numerous concerns been raised over the country’s treatment of migrant workers, women and members of the LGBT community, as well as the severe climate, lack of a strong football culture, schedule changes, and allegations of bribery for hosting rights and wider FIFA corruption, it was then safe to draw the conclusion that the choice to host the World Cup in Qatar attracted even a bigger and more significant criticism than South Africa’s 2010.

But eventually, every stage of Qatar’s event was beautiful, from the group stages matches to one of the most memorable World Cup finals ever. If at all one thing, both South Africa, 2010 and Qatar, 2022 have proven to that world why FIFA should keep on the host selection rotation among all world’s regions and confederations. This way, countries and regions would keep showcasing their beautiful and different cultures which will also give the general spectatorship a different look, feelings and thoughts from what they’ve been used to, seen and bored with in the past.

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