Hughes' News

The texters are never slow in getting off the mark when reflecting their views on the big topics of the day as they send messages via cyberspace, so it was no surprise when they pounced on the World Cup venues scandal – for that's what it really is!

The best by a country mile was the first one I received, that from Cookstown-based Derry snooker player extraordinaire Sean Nash: 'After awarding the 2022 World Cup to Qatar, Sepp Blatter was asked who was his favourite Qatar player of all time and he replied that it was a toss-up between Eric Clapton and The Edge!'.

I think that really does sum up what a joke it was even bothering with bids for the greatest soccer showpiece on the planet. What's the point when all the bidders seem to be doing is facilitate those in authority with a four-yearly opportunity to abuse that power?

Amidst all the furore that's going on, let me confess that – whilst I have been utterly convinced for years that there was a little bit of jiggery-pokery going on with this process and even such an arch-sceptic as I have always believed myself to be - I never thought they could be so brazen!

There was a bit of scoffing when the BBC's celebrated former World Cup Final referee John Motson had predicted weeks ago that the finals would be awarded to Russia in 2018 and Qatar in 2022.

On the day of the announcements, in fact even just minutes beforehand, I expected that England would get the nod for eight years' time, with Australia pipping the USA for the finals four years later. Whilst I was only mildly taken aback that the oligarts had succeeded in their quest, I have to acknowledge that my flabber was well and truly gasted that the tiny middle east state had pipped the Aussies and the Yanks!

Let's be brutally frank about it: there was no way in the wide world that the decisions were made on the basis of any kind of sporting context.

You could perhaps, at a stretch, put forward some sort of a case for the decision to opt for Russia ahead of the English, Dutch-Belgian and Spanish-Portuguese bids, but Qatar???? Apart from the nauseating airline advert run repeatedly on a satellite news channel, I suspect there are millions of Brits who hadn't even the faintest idea that it was even a country, let alone a football nation – if you can call a place with 1.7 population a nation!

Hardly any bigger than Northern Ireland, it apparently has only one football stadium that can host an international match, will have temperatures of 50 degrees Celsius, doesn't allow alcohol consumption in places accessible to the public and will have all the matches played inside an area of 40 square miles of what is essentially desert – in stadia which haven't even been designed yet!

Spreading the soccer gospel is what Sepp Blatter is all about, but the influential FIFA president has totally lost the plot with this decision.

Could the answer maybe have been in Joe Brolly's column in the Irish Mail on Sunday: "Russia and Qatar have already signed legally-binding agreements that guarantee FIFA complete tax exemption, permits 'FIFA Listed Individuals' to carry unlimited cash into and out of the participating countries and exempts them from all immigration rules'. In essence, it legally entitles them to be a law unto themselves. Which is precisely what they are!'.