Breaking news in football can often be so sudden and explosive as to take the breath away. As well as far and wide, Sepp Blatter’s resignation was celebrated closer to home at Hampden, with Stewart Regan, the Scottish Football Association chief executive, having already pinned his colours to the mast by revealing he voted for Blatter’s rival for president, Prince Ali-bin al-Hussein, in last week’s Fifa presidential election.
While the brass-necked Blatter stepping down was a surprise, not everything in life is so unexpected. In light of these recent developments, Scotland’s decision to host Qatar in a friendly this Friday at Easter Road is made to seem even more baffling. If Blatter is so obviously tarnished by the goings on at Fifa, as Regan suggested on radio last night, then why bring Qatar to Scotland in the first place?
The country is, after all, implicated in the ongoing storm over voting procedures regarding the fight to host the 2022 World Cup. This particular controversy as much as any other caused Blatter’s downfall.
Since their hosting of the World Cup has returned to the agenda, the Qatari government has issued a strong denial of claims last week that more than 4,000 migrant workers are likely to die while working on World Cup sites before 2022. In marked contrast to several other human rights organisations, they claim not a single worker’s life has been lost to date.
If true, this still does not address the slush funds and bribes allegedly at the heart of the Qatar 2022 team’s bid. So was it really worth the SFA risking such opprobrium by inviting Qatar to play in a friendly before the vital clash with Republic of Ireland eight days later?
While the odds that Qatar would lose the rights to host the World Cup were being slashed last night, Friday’s game will go ahead whatever happens. It is too late to stop now.
“Act in haste, repent at leisure” is an adage once described by the author David Foster Wallace as being “custom-designed” for the case of tattoos. It also applies to the SFA when it comes to planning meaningless friendlies with Qatar.