Sports

Fifa appears on course to banjax two World Cups in the same year

Photograph: Ronald Wittek/EPA

VAR-CICAL

As if to demonstrate the renewed efficiency introduced since the enthronement of Gianni Infantino, forces within Fifa appear on course to banjax two World Cups in the same year. Firstly, there is the 2018 edition, for which the world governing body insists a Video Assistant Referee system must be used in high-pressure situations by officials who have never worked with it. And then there is the ongoing bidding for the 2026 World Cup, so called because of the number of participants expected to be allowed in, and which factions within Fifa want to be co-hosted by countries who could be separated by mean-spirited rhetoric and a gigantic wall.

The head of Fifa’s Technology Innovation Department, Johannes Holzmüller, admitted this week he has been “sweating” about the imminent use of VAR “because we were unsure if everything works perfectly”. Speaking confidently into an upturned bean tin atop a state-of-the-art broom handle, Holzmüller said his fears have now been allayed even though the system is still some way short of perfection. How far short? Hard to say. If only there were some kind of beeping contraption to tell us. “Now that we go into the [Ethics] World Cup we are quite sure that we will have the best setup that is possible at the moment,” ventured Holzmüller, while acknowledging: “It is technology. It can fail.”

Meanwhile, intrigue mounts before next month’s vote on the hosts of the 2026 World Cup. There are two bids on the table – a combined one from USA! USA!! USA!!!, Canada and Mexico, and a solo one from Morocco. Fifa stands to earn much more money from the so-called “United” bid. There have been allegations of political pressure from the White House and influential people within Fifa to support that bid. But others within Fifa believe a World Cup in Morocco would be better for football. If anything scandalous were to affect the eventual decision, Fifa is unlikely to have any video evidence that could assist an investigation.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

“More than a dream, more than a canal. Panama is here to play” – Fifa invites fans to vote on the slogans painted on the side of teams’ World Cup buses, and somewhat short-changes Panama (though Brazil’s “The nation of soccer cleats” runs it close).

Photograph: Rodrigo Arangua/AFP/Getty Images

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