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The tiny Middle East kingdom of Qatar went to extraordinary lengths to secure the 2022 World Cup.

The list of favours handed out was Tammany Hall on a global scale: money for this or that soccer federation; a shipping container’s worth of goodie bags for VIPs; sponsoring an African congress (thereby ensuring that Qatar was the only bidder who got to address it); a $50-million budget in the final bid year for “communications."

The capper was hiring Zinédine Zidane to do an inspirational video and give a little speech as a bid ambassador. Reported appearance fee: $3.3-million.

Zidane – who’s not exactly John Gielgud when it comes to oratory – was an odd choice of front man, geographically speaking. He’s French by birth and African by heritage. But he did manage to strike all the correct regional and diversity chords.

“Football is for everyone,” Zidane said. “When I think of the Middle East, what they’re missing is an event like the World Cup.”

By “Middle East,” Qatar, of course, meant “Qatar.” But FIFA, in its reliably shifty way, has apparently decided to take its meaning in its broadest and, just by coincidence, most profitable sense.

Qatar won this bid nine years ago. The world has a way of changing over a decade. Qatar is no longer on good terms with some of its neighbours.

This has presented FIFA with a wonderful opportunity to screw over its chosen host, while also appearing magnanimous. That’s the FIFA daily double – do mischief while looking saintly.

FIFA president Gianni Infantino is preparing a new vision for an expanded 2022 World Cup, brought to you by Qatar. And friends.

According to a New York Times report, Infantino would like to ramp up his timeline for increasing the number of qualifying countries to 48 from 32. That was first supposed to happen in 2026, in the Canada/United States/Mexico World Cup.

Now he’d like to do it one iteration earlier. He’d also like Qatar to share the hosting burden. Oman and Kuwait would take part in what would be, as the Times put it, “a broader Middle Eastern World Cup.” In a perfect world, current Qatar antagonists such as Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates could also be brought in.

Like every other shmoe who can afford a Prada suit, Infantino apparently believes he can win himself a Nobel Peace Prize for doing God’s work (i.e. getting the likes of Budweiser and Gazprom to pay for it).

Qatar is not an enthusiastic supporter of this idea. One sympathizes, if only a little.

Should you buy a couch, it would come as a shock to you if the manufacturer announced before delivery that you had to occasionally carry it up and down the block so that your neighbours could sit on it, too.

Qatar does have itself partly to blame. It has grievously bungled the long lead-in to the event, allowing tiny piffles such as quasi-slave labour on stadiums and egregious working conditions to dirty up its hands-across-the-globe messaging.

That continuing PR horror show – one that will really heat up in the months before the tournament starts – gave FIFA its wedge.

But if there has ever been a case of promising a thing and delivering another, this is it.

On the one hand, there are the geopolitical and logistical elements – Qatar may see an advantage in sharing; it’s going to be hard to wedge 48 teams into a country that’s smaller than Connecticut. That’s all well and good and 100-per-cent Qatar’s problem.

On the other, there is the continuing erosion of trust among the public when it comes to staging big events such as a World Cup or the Olympics. As in, there was very little, and should at this point be none.

The people fronting these organizations – which now operate like nation-states without the hassle of having to provide health care or explain themselves to the United Nations – have one interest in mind: their own.

That was always the case, despite the high-mindedness. But there used to be some basic integrity of the do-what-you-say variety. They didn’t change the deal after it was signed.

However, someone has twigged to the fact that that’s only a problem in the developed world, with its pesky elections and changing governments. Once they began moving operations to more pliant locales, that went out the window. Now, everything is a negotiation.

I’ll let Qatar worry about Qatar. It has the option to block this new offer (although it is probably more a Don Corleone-type offer than a suggestion).

It’s time for Canada to worry about Canada. Our World Cup is seven years distant. Seven years is a long time. What exciting surprises might FIFA have in store in the interim?

Maybe 48 teams will work so well, the tournament should move to 60 by then? There are 211 member countries in FIFA. Maybe they should all come? Think of the cross-promotional possibilities.

Maybe Canada should build a few more stadiums to accommodate the new visitors? Maybe World Cup sponsors will help us split the bill, in return for certain accommodations as regards ownership or access?

Honest to God, who knows? Now that FIFA no longer fears being portrayed as rapacious – that ship has sailed – and the rules no longer apply, the sky’s the limit.

Since we’re already in on the World Cup, there’s no point worrying. All that can be guaranteed is that unexpected surprises are coming. That’s the one thing you can expect from these guys.

But it’s a reminder that Calgarians got this right on all our behalves. They looked over the Winter Olympic numbers and thought, ‘Wait a minute’. That ‘Wait a minute’ has almost certainly saved us a ton of hassle.

Afterward, it was said in some corners that Calgary “lost” the Olympics.

Which I suppose means Qatar “won” the World Cup.

I wonder if it feels that way to the country now.

That’s how the 21st-century circus works. You think you’re inviting the elephants to visit. They think they’re being invited to take over.

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