Estonian FA chief looks for positives ahead of Qatar World Cup

Aivar Pohlak.
Aivar Pohlak. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

With the 2022 men's football World Cup due to get underway this Sunday in Qatar, Aivar Pohlak, president of the Estonian Football Association (EJL) spoke to Vikeraadio's "Uudis+" show about the tournament.

In an interview with Vikerradio's "Uudis+" show, Estonian Football Association President Aivar Pohlak said, that the decision to hold the 2022 World Cup in Qatar had been based on the same logic used to select hosts for over a decade. The EJL president also said that Qatar has the right to maintain its cultural traditions, despite facing criticism from the rest of the world.

With the exception of 2014, when the men's football World Cup was staged in Brazil, recent tournaments have been hosted by countries not considered to be amongst the sports great powers. Following the 2010 World Cup in South Africa and Russia 2018, the 2022 edition of the world's biggest sporting event is set to take place in Qatar.

"During that period, the hosts of the World Cup were selected by the FIFA Executive Committee," Pohlak told "Vikeraadio" on Friday.

"When a limited number of people, so to speak, can be selected and when there is big money or opportunities like that at stake, in that case, it is ironic for me to hear the word 'lobbying' in this case. My worldview is, that I am interested in making decisions based on reasoning and logic. My explanation is, that on one level perhaps, the mass media is treating it a little more simplistically and using more concrete terms. The logic for a long time, has certainly been, that there is a desire to bring the World Cup finals to this region."

The process of finding hosts for the World Cup finals of 2018 and 2022 began in early 2009, with Russia and Qatar being awarded the rights in December 2010. "This period was preceded by the fairly intense entry into football of oligarchs, from the Arab world, and also from Russia, notably through the purchase of English clubs. Politically, at that time, it seemed logical and fair," said Pohlak.

"Unfortunately, I can certainly say, that nowadays, money plays far too big a role. According to my world, culture and the logic of fairness should be paramount and money should be a secondary consideration. However, unfortunately that is not the case," Pohlak continued.

"At the same time, that does not really prevent a party from taking place. I would perhaps draw a parallel with the Olympic Games, for example, for which it is becoming increasingly difficult to find hosts, because few are prepared to invest or contribute as much financially as is required. In the end, it is quite difficult to make any kind of assessment when considering  it from this perspective," admitted the EJL President.

Having already cost $220 billion before a ball has been kicked, the Qatar World Cup is by far the most expensive in history. By way of comparison, German news outlet Deutsche Welle estimates that Brazil 2014 cost around $15 billion to organize, with Russia 2018 costing in the region of $11.5 billion.

"It is indeed an extraordinarily expensive tournament, and getting there and staying there is more expensive than is perhaps normally the case," said Pohlak.

"However, I would also try to look at it from a cultural perspective. Some of these things are really still more about culture than anything else. They have the right to maintain the culture that they have had there for millennia, the way it is", he argued.


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Editor: Michael Cole

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