Football and politics | THE COUNTRY Argentina

A phone call condensed the political dimension of the entire process. The president of Chile, Gabriel Boric, called his Argentine colleague, Alberto Fernández, to ask him why his country had not been chosen to host the 2030 soccer World Cup. Fernández answered with a formality: it was not an issue within his competence. . But the claim suggested that some commitment had been failed to honor. Once again the intersection between football and power was evident.

Last Wednesday, FIFA announced that the 2030 cup, which will be played in Spain, Portugal and Morocco, will also hold honorary matches in Uruguay, Argentina and Paraguay. The excuse is that it commemorates the centenary of the first World Cup in Montevideo.

Chileans received the news of the exclusion like a bucket of cold water. They had been preparing to have a role that they last enjoyed in 1962. The expectation had administrative implications that are now a matter of discussion: the national budget had been allocating resources to the championship since 2020. The last item, of $950,000, was to register Chile as one of the locations of the championship.

Boric has little room to continue assuming bad news. The economy shows mediocre numbers. Corruption scandals break out that in Chile are strident, although, compared to those of some neighbors, they seem like venial sins. And the constitutional reform process has an absurd course: it began as a demand from the left but, after the election of 50 constitutional councilors last May, the drafting of the new text was left to the right. He means that the government of the leftist Boric will have to accept an unpleasant Constitution to replace the current one, which is even more unpleasant because it is the one that the country inherited from the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. Last week the Expert Commission to draft the new Magna Carta received the text approved by the committee of 50 councilors elected in May. In December there will be another consultation. The traditional political parties began to jointly rehearse some move to prevent the new constitution from being rejected by the citizens again.

For Boric, announcing that Chile would be one of the World Cup venues would have been a balm. But the chosen countries had arguments to deserve the designation. Uruguay, more than any other. In 2030, the 100th anniversary of the first soccer World Cup, played in Montevideo, will be celebrated. The Uruguayans had won two competitions that were the prefiguration of an international cup organized by FIFA: the 1924 and 1928 Olympic Games. Argentina also claimed some right: having won the 2023 cup. The Chileans intended to take Paraguay’s place. But this country is the headquarters of Conmebol, chaired by Alejandro Domínguez, a figure linked to football by powerful family ties. Beyond the influence, always discreet, that the controversial former president Horacio Cartes, Domínguez’s political godfather, has on the institutions of this sport.

Incorporating Chile would have been difficult, even though the country had been invited to apply. It must be taken into account that there will be three other venues. Two European ones, Spain and Portugal, and one African one, Morocco, which was also selected as a friendly gesture towards the Arab world. It must be understood that these movements also have a geopolitical significance. The World Cups began to be played a few years ago in emerging countries: South Africa, Russia, Qatar. In a distorting simplification, one could say that they went from the G-7 to the Brics.

The novelty will be 2026, when it will be played in North America. The World Cup of the old NAFTA. It is the revenge of Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, humiliated in 2010, when the United States lost the fight with Russia and Qatar. The response was the outbreak of a corruption scandal that almost brought down FIFA.

The World Cups that are to come have another peculiarity. They are no longer carried out in a single location. The formula of the 2002 cup, which was played in Japan and Korea, is adopted. The recipe is now much more challenging. For those selected, logistics will be very complex. Above all, in 2030. For example, a team may have to play a game in Europe and, five days later, move to another continent. How will supporters continue to follow that path? It’s still a mystery. It is also a problem for journalistic coverage of the entire championship.

The new system imposes other drawbacks. As the host countries are qualified in advance, there will be far fewer teams in the qualifying stages. At the same time, in 2026 the competition is expanded to 48 teams for the first time. A ploy by Gianni Infantino to consolidate his power.

These difficulties derive from a political problem: there is no longer tolerance for a country to spend a fortune to organize the party. It is a lie that the business generated with the parties compensates for the deficit that arises for the State accounts. Now we have to share the expenses. A tribute to the budget constraint. Because before being fans, football fans are taxpayers.

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