Football in 2018 gave us so many highlights. England winning a penalty shoot-out. The emergence of Croatia as a new favourite. Manchester City’s dominance in the Premier League. Jose Mourinho’s near destruction of Manchester United. Kylian Mbappe’s rise to the top.
But 2018 was also awful for the sport.
Where to start? Perhaps, FIFA’s continued support for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar and the overall controversy surrounding their decision to award the tournament to a country which has no footballing heritage or pedigree.
One of the key issues with Qatar hosting is that homosexuality is illegal in Qatar. Not only is this utterly ridiculous law, but it can come with a fine or seven years in prison. This will obviously alienate millions of fans
Another major concern is the estimated 1200 migrant workers that have died whilst building the stadiums. Human rights activist, Hans-Christian Gabrielson, said that “If we were to hold a minute of silence for every estimated death of a migrant worker, the first 44 matches would be played in silence”.
From everyone that I have spoken to, they are against having something as prestigious as the World Cup in Qatar as through their human rights abuses and non-traditional laws, they are putting a lot of fans off. A lot of stereotypical football fans might be put off by the fact that alcohol is so heavily restricted, and when it will be available, the prices will be higher than any bar in Mayfair at £82 for a crate of beer.
It is shaping up to be the most controversial World Cup of all time.
Impact on 2019: 5/5
Another huge talking point that will be taken forward into 2019 is Cristiano Ronaldo and his alleged rape case involving former teacher Kathryn Mayorga. Although nothing is scheduled to be taken to court as of yet, the lawyers behind the scenes will continue to work through the legal process. Ronaldo told a Portuguese newspaper that he expects to have the complaint thrown out in the next few months, as he continues his own lawsuit against German newspaper Der Spiegel for publishing the allegations as part of their excellent ‘Football Leaks’ reporting.
However, Jasmine Lennard, a former girlfriend of Ronaldo’s, has come out and offered her help for Mayorga because of the reignition of the R Kelly scandal. She has alleged that Ronaldo threatened to have her “kidnapped, have her body cut up, put in a bag and thrown in a river”. She has also released several audio recordings which she claims were Ronaldo saying very controversial things about homosexuality, the mother of one of his children and for some reason, Tulisa. Yes, the same Tulisa from N-Dubz.
Ronaldo has announced that he will cooperate with the American authorities as Las Vegas police have requested a DNA sample. Only time will tell…
Ronaldo has transcended football and created his own godlike image, so if any of this is proven to be true, it will be the biggest bombshell to ever hit football.
Impact on 2019: 4/5
The ‘leaks’ also shook the rest of the footballing world as they detailed corruption within clubs such as Manchester City, deliberate breaking of financial fair play rules by PSG and the secret tactics used by Bayern Munich, who aimed to create a ‘European Super League’.
Whilst the leaks exposed football at an industrial level, they also provided strange insights into the more menial parts of the sport. For example, PSG will pay Neymar £2.25 million per season if he doesn’t criticise the manager. Moreover, Dutch legend Rafael Van der Vaart was banned from wearing red boots by Real Betis as it would be implicit support for local rivals, Sevilla.
As of yet, no other leaks have been reported since December, although I wouldn’t be surprised if more came up given the current state of football.
Impact on 2019: 2/5
The year has also started with reaffirming the collective thought that some football fans are idiots and that we can continue to expect this level of idiocy in the coming year. Recently, a 20-year old Chelsea fan was fined and banned for three years after homophobic chants against Brighton in December. This follows in a long line of specifically Chelsea fans being accused of hateful chants and actions, including four men screaming racists abuse at Raheem Sterling and a small group of fans being condemned for anti-Semitic chants in Hungary. And just days ago, a group of 20 Chelsea fans were accused of groping women and singing racist chants on a train from London to Worcester.
It doesn’t take a genius to realise that all of these specific events are linked by one clear thing. Chelsea Football Club. Something obviously needs to be done to sort this issue, whether that is playing behind closed doors or more severe sanctions for people who are found to be causing these offences. We don’t live in the stone age anymore.
Impact on 2019: 1.5/5
On a more positive note, 2019 will bring us the Women’s World Cup in France, which is expected to attract the highest attendance and viewership records for a women’s tournament ever. Women’s football has grown exponentially thanks to the heroic exploits of the England team over the past few tournaments, coming third at the 2015 World Cup and reaching the semi-finals at the 2017 European Championships.
Although I have some optimism for the upcoming year in football in terms of fixtures, I have very low expectations for the integrity of football to be upheld. It’s a whole mess.