Chula Vista’s Paul Arriola will probably be like millions of other Americans Nov. 21—watching the United States Men’s National team play it first game, versus Wales, in the 2022 World Cup on television. Maybe at home. Or a friend’s house. Or a bar. Or the office.
The 27-year-old professional futbol player was—surprisingly—left off the roster playing in the quadrennial soccer tournament. Despite a few injuries here and there, Arriola was a solid contributor to the team in its qualifying games the last four years.
But USMNT head coach Gregg Burhalter left him off the squad playing in Qatar from now through at least Nov. 29 during the tournament’s first round.
It’s just as well. This World Cup feels about as out of place as snow in La Jolla. Sand in a sandwich. John McCann in a salsa-eating contest.
Before absurdity took its biggest bite out of the beautiful game’s premier tournament, the World Cup was played around June and July, otherwise known as summer here in the States.
But with Qatar “winning” the right to host the tournament organizers moved the play dates to November and December, when average temperatures are in the mid-80s. June and July in Qatar sees temperatures typically in the 100s. Realizing most players and tourists would prefer not sweating to death at global festival, they moved the tournament to the country’s cooler time of year.
Soccer’s governing body knew about the problematic temperatures and the havoc moving the Cup to the middle of domestic leagues’ season would levy on clubs and players. But FIFA went ahead anyway, contending the Qatari federation offered the best proposal among the other nations bidding to host the World Cup.
The proposal, of course, included lavish gifts and promises to decision makers (as they reportedly do in these affairs) and so here we are with a soccer tournament that’s being played when it is most inconvenient in a country that has a questionable human rights record and open hostility toward homosexuality.
Arriola said he was heartbroken to miss out on the tournament. It’s understandable given his profession. But given how this tournament came about and where it’s being played, it feels like a dud even before the first whistle has blown.