Autocomplete strikes again

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I think I know how an unsuitable but immensely rich desert peninsula got chosen by FIFA (the international governing body for major soccer tournaments) to host the soccer World Cup in 2022.

First, a personal anecdote that triggered my hypothesis about the decision. I recently sent a text message from my smartphone and then carelessly slipped it into my pocket without making sure it had gone to sleep.

I figured out later that, during the process of putting the device back into my pocket, my finger must have slid across the Q, the A, the Space bar, and the Send button. Autocomplete did its blindly uncooperative work without checking with me (there is only one word in English beginning with the two letters I accidentally typed), and the result was (I swear this is true) that the last person I had texted received an additional text from me.

The text said simply "Qatar".

There are people who point out that FIFA is famously corrupt. They note that one whistleblower has claimed that two executive committee members were paid $1.5 million to vote for Qatar (over another finalist, the USA — you may have heard of it), despite Qatar's manifest geographical unsuitability — its broiling temperatures, way over 100°F between May and September, would make playing full-length soccer games by daylight medically inadvisable and perhaps suicidal. (Already there is a plan to shift the World Cup from its customary summertime slot to December, infuriating many managers in the soccer industry who need the autumn for regular fixtures.)

But really, how plausible are these fairytales about buckets of money? My theory is so much simpler. Suppose FIFA president Sepp Blatter had promised a certain journalist that he would leak the name of the winning country to him in a text message, and as he slipped his phone back in his pocket his fingers (and we know this can accidentally happen!) slid across Q – A – Space – Send. The journalist would have immediately published the scoop. And after that Blatter would have been too embarrassed to admit to the error. So (I conjecture) he simply told the rest of the executive committee to shut up about it and treat Qatar as the official winner.

Why posit institutional corruption on a vast scale within FIFA, and multi-million-dollar bribery to gain visibility for a small country in the sporting universe, when there is a plausible hypothesis available that posits no such unsavory things? Autocomplete, already guilty of so many crimes, is the hitherto unsuspected culprit in the 2022 World Cup scandal. Elementary.

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