This week, on Tuesday evening, August 30, I received in my mailbox an unusual (not unique) request from a media agency. I guess I wasn’t the only editor in that blind carbon copy because of the way it was addressed:
On September 6, 2016, 20:00 local time, the World Cup Qualification match Syria – Korea Republic will be played at the Macau Olympic Complex in Macau.
[Company name] has been contracted by FIFA’s New Media department to supply the live match data for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualification matches for FIFA.com. We will have correspondents at every World Cup Qualification match in the world.
We are looking for a reporter at the stadium who can provide us with the following details:
– The line-ups of both teams: names, shirt numbers, position and officials (30-60 minutes before kickoff);
– Start and end of first and second half (live, at the moment);
– Goals with scorer, shirt number of the scorer and minute (live, during the match);
– Yellow and red cards with booked player, shirt number of the player and minute (live, during the match);
– Substitutions with players names, shirt numbers of both players and minute (live, during the match).
[Company name] is, of course, willing to pay for this information. Our correspondent will receive [sum of money] for sending the live match details from the stadium.
If you know someone who can provide this information and is willing to be at the stadium for the match, please let us know.
The assigned reporter was more than happy to do it for FIFA – not only would he be covering an historic moment in Macau but be paid extra dough.
The next day, when I was about to reply to the gentleman/lady saying that we would be covering the match with all due attention and that we could provide the service, news of the cancelation broke out in Korea.
As we first reported, along with SCMP, it had been a done deal. Moreover, not only would the Syria-Korea game be played in Taipa’s stadium, but all Syria’s five “home” matches, including one against team China, were to be played here. It seemed like a weird deal because China would actually be the country playing on home soil. Some visitors to our Facebook post of that story were shocked, scandalized and speechless (“senza parole”).
Niall Fraser, a seasoned journalist covering Macau for decades, wrote on the front page of the SCMP (Monday, 29) that according to his sources, “Beijing brokered the deal,” now defunct, between Macau football authorities and the giant international regulators of the “beautiful game”.
“Bringing Syria to play their matches in Macau would have been a win-win [situation],” Daniel Sousa, vice president of the MFA, said on Wednesday night.
Well, no doubt about that. But it was exactly that win-win situation (I suppose Macau and China would be the “winners”) that didn’t echo so nicely in Iran, Qatar or Uzbekistan…, the other national teams in Group A, along with China, Korea and our Syrian “friends”.
A Korean soccer association spokesperson put things in perspective. While “trying to find out why Macau decided not to stage the match,” he speculated that money may be the problem.
Money is always “the” problem in Macau, as we all know – it’s no matter that our GDP is roughly 20 times that of Syria.
Money obfuscates minds in this gambling town where the prevailing mindset is that which gets inspiration from strong Northern winds: what’s official is right. I would say that we live, more and more, in a system of rules of officialdom as opposed to truth, justice and the rule of law.