As one of the most popular sporting events in the world, the World Cup plays an integral role in instilling a sense of patriotism and unity in millions across the globe. FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association), the governing body of the World Cup, has recently made a series of unfortunate decisions that will severely degrade the integrity of the sport, and will ultimately tarnish the reputation of the World Cup and how it is organized. Most notably, FIFA’s decision to hold the 2022 World Cup in the Middle Eastern country of Qatar is a blatant mistake. Along with FIFA’s corruption and weather concerns, Qatar’s atrocious record regarding human rights makes it a country absolutely undeserving of such a respected global event.
The process by which Qatar won the bid to host the 2022 World Cup is steeped in corruption. Many independent accounts suggest that FIFA was bribed by political leaders in the Qatar to secure the bid. FIFA’s possible corruption came to light in early July, when whistleblower Phaedra Almajid published a report suggesting that African Football Confederation president Issa Hayatou, as well as other high-ranking African football officials were paid $1.5 million to vote for Qatar. Additionally, a select independent committee of Members of Parliament stated that FIFA refused to address corruption charges, and treated corruption allegations with “an approach bordering on contempt.” Almajid has since retracted her statements, but many officials believe she was pressured into doing so. Just last week, FIFA president Sepp Blatter told German press, “Yes, definitely there was a direct political influence. European leaders recommended their voting members to vote for Qatar, because they combine important economic interests with this country.” Not only do his quotes suggest economic factors played a huge role in awarding the event to Qatar, they show FIFA’s blatant disregard for the cultural and logistical aspects that go into choosing a country to host the World Cup.
As more and more sports pundits began to criticize the 2022 World Cup, another huge concern arose: the weather. Traditionally, World Cups have been held in the summer, when each country’s domestic leagues are in their offseason. This poses a major problem for the Middle Eastern country of Qatar, whose summer temperatures can reach well over 110°F. Initially, Blatter and FIFA tried to assuage public concerns regarding weather, stating that adequate cooling technologies would be in place so that the athletes would not suffer from heat exhaustion. FIFA officials even absurdly suggested that cloud-producing machines would be in place to make sure the sunlight was sufficiently blocked out. To my knowledge, no substantial progress has been made regarding these fictitious cloud machines.
As criticism continued to build, officials from both FIFA and UEFA (the governing body of European soccer) suggested that the World Cup be moved to the winter of 2022 so that the athletes are not subject to such brutal climate conditions. Many factors would make moving the World Cup to the winter a logistical nightmare. Most importantly, each country has a domestic league that runs throughout the winter. The four big European leagues (English Premier League, Spanish La Liga, Italian Serie A, and the German Bundesliga) all play key matches in the winter. Suspending these leagues so that the players could play in the World Cup would not only severely disrupt the flow of the leagues’ schedules, but it would make organizing other European club competitions a nightmare as well. The World Cup, along with other international sporting events, is held in the summer so as to not interfere with domestic competitions. It seems odd that FIFA did not consider the weather when initially deciding to award Qatar, a Middle Eastern country, with the World Cup. To suggest moving it to winter not only disrespects the traditions of domestic leagues, but shows FIFA’s inadequacy in addressing this basic concern.
Corruption allegations and weather concerns aside, Qatar’s horrific human rights and labor records make it categorically undeserving of hosting the World Cup. In terms of labor ‘laws’, Qatar has been severely criticized by the US State Department, Amnesty International, The Economist, Human Rights Watch and other agencies for promoting ‘modern-day slavery.’ These agencies have reported that a lack of labor infrastructure in Qatar has led to severe exploitation of workers, essentially resulting in a system of forced labor. Already, there have been 31 deaths related to World Cup stadium construction. Additionally, human trafficking and forced prostitution are rampant in the country. The state has done very little to combat these critical issues, and they continue to prevail in modern Qatari society. A state that is willing to do nothing to help its citizens in these regards does not deserve to hold a prestigious international event. Along with these labor laws (or lack thereof), Qatar’s horrific policies on homosexuality completely undermine the country’s legitimacy in hosting the event. All homosexuality is punishable by law. In 1995 in fact, an American tourist was tortured by Qatari officials for being gay. Additionally, many Philippine workers in Qatar were arrested and deported for ‘suspected homosexuality’ in the late 1990s. For a few months, FIFA officials refused to comment on the human rights violations that were apparent in Qatar. Not to worry, however: FIFA president Sepp Blatter recently told the press that gays in Qatar should “refrain from sexual activities.” Sound advice, Mr. Blatter.
It’s evident that Qatar is in no state to host the 2022 World Cup. Extensive corruption charges, serious climate concerns, and human rights violations justify the criticism surrounding FIFA’s controversial decision. As the tournament is in nine years, it’s still possible that pressure from fans and participating nations could change the Cup’s location. For the time being, however, FIFA’s shameless actions have severely undermined the beautiful game.
Agastya Mondal is a sophomore from Pennington, NJ majoring in biomedical engineering and applied math.