Are we allowed to enjoy the 2022 World Cup?
The Qatar tournament is set to be one of the most controversial FIFA World Cup’s in history- and with good reason
The dark nights have rolled in and the temperature across the UK has plummeted as winter returns. In every other year, the bread and butter of the English domestic football season will be in full swing by now and will plough on relentlessly until May.
Yet 2022 brings with it the highly irregular matter of a winter World Cup, meaning that following the round of fixtures from 11–13 November, there will not be a ball kicked in the Premier League or Championship for at least three weeks.
Despite there being just two weeks until the tournament gets underway, anticipation for the 2022 FIFA World Cup feels muted to the point of almost non-existent. This could be because football fans across the country are still firmly focused on the domestic matches as they wind down. Or, it could be due to the fact that support for this World Cup is the lowest we’ve ever seen for the most famous sports tournament on the planet due to the country which is hosting the 2022 instalment.
In December 2010, Qatar was awarded hosting duties for the 2022 tournament and would become the first ever middle east country to be given the prestigious honour. The years that followed have been riddled with stories of backhanded bribery, corruption and instances of human rights abuse.
This dates back to within months of Qatar being successful, when in May 2011 FIFA vice-president Jack Warner, who was suspended over a corruption investigation, leaked an email from FIFA’s general secretary claiming Qatar “bought” the rights to host the World Cup.
Two years later an investigation by the Guardian revealed thousands of Nepalsese workers in Qatar were working in condition that were tantamount to slavery. This was backed up in November of the same year with a report from Amnesty International that found Qatar’s construction “sector rife with abuse”, with workers employed on multimillion-dollar projects suffering serious exploitation.
This isn’t the first World Cup which has been shrouded in controversy. Ahead of the 2014 tournament which was held in Brazil, thousands of people took to the streets in protest over the tournament. At a time of economic hardship, the people argued that they needed the money to fund social services and not to put on a show for the rest of the world. It came just two years before Rio de Janeiro was due to host the Olympic Games. The cost of hosting these two huge sporting events was a price considered not worth paying by many Brazillans.
Fast forward four years and the World Cup was preparing to get underway in Russia. Following the announcement that Russia would be hosts, questions were raised over the legitimacy of the vote and its outcome. Both the 2018 and 2022 host countries were announced on the same day back in 2010, and both were shrouded in controversy.
An investigation led by American lawyer Michael Garcia found that, although there were some suspect actions carried out by people behind the Russia bid, neither Russia or Qatar had employed undue influence to secure their respective tournaments.” The vote of 2010 would stand — but the amount of tension and controversy behind the 2018 vote would be topped by Qatar 2022.
The 12 years since FIFA officials awarded the World Cup to Qatar have been mired in controversy and thorough detail of the true human cost of the tournament. Human rights groups have been vocal about the treatment of migrant workers who have built the stadiums set to host some of the biggest names on the planet.
In 2016 Amnesty International published a report on the subject and found that many foreign workers would have their passports removed on arrival and would be forced to live in cramped and dirty living areas. The report also reveals examples of when workers would question the conditions only to be shouted at by supervisors telling them if they didn’t keep working they would never leave the country.
Amnesty International also published stats within the report which reflect the ugly truth of the money being thrown around in preparation for the World Cup. In 2014 FIFA had a revenue of $2 billion, whereas the average monthly salary of men the charity spoke to working on Khalifa Stadium in Doha was just $220.
The tournament will come and go with no doubt plenty of exciting and dramatic moments. We will see some teams making an appearance at the tournament for the first time in decades, and this will signal a monumental occasion for those. However, looking beyond events on field will reveal the real cost of this tournament. Thousands of workers have suffered in miserable conditions for very little pay to construct FIFA’s most prized event.
It is possible to enjoy the football whilst also calling out the atrocities which have plagued this World Cup, and this is what doubtless millions of people around the world will be getting ready to do. The hope is that the global attention may build the campaign to improve the conditions of workers in Qatar going forward- yet if a global figurehead such as FIFA have failed to address the issue in the 12 years since it voted to give the tournament to the country, what the hell sort of chance is there of them saying anything now, during, or after the tournament?