On Thursday, Qatar was defeated in the Concacaf Gold Cup semifinal to the United States. Despite the loss, the Qatar national team impressed a lot of neutrals during the tournament with their positive, attacking play and fast pace.
With the World Cup taking place in Qatar next year, the semifinal provided the U.S. with an early introduction to opponents in the first-ever match between the two countries.
However, over the last decade, most of the world has already been exposed to Qatar for all the wrong reasons.
As hosts of the next FIFA World Cup, the fallout to the selection of the Gulf nation (home to only 2.9 million people) has intensified recently, with several European nations (including Norway, Germany and the Netherlands) protesting during international soccer matches in March, wearing shirts with “Human Rights” written on them. Talks have even begun regarding a potential boycott of the competition.
Whether an actual boycott occurs is another matter, but these recent protests, from some of the most successful soccer countries in the world, should be enough to make FIFA realize it has a potential problem on its hands. What if Germany, winners of four men’s World Cups (three as West Germany), chooses not to send its national team to Qatar? What if other nations decide to follow? What happens then?
In order to prevent this catastrophic development, FIFA must undo its decision to make Qatar the host. Past and present facts and dilemmas make this the best option for the world.
According to a published report by The Guardian in February, it was revealed that over 6,500 migrant workers died in Qatar over the last decade, while working on building the infrastructure needed in time to the 2022 World Cup. The report also indicated the number of deaths (primarily “natural deaths,” such as heart or respiratory failure) is most likely higher.
Additionally, according to Amnesty International, widespread abuses toward migrant workers have been commonplace in Qatar. These include poor working conditions, uninhabitable living quarters, lack of payments, the prevention of labor unions, and constant penalties and abuses by the employers. Most of these workers are legally bound to their bosses and are prevented from leaving the country and visiting their families. It is essentially modern-day slavery.
These revelations are shocking and disgraceful. The World Cup should not be played in a country where thousands of foreign workers are dying just to build stadiums and train stations. The world cannot be expected to look the other way for a month-long tournament and expect everything to be fine, while the best soccer players in the world are competing against one another. Some things are bigger than sports, and this is one of them. Qatar should not be rewarded for this gross malpractice and negligence toward human life.
Qatar is also a discriminatory nation, where women and the LGBT community are not provided with adequate freedoms. It is difficult for women to obtain independence from their husbands, as they are bound to their spouses through Qatari codified law. Homosexuality is also punishable, with a potential imprisonment of one to three years. Is this really a place where FIFA wants to host the global, inclusive sport of soccer for the entire world to witness?
Qatar should also not host the World Cup due to the disgusting acts of corruption undertaken within FIFA, while awarding the tournament to the nation. In April 2020, it was alleged by the United States Department of Justice that Qatari officials bribed members of FIFA to make the country the 2022 host. Prior investigations into corruption have led to the jailing of some previous FIFA members and worldwide soccer bans for others, including the organization’s former president Sepp Blatter.
Clearly, hosting rights “won” from corruption and dirty machinations must be revoked. Why should Qatar be allowed to continue to host the World Cup, when it is clear it does not deserve to? If it is established that the nation bribed its way to hosting the tournament, then surely it should lose this right immediately. This is a golden opportunity for FIFA to clear its name and begin a path of reconciliation past the dark ages of the last decade.
While national abuses and corruption should be enough to rescind Qatar’s hosting privilege, another factor that comes into consideration is the timing of the tournament. The 2022 World Cup is set to be played during the winter, for the first time in history. This is due to the abnormally hot Qatari summers, where average temperatures can range from 86 to 109 degrees Fahrenheit.
Therefore, the 2022-23 domestic seasons (primarily in Europe) will have to pause, to make room for the World Cup. This will cause the participating athletes to experience even more matches, which will continue to drain their energy levels over an increasingly congested calendar year. After a long and arduous 2020-21, where teams and players experienced virtually no preseason and a multitude of matches per week, adding a taxing international tournament in the middle of a season is not a good idea. The toll and impact it will have on the some of the world’s most talented athletes may be catastrophic. If FIFA strips Qatar as 2022 hosts, this problem of having a winter World Cup will immediately end.
FIFA faces a reckoning. Continue to support an unethical 2022 World Cup or make a stand and remove Qatar as hosts. It is not too late, as the tournament is 16 months away; there is still time for another nation (with stadiums and infrastructure already built) to take up the mantle.
FIFA has an opportunity to make the right decision, but will it?
Author: Mike Tyrrell