The 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar is less than 100 days away. As international teams link up for one final time before the tournament commences in the international break, the excitement is building towards a crescendo ahead of the winter. However, while fans should be celebrating in anticipation of the biggest sporting event in the world, a dark cloud looms over the upcoming edition in Qatar.
Since the Gulf Nation received the rights to host the FIFA World Cup 12 years ago in 2010, controversy has surrounded the tournament. From human rights violations to bribery to 1000s of migrant worker deaths, the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar is shrouded in a storm of wrongdoing and malpractices.
Qatar won the bid to host the rights of the 2022 World Cup in 2010, beating Australia, Japan, South Korea, and the United States. However, in the years that followed, there has been plenty of allegations of corruption and bribery of the bid committee, with ex-FIFA President Sep Blatter describing giving Qatar the World Cup as a mistake.
Phaedra Almajid, a whistleblower, claimed African officials took $1.5 million in bribes to vote for Qatar. Despite the denials of all officials, several more allegations in 2014 substantiated his claims. In 2014, Jack Warner, who was FIFA’s vice-president during the bidding process, received a $2 million dividend from a company linked to Qatar’s bid for the World Cup.
Qatar has built seven stadiums, a new airport, a metro system, road infrastructure, and over 100 hotels for the upcoming FIFA World Cup. The final will take place in Lusail, a city built almost exclusively for the showpiece event.
Most workers involved have been migrant labourers from India, Nepal, Bangladesh, and the Philippines. The most widely spoken issue surrounding this tournament has been the treatment of these workers hired to build the infrastructure. Allegations from organisations such as Amnesty International have suggested that Qatar has violated the human rights of these migrant labourers, leaving them vulnerable to systematic abuse via the Kafala system.
The Kafala system allows companies to sponsor foreign workers to come to Qatar but prevented them from leaving their jobs. These workers have been provided with appalling living conditions and are often not paid the wages they were due, forcing them into unpaid labour. There have also been various health and safety breaches, with thousands of migrant labourers reportedly dying during construction.
Human Rights Watch claims that around 39 workers will have died for each goal scored at the World Cup.
Qatar have publicly denied these claims, stating that they are ‘wildly misleading’, because not all deaths recorded were linked with World Cup-related projects.
In addition to all the migrant labour misdemeanours and human rights violations in Qatar leading up to the World Cup, there remain other big issues for fans and spectators going to the tournament to support their teams.
Male homosexuality remains illegal in Qatar, as well as extra-marital sex. Both these crimes carry prison sentences. Drinking alcohol is also highly regulated in the country, while public drunkenness is illegal.
It is unclear whether these laws will be relaxed at the World Cup for spectators.
As it usually does, football remains an expert at taking a public stand and reinforcing it with a well-intentioned gesture without getting into the specifics or making any tangible difference. As of today, the only real opposition to the various controversies that have taken place in Qatar is a rainbow-coloured armband that will be worn by the captains of select countries.
Unfortunately, that seems to be just another checkbox exercise that football has become known for in recent years. Very little has been spoken about the troubles of the migrant labours in Qatar, and so far, only Germany has publicly backed the campaign for FIFA to match the 440-million-dollar prize money with compensation to the workers.
The sad part is with only sixty days before the tournament kicks off in November, there isn’t much time remaining for other concrete action.
[Featured Image Credit: Shimaa Al-Otaibi/Twitter]