(Image via www.mojidelano.com)
Staff Writer: Kelsey Wink
In April of 2010 FIFA’s ex-president, Sepp Blatter, endorsed the idea of having a World Cup take place in the Arab World, saying that “the Arabic world deserves a World Cup. They have 22 countries and have not had any opportunity to organize the tournament.”
So on December 2nd, 2010, it was announced that Qatar would host the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
The 2022 FIFA World Cup kicked off this past Sunday, with a match between Ecuador and host nation Qatar, marking the first time the mega tournament in the Arab world.
While soccer remains the most popular sport on the planet, this year’s championships have been mired in controversy.
FIFA and Qatar have both been criticized for corruption, human rights abuses, and for holding an outdoor sporting event in a nation with a notoriously hot and humid climate.
First off, Qatar wasn’t ready from an infrastructure perspective to host a major sporting event as the country lacked stadiums and hotels equipped to accommodate the games.
That meant the construction work largely fell on migrants from Southeast Asia and Africa who were often deceived by potential employers and ended up trapped in abusive working conditions. There was extensive construction in the run-up to the tournament – including building seven new stadiums and a hundred hotels.
Qatar was also accused of paying over $3 million dollars in bribes to FIFA officials, though it was supposedly cleared of the allegations.
One of the stated reasons for Qatar’s selection was to promote soccer in new regions of the world, however, questions remain about how the host nation was chosen.
In early November, former FIFA president Sepp Blatter announced that he regretted picking Qatar as the host.
“It was a bad choice. And I was responsible for that as president at the time,” said Blatter, who was recently acquitted on charges of financial misconduct while serving as FIFA president, a post which he resigned from in 2015.
In addition to the abuse of migrant workers, human rights groups have also criticized Qatar for its treatment of women and the LGBTQ community.
Similar to Saudi Arabia, Qatar has guardianship laws that restrict women’s abilities to make decisions about work, education, and some aspects of health care without permission from male family members.
Consensual sex between adult men is illegal in Qatar and can result in years-long prison sentences. Many LGBTQ Qataris have described being beaten, harassed, and forced into conversion therapy.
The captains of several European teams were planning to wear armbands supporting LGBTQ rights but decided against it, claiming that FIFA had threatened them with penalties during the game.
In other matters, the World Cup will also be a little different this year.
The World Cup is traditionally held every four years in June and July, but given how hot Qatar is during those months, a decision was made to move the tournament to November.
The nation is notoriously known for its hot, harsh, and humid climate, with temperatures in the summer frequently exceeding 100 degrees.
The change has made outdoor matches feasible but not without disrupting the schedule of professional soccer leagues around the world.
Athletes will have less time to recover between the World Cup and the regular club season – approximately eight recovery days versus the usual 37, according to a report by FIFPRO, the union representing soccer players worldwide.
Sponsors and spectators are also experiencing new disruptions. A mere two days before the tournament began, FIFA confirmed that no alcohol would be sold inside the stadiums. Alcohol is highly regulated in Qatar but officials had previously said spectators could buy beer before and after matches.
So hopefully the World Cup will have a better turnout than the unfavorable anticipation building up to the event.