Was the World Cup in Qatar 2022 the worst idea ever?
FOR years, the World Cup was just a really cool event everyone looked forward to. Venues switched between countries famed for football and those that loved the sport, but weren’t very good at it. Mexico made sense, twice. Italy, Brazil, Argentina and France were great hosts. Then, in 1994, the USA World Cup ushered in the idea of hosting the tournament in countries that were ‘developing’, footballing-wise.
Fast-forward to 2013 and we’ve had Japan/South Korea and South Africa, which varied in quality… but both are saintly compared to the impending Qatar 2022 tournament, which looks for all the world like the worst idea in footballing history.
Qatar’s preparations for the 2022 World Cup have been dogged by controversy. Today, there have been numerous reports regarding scores of workers dying while building stadia and other key facilities. Basically, it looks like Qatar’s World Cup is being built by slaves.
Drinking water was restricted on some sites, in temperatures that hit 50C, and labourers from Nepal went without pay for months, or worse, forced to work for free. Some workers had their passports confiscated, which meant they were trapped by gangmasters.
According to sources, 600 workers could be dead by the end of the year should this continue. If things don’t change, by 2022, the death toll could be in the thousands (but the recent discovery should see to that).
Fifa have said it was “very concerned” by the findings with Sepp Blatter saying: “Fifa is very concerned about the reports presented by the media regarding labour rights abuses and the conditions for construction workers in projects at Lusail City, Qatar. Fifa will again get in contact with the Qatari authorities and the matter will also be discussed at the executive committee meeting.”
However, this rings hollow. Since the successful bid, there have been allegations of bribery with Fifa opening an internal inquiry into the matter. Mohammed bin Hammam, a key player in the Qatari bid, withdrew as a candidate for president of Fifa after being accused of bribing 25 FIFA officials to vote for his candidacy. Sepp Blatter meanwhile, just inanely grins at the whole matter, wringing his hands when needed.
To make matters worse, the weather in Qatar may mean that the World Cup gets moved from summer to winter. Of course, Qatar says everything will be fine, that they’ll have air-conditioned stadiums… sod the fans dying in the sweltering heat outside. Oh, and the cooling technologies promised haven’t even been tested.
And, Qatar is a small place. Great for travelling around to matches, sure. However, the World Cup does have a small problem with hooligans. Previous tournaments have split fans up in a bid to avoid trouble. In Qatar, they’ll all be in the same place, which means we’re in for some ugly scenes.
If the hooligans don’t riot, there could be trouble with LGBT fans. Homosexuality is illegal in Qatar and Sepp Blatter isn’t taking any of this seriously, only mustering a quip: “I would say they should refrain from any sexual activities,” before adding a mealy-mouthed: “We are definitely living in a world of freedom and I’m sure when the World Cup will be in Qatar in 2022, there will be no problems.”
In addition to all this trouble, there’s the huge matter of Israel. Qatar doesn’t recognise Israel as a state, however, they have a team that could well qualify for the World Cup.
So, with gay rights out of the window, slave labour, moving the entire tournament to a different part of the year, bribery, political tension and a country that doesn’t even have enough stadiums yet on land that’s about 2 miles from the sun, is Qatar 2022 the most stupid idea Fifa have ever, ever had?
Photo: In this Thursday, Dec. 16, 2013 file photo, FIFA president Sepp Blatter, right, and Qatar Football Association (QFA) President Sheik Hamad Bin Khalifa Bin Ahmed al-Thani exchange documents after officially appointing Qatar as the host of the 2022 FIFA World Cup, in Doha, Qatar. The new head of the English Football Association on Friday, Aug. 9, 2013, called on FIFA to consider taking the World Cup off Qatar, adding to mounting criticism of the decision to give the 2022 tournament to the tiny desert nation. Qatar triumphed three years ago despite the bid being declared “high risk” by FIFA’s own inspection team, which highlighted the searing summer heat in the Persian Gulf where temperatures can hit 50 C (122 F).