The 2022 Qatar World Cup: Correct in its Conception, Appalling in its Execution
Michel Platini’s interview with the BBC this week reaffirmed the likelihood that the 2022 World Cup will be played in the Winter months, adding additional fuel to the already roaring fire of controversy that the 2022 Qatar World Cup has come to represent.
It is a strange conundrum in many ways, because as corrupt as the bid so blatantly appears, it in many ways symbolises the more liberal and compassionate side of Sep Blatter and FIFA. After seven failed Arab bids in the past, Fifa is right to hand the tournament to this region of the world. The World Cup is a world tournament and its social, economic, cultural and sporting benefits should be shared across the globe.
If (and it’s a big if), you keep an ignorant eye on the manner in which the bid was won, there are virtues to the Qatari bid. ‘This is about the development of football, and don’t speak about money’, Blatter insisted in December 2010. ‘We have to take it to places where it can improve and have a social and cultural impact’. If you think of the number of players who have emerged from one of the 22 countries in the Middle East, there aren’t any. That’s not for a lack of talent, but more for the infrastructural position of football within their society, something that can be addressed.
The lightening rod of criticism for playing the tournament in the winter has perhaps also been blown out of proportion. As Blatter adds:
I think it is high time that Europe starts to understand that we do not rule the world anymore and that former European Imperial Powers can longer impress their will onto others in faraway places. We must accept that football has moved away from being a European and South American sport. It has become the world that billions of fans are excitedly following every week, everywhere in the world.
If the allegations of corruption were not so rife and the self interest of Fifa’s executive board not so blatant, it would be easier to pay tribute to the deeper merits of a Middle Eastern tournament. And so what of the re-scheduling of the European calendars? What difference does it actually make? 38 Premier League games will still be played, the Champions League will still be fiercely contested. Who knows, the structural changes may spice up the season and change the prospect of the summer. If the schedule changes effect 3 seasons (as is anticipated), then no longer will you have to kid yourself of mild excitement during the dormant days of late July about the new Arsene Wenger signing turning out in the Emirates Cup.
That perspective shows that the concept of a Middle Eastern World Cup is not entirely illogical. Provisions will one day will have to be made, and the modern world is capable of making them.
The obvious rebuttal to all of this surrounds the manner in which the tournament was awarded. Countries were bidding for the months of June and July 2022, not November and December, which compromises (the already highly questionable) transparency of what discussions between Qatari representatives and FIFA’s exec board took place.
That only scratches the surface of controversy in light of the harrowing revelations that the Guardian published in September 2013. Evidence of slave labour, and the with-holding of passports to Nepalse workers, rendering them ‘illegal aliens’ portrays a backward, extremist and undemocratic nation unfit to host any worldwide event. 8 died in Brazil, 1200 have already passed in Qatar. Anti-slavery groups have already publicly boycotted the tournament and the International Trade Union Confederation estimates (perhaps rather presumptuously) that 4000 lives will be lost.
Those points also pay no heed to the limitations so heavily prevalent in Sharia law. You can be prosecuted for up to five years for being gay. Flogging and stoning are legal. Qatar’s media was classified as ‘not free’ in 2012 Freedom of the Press report by Freedom House.
Those walks of life then present a wider question, bigger than a 64 game football tournament: do you punish those prevalent contradictions in Middle Eastern society by stripping the region of a chance to rectify its mistakes?
Or, alternatively, do you compassionately accept that this is a strange reality that does exist in the modern world, and therefore help sort the problem out? In light of those Guardian allegations, humanitarian groups have already made impressive, progressive movements, which in the next eight years will help make groundbreaking progress. The microscope of the world’s media brought about by the world cup could transform the region positively.
The wider question of intervention, while encompassing a range of factors, may be wholly superfluous anyway in light of the serious corruption allegations. Despite the FBI’s probes, it was the Sunday Times (which, in many ways, says a huge amount about the power of the British media) who unearthed almighty corruption claims in May 2011.
Since then Blatter has conceded that ‘of course it was a mistake… one makes mistakes in life’ to award the tournament to Qatar, and an internal inquiry has been made with the possibility of the tournament being hosted elsewhere. However, it is worth pointing out that Qatar ranked 27th worldwide in Transparency International’s latest Corruption Perceptions Index, 42 places ahead of Brazil, and 106 places ahead of Russia, host of the 2018 tournament. That perhaps indicates more of Fifa, than Qatar.
It’s pitiful to think that a decision of such magnitude can be swept under the table by Blatter. The World Cup is a super-event. 1200 people have already died and what will the opportunity cost be of denying those benefits to Australia, or the US?
The idea of granting the World Cup to the Middle East is a well-intended and groundbreaking concept. The method Fifa have undertaken of doing that has been beyond appalling.
With eight years to go, the sunbaked Middle Eastern country has a lot to answer for.