The Qatar World Cup: A dream or a nightmare?

Luke Shirley runs down the story of the Qatar World Cup....

Luke Shirley
1st December 2022
Image: Wikimedia Commons
How is it that on 2 December 2010, Qatar, a country that was 114th in FIFA rankings, had never qualified for a World Cup before, and is roughly the same size as Yorkshire, won the 2022 World Cup bid? Merciless corruption is how. Payoffs, bribes, and cover-ups were all used to secure Qatar’s bid. Qatar’s pockets are well-lined thanks to their oil-rich lands, and looking to diversify their economy in other industries, the nation turned to sport, setting its crosshairs on the 2022 World Cup.

It’s now common knowledge that the bidding process was corrupt, developments over the last decade have seen ten out of the 24 eligible voters in the 2010 bidding process either indicted, banned from sport, or plead guilty to fraud-related charges. Most of these prosecutions were spearheaded by the FBI in the United States due to feeling cheated out of their heavily favoured bid for the 2022 World Cup. US prosecutors released information on bribes involving three South American officials, most notably Nicolas Leoz, former president of Conmebol, and Ricardo Teixeira, the former president of Brazilian Football Confederation. These indictments show that it was the head honchos taking the bribes and pulling the strings, the rest of us were just onlookers.

However, not all superheroes wear capes. Michael Garcia prefers a suit but helped dish out justice equally as well. His 350-page report on the 2018 and 2022 WC bidding processes written in 2014 - which FIFA finally published in 2017 - pulled the rug from under FIFA and confirmed the world's suspicions. Garcia cited the bidding process as ‘flawed’ and that concerns were raised when a Qatari official met FIFA executive committee members at the Itanhanga Golf Club in Rio, Brazil in 2010. I doubt the group was mulling over each other’s handicaps that evening in the City of God.

Since winning the bid in 2010, Qatar has built eight football stadiums. Due to Qatar having a similar population to Merseyside, they relied heavily upon migrant workers from neighbouring Asian countries to build these stadiums. These workers came to Qatar in the hope of stable work and a better life, however, the dream they were sold soon became a living nightmare. Qatar is one of the few states who still implement the Kafala system. This system operates through workers paying a sponsor from Qatar between $500-$4,300 dollars to sort them a work visa, an employment contract, living conditions, and most troubling of all, entry and exit from the country.

The system thrives off exploitation as this gives the sponsors an unholy amount of control over the workers' lives, this is where echoes of modern slavery start to sound not so far-fetched. Continuous and proven accusations of contract swapping for less beneficial terms, passport confiscation, and some of the most appalling living conditions seen in a first-world country are just the start of the abuse. One of the most ironic human rights violations is the working conditions workers must endure. Emphasis on the word ‘must’ as they genuinely have no other option to work or be punished through days if not weeks of wage freezes. Remember, FIFA moved the tournament to winter as playing in a desert climate of up to 42 degrees Celsius would be a serious health concern, but what about the workers who are forced to work year-round in the searing heat?

The Guardian reported there have been 6,500 migrant worker deaths since Qatar began preparations for the 2022 World Cup, with roughly 36 deaths being the figure representing deaths directly on World Cup construction sites. As beautiful as these finished stadiums are, there is an ugly truth behind them, the World Cup has cost Qatar $200bn, however, it’s cost some who built it the ultimate price.

If you thought things couldn’t get any worse, same-sex marriage is illegal in Qatar. Any Muslim who is gay is punishable by death. Read those sentences again. Recent gestures by national teams and clubs of wearing rainbow-coloured arm bands representing the LGBTQ+ community are nice but they’re superficial, they fail to change the anti-LGBTQ+ culture in Qatar or help protect fans further.  

Qatar won’t change nor does it wish to, they wanted the World Cup in the first place to attempt to showcase the merits of its regressive regime just like Mussolini did in 1934. But it has backfired and put their dark secrets in the light.

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