The FIFA World Cup is one of the most-watched events in the world, with the 2014 World Cup reaching 3.2 billion viewers and 1 billion fans tuning in for the final alone. The bidding to host the World Cup is a highly competitive event because any eligible country would want to be selected as the host of the biggest sporting event on the planet. The business and the huge boost in tourism alone is enough to drive up the economy in staggering amounts and soccer fans salivate at the idea that their hometown could possibly host some of the greatest players to ever lace their cleats. The selected host for 2022, Qatar, does not deserve this honor.
In 2010, Qatar won the bid to become the host of the World Cup in 2022, beating out countries such as Australia, South Korea and the United States. Qatar was the only country that was classified as “high risk” and the decision has drawn criticism from the media, with FIFA officials being accused of bribery, corruption and allowing Qatar to buy the World Cup. The decision was not well-received even among FIFA officials, with former FIFA President Sepp Blatter himself stating that “It may well be that we made a mistake.”
Not only is Qatar the smallest nation to ever achieve this honor, but the situation has a dark cloud looming over it. Temperatures in the summer regularly soar over 100 degrees, and it is forcing FIFA to hold the tournament in November and December for the first time in the event’s history.
Moreover, Saudi Arabia and its neighboring countries have erected a blockade against Qatar and have denied all transport links with the country, accusing it of supporting terrorism. A compromise from both sides may be years down the road, seeing as neither side is backing down from its stance. This has been particularly difficult for Qatar, which was dependent on Saudi Arabia for its roads and ports to transport materials and thus have done under half the construction work for the stadium in over half the time.
Qatar has tried to overcome all its hurdles, but it is not the upper class that is suffering most from these sanctions—it is the laborers and workforce who are being forced to work overtime with little pay, often in inhumane working conditions. Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, the emir of Qatar, recently praised Qatar’s foreign residents for their hard work and their contributions to the country. On the surface, this was a good public relations move, but these are all empty words from a government whose sole interest is to maximize its image of prosperity to the world.
Qatar has one of the worst human rights records in the world, with its kafala system—a system that is used to track many Middle Eastern laborers—amassing to little more than slave labor. Human rights groups have been criticizing the system for years and have been pushing for safer work conditions and fairer treatment of workers. Under its kafala system, migrants are forced to surrender their passports to their employers upon arrival and cannot change jobs, or even quit, without their approval. They are forced to live in tents with barely enough sustenance in the scorching heat of the desert, while the ruling elite live up in the skies in an air-conditioned utopia. The deaths caused by the inhumane working conditions these laborers have to face has had little to no coverage in the mainstream media and Qatar has kept all worker details and pay hushed up.
Many of these factors make the decision to have Qatar host the most prestigious event in the world questionable. Qatar officials act like the pharaohs who built the pyramids in their image upon the blood and sweat of millions of slaves. By allowing them to host the event, FIFA is essentially endorsing their disgusting kafala system, stating that the lives of hundreds of thousands of laborers do not matter. Qatar must be held accountable for all its actions, especially for its treatment of its workforce. There are various probes being made, with senior FIFA officials being under investigation, which shows just how low the FIFA federation has gone. Based on the events so far, it is unlikely that a line will be drawn anytime soon.