Following a lot of controversy regarding FIFA’s reputation in recent years, there is a big question whether it was a right choice on giving Qatar the opportunity to host the World Cup. Investigations were held, doubts were raised and there is still a lot to explain by the FIFA authorities. Sepp Blatter is gone, but for sure he has left some unwanted business behind and a big mess to clear up.
The most entertaining competition in the world; the most exciting month of the year; the most beautiful game: simply, the World Cup.Every football fan hopes to see his national team qualify and compete every 4 years at the Big Appointment. Every footballer grows up dreaming that one day he’ll be representing his Country at the World Cup rather than just watching it on TV.
Yet, the most beautiful game can sometimes disappoint us. Not the game, truly speaking, but the football authorities that have a significant impact on the sport nowadays. For more than 20 years now, the Football International Federation Association known commonly as FIFA has been accused of corruption and bribery. Recent investigations made in 2015 by the US federal prosecutors disclosed cases of corruption by the main FIFA officials, commonly known as the case of FIFA Gate.
A total of 14 members were accused for wire fraud, money laundering and racketeering, including Sepp Blatter who had been in charge since 1998 after replacing another suspicious figure, Joao Havelange. From the 14 accused, seven of them were arrested in Zurich on 17 May 2015 while preparing to attend the 65th FIFA Congress. Meanwhile, President Blatter was banned for 8 years from taking part in any FIFA activity, being replaced by Gianni Infantino on 2016.
Sepp Blatter while giving an speech about the FIFA Gate situation.
One of the main accusations was related with the selection of Qatar as the host country for the 2022 World Cup. Against all odds, the Arab country was selected, but the decision was surrounded by controversy.
First, an interesting fact about Qatar hosting the World Cup: It’ll be the first time the competition is held in the Middle East, in a Muslim-majority country. This seems to be good from a globalized point of view but, as it was expected, many critics brought up the issue of homosexuality -which is illegal in Qatar-. A scandal popped out when Blatter replied to these accusations by saying: “I would say that they (LGBT community) should refrain from any kind of sexual activity”. This polemic statement caused a lot of reactions from gay rights groups and the famous retired basketball player, John Amaechi.
Furthermore, the World Cup in Qatar will mark the first ever World cup to be played in late November and December. The reasons are obvious; the heat is unbearable in summer. Most football experts and analysts believe that in certain conditions, the game will not be the same. In addition, the notion of postponing the tournament for certain dates would interfere with the regular season and other competitions which is likely to cause disruption. The Africa Cup of Nations 2023, a tournament which is held every year in January would also be at risk, as it would prevent the players to recover properly from the tight schedule.
When Qatar initially won the right to host the World Cup, beating the likes of Australia, Japan, South Korea and United States there were in fact certain things going on already. Two FIFA committee members were suspended before the voting procedure to allegations of corruption regarding their votes. The fact that during the bidding process all non-UEFA nations withdrew from the 2022 bids made the case even more controversial as the options were far clearer with no European country in.
Frank Lowy, chairman of the Australian Federation -one of the countries who lost to Qatar-, claimed that if the World Cup was indeed moved to November and December, it would upset the normal schedule of the A-League, so they would seek compensation from FIFA. The chief executive of the Premier League, Ricard Scudamore also stated that they would consider legal action as such change would damage the Premier League’s famous Christmas and New year schedule. However, on 19 March 2015 FIFA officials confirmed that the World Cup final for Qatar 2022 would be held on December 18.
Frank Lowy, who was the richest person in Australia in 2010, has a net worth of 4,6 billion dollars according to Forbes.
To add further controversy, the treatment of foreign workers in the country following the preparations for the World Cup was heavily criticized. According to Amnesty International, workers had been suffering human right abuses, even though the worker welfare standards were drafted in 2014. Additionally, an investigation held by The Guardian claimed that many workers were being denied basic needs such as food and water, while they also had their papers of identity taken away from them. Further reports suggest that, from now to 2022, 4000 workers may die due to lax safety and other causes. These projections seem logic as over 500 Nepalese workers and around 700 Indian workers have died since 2010, when Qatar’s bid for hosting the World Cup was won.
Qatar has tried to respond the accusations. For instance, The International Trade Union Confederation claimed in October of 2017 that Qatar agreed to sign a document to improve the situation of approximately 2 million migrant workers in the country. The agreement was provided to establish reforms in the labor system, which includes ending the Al-Kafala system. The ITUC believes that this will have a positive impact in the general situation, especially for the workers who will be working on the projects prior to the World Cup in Qatar. From paper to facts there’s a long way; we shall hope that what’s signed is also respected.
Perhaps what made the whole scenario worst was the mention of one name: Mohammed Bin Hammam. The former football official who was an employee of the Qatar Football Federation, supposedly bribed several African officials, who were paid around 1.5 million dollars by Qatar, most likely by Bin Hammam. Suspicions emerged in 2014 when it was discovered that former CONCACAF president Jack Werner, who was also accused for corruption and bribery, was paid 2 million dollars from a successful Qatar campaign. Currently, the FBI is still investigating the case.
Bin Hammam, born in Qatar, has not one but two ban for-life from any FIFA activity.
To conclude, Qatar is cleared from any wrong-doing until further reports are submitted and more proof is seen, but its selection as the host nation is, and will continue for sure to be, surrounded by controversy and scandals. The case of Qatar hosting the World Cup is still to be determined because, even though the renders may look incredible and the venues may seem extraordinary, the questions about the fairness of this choice are still unanswered. Let us hope that we enjoy a memorable World Cup and that FIFA works out its internal problems. The beautiful game deserves to have all the adequate measures to run effectively and fair. After all, FIFA’s moto is: For the Game, For the World. We all speak Football.