FIFA Go Home: The Staggering Stupidity of Qatar 2022


Evan Hugge '23

It’s a headline ripped straight from an SNL sketch or an Onion article- “Analysts shake their heads in shock as the 2022 World Cup is awarded to…Qatar”. Indeed, the prospect of holding the World Cup, the biggest sporting event in the world, in a nation like Qatar is a fitting parody of the gross corruption and disregard for the game that has come to characterize FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association). This is not a parody, however. The human rights abuses which occur on a daily basis in Qatar are not a bit of satirical humor, and nor are the many instances of staggering corruption within football’s ruling body which led up to this point. And this is not some sort of anomaly, or a dark spot on FIFA’s otherwise spotless reputation. On the contrary, Qatar 2022 is just the latest warning that we have become complacent in the degradation of international sport into a shameless propaganda tool for authoritarian governments and greedy corporate bigwigs. 

Listing the reasons why holding the World Cup in Qatar is a bad idea would take days and copious amounts of printer paper. I will choose to focus on the issue that has so far drawn (deservedly, I might add) the most attention from the international press, that issue being the rampant human rights abuses that have plagued Qatar for years. Qatar, a small oil-rich country in the Persian Gulf region, relies heavily on migrant workers, mostly from southern Asia, to construct and maintain its infrastructure, migrants who make up 88% of Qatar’s total population. Despite constituting a huge part of the workforce, expatriate workers in Qatar are forced, in many cases, into conditions akin to slavery. Prior to a series of reforms in 2020, employers could take the workers’ passports upon their arrival, essentially trapping them in the country. Even now, workers are often denied pay for months at a time, and are roped into jobs with misleading contracts. According to a report by Amnesty International, many workers are threatened by their employers and forced to work in dangerous conditions and scorching heat against their will. Most shockingly, it is likely that thousands of workers have died working on the stadiums that will be used for matches later this year. These reports may be horrifying, but this information is not new. The abuses of Qatar’s government were well-documented when they were awarded the World Cup in 2010. From the beginning, FIFA knew that Qatar’s brand-new stadiums would be constructed with the blood and sweat of exploited migrant workers. It may seem more than a little odd, then, that an event of such international significance would be awarded to a country where the rule of law is nonexistent for 90% of the population. 

For those who are familiar with the putrid cancerous growth that is football’s governing body, the success of Qatar’s bid is much less surprising. For an organization that presides over the beautiful game, FIFA is a decidedly ugly organization. Over the past few years, it has been dogged by allegations of corruption, and over a dozen of its top officials have been indicted on charges including wire fraud, racketeering, and money laundering. In 2014, it was even revealed that former FIFA vice president Jack Warner had taken $2 million in bribes from a firm associated with the Qatar bid. FIFA also has a spotty track record of showing any concern for the people living in World Cup host countries. In 2014, the government of Brazil, a country still struggling with a high poverty rate, shilled out billions of dollars for its World Cup, only to see the majority of the profits go to FIFA. Costly stadiums were built in cities like Manaus, only to be promptly abandoned after the tournament, and portions of Brazilian laws relating to alcohol consumption in stadiums, laws which had been passed to ensure public safety, were scrapped under pressure from FIFA and its sponsor Budweiser. The approach to Qatar looks to be no different, with spectacle and profit to be prioritized over any benefit to the host country, and in a nation rich with oil, there will be no shortage of profit.

Despite these many problems, the World Cup is set to go ahead with millions of cheering fans this November, and the excesses and abuses of football’s ruling class will be swept under the rug as the world turns its attention to the theatrics of such a spectacular event. The deaths of thousands of exploited workers and a decade of corruption will be forgotten, and the world will move on to the next big thing. The workers of Qatar, however, will not be able to move on. The World Cup will bring no benefits to everyday people in the country, just as it brought no benefits to the people of Brazil. FIFA, and for that matter other international sporting organizations like the IOC (International Olympic Committee), need to change dramatically in order for a sense of dignity to be restored to competitions like the World Cup. Until then, what was once the greatest sporting event in the world will remain a waste of money and time.