Qatar: the controversial story behind the 2022 FIFA World Cup
Critics around the world were shocked when Qatar won the right to host the 2022 football world cup. How could a nation with no history of soccer be given such a prestigious task? Let's have a look at the history and controversy behind the 2022 World Cup organisation.
In December 2010, the world witnessed (to much confusion and dismay of the majority of football fans around the world) that Qatar was awarded the right to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
Several other countries had competed for the bid, including Australia, Japan, South Korea, and the United States. Qatar finally emerged from the bidding process as the winner, obtaining an absolute majority of the votes from the 22-member Executive Committee.
Qatar, a small Gulf nation located in the desert, has hardly any football history. It never even qualified for a World Cup. To most pundits and fans it was a mystery why and how this country had even been considered as the tournament's host, let alone be selected.
To others, however, it didn't seem such a mystery. Many critics pointed at the abundance of oil-rich corporate executives and financiers behind the Qatar bid and suggested the votes had been bought. As the Daily Mail reported in 2019, "the corruption investigation that followed has been extensive and far-reaching, casting an enormous shadow over football."
Allegations of corruption within the FIFA organization started in early 2011. The United States, the strongest competitor for 2022 besides Qatar, began its own investigation into the handling of the World Cup bid.
In March 2014, the Daily Telegraph reported that a company linked to Qatar's successful campaign had allegedly paid committee member Jack Warner and his family $1.2 million. The Daily Telegraph went on to report that the FBI was investigating Warner and his alleged links to the Qatari bid.
By 2019, 16 of the 22 FIFA executives who had voted for the Qatar bid had "either been banned, accused of or indicted for criminal corruption, involved in FBI cases or accused of ethical violations but not convicted," The Daily Mail reported.
In 2021, the New York Times quoted the United States Department of Justice in its claim that representatives working for both Russia and Qatar had bribed FIFA officials in order to win the hosting bids for, respectively, the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. These allegations are currently being investigated by FIFA.
As the investigations continue, Reuters reports that the organisers of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar have strongly denied the allegations of the US Department of Justice that bribes had been paid to secure votes for the hosting rights to the 2022 tournament.
Besides the question of how Qatar won the bid in the first place, there's the question of how it's going to organise the tournament. It will be the first World Cup ever to be held in the Arab world, and Qatar has extreme weather conditions.
Because of Qatar's intense summer heat, it will take place from late-November to mid-December, making it the first tournament not to be held in the months of May, June, or July. It is also to be played in a reduced timeframe of around 28 days - another first.
The timing of the World Cup will have a huge impact on European football in terms of scheduling, with teams having to take a 4-6 week break in the middle of the season to participate in the tournament. ESPN cites a number of high-profile clubs in saying that the scheduling "is unhelpful and an inconvenience, but something that they have no option but to accept."
Qatar is the smallest territory ever to have been awarded a FIFA World Cup – the next smallest is Switzerland, who hosted the 1954 World Cup. While Switzerland is a small country, it is still more than three times the size of Qatar. In addition, the Swiss only hosted 16 teams at the time, instead of the current 32.
Qatar has faced serious criticism about the treatment of foreign workers involved in the preparation for the 2022 World Cup. Even though worker welfare standards were drafted in 2014, there are still strong suspicions among NGOs of human rights violations.
Amnesty International have made thorough investigations and discovered labour unions and associations are forbidden. They also mention "forced labour" and say that hundreds or possibly even thousands of migrant workers have died as a result of the State's inhumane work conditions and neglect.
Denmark have put "extra pressure" on Fifa over their concern about Qatar's history of human rights violations in the build-up to the 2022 Qatar World Cup. Denmark's training kit sponsors will withdraw their logos to give room for messages critical of Qatar. In addition, commercial partners will not travel to the Arab nation.
Germany lined up before kick-off in their opening Group qualifier against Iceland, wearing shirts displaying the message 'HUMAN RIGHTS.' Norway made a similar statement before their match in Gibraltar, when their players wore T-shirts with the message: 'Human rights, on and off the pitch.'
A survey among US soccer fans, cited by Forbes, showed that 60% of them believe their national team should boycott the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. Furthermore, the survey revealed that 60% of American fans said the World Cup should be removed from Qatar and held in a different country.
England players, staff and also fans have been urged by Amnesty International to highlight human rights concerns during the tournament. Whether they will actually do that, remains to be seen.
Qatar's staging of the tournament has come under increased scrutiny due to the country's diplomatic crisis with its neighbours. They claim that Qatar supports extremists. Four Arab nations, namely Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, have been boycotting Qatar since last May, accusing it of supporting hard-line Islamist groups and also supporting terrorism, as reported by Reuters.
United Arab Emirates Minister of State Anwar Gargash wrote on Twitter: "Hosting World Cup 2022 should not be tainted by support of extremist individuals & (organizations)/ terrorist figures, review of Qatar’s policies a must." The tension between the countries and the accusation of extremism in Qatar are yet another problem for FIFA.
We've seen how the tournament raised questions among soccer teams, human rights organisations, diplomats and the US Department of Justice. But what will it be like for the fans who decide to travel to Qatar and attend the World Cup in 2022?
There are many factors to take into account when considering the fans. Of course, the difficulty in buying drink is one of the most-talked about issues.
A decision is yet to be made whether fans can buy alcohol in the stadium, although the expectation is that it is will not be very likely. In Qatar the sale of alcohol is restricted to a few luxury hotels and it is extremely expensive at around £10-£15 for a beer or glass of wine.
However, there have been plans to make it easier and more affordable to buy a drink at the event. During the 2019 Club World Cup, Qataris experimented with something they called a 'wet fan zone,' with beer, wine and cider on sale for about £5 – a similar plan is very likely to be in place for the 2022 World Cup.
Under Qatari law it is a serious offence to be drunk in public. Organisers are hoping that fans will understand that they are in a conservative country and moderate their behaviour. "This is ultimately a conservative but hospitable country," says one insider to the Guardian. "So there has to be an understanding on both sides that people should come and have a good time, while also respecting the culture."
Homosexuality is illegal in Qatar, with a 2004 law punishing 'sodomy between men' with an imprisonment between one and three years. However, the Qatari organisation has repeatedly insisted that everyone will be welcome, regardless of nationality, gender and sexual orientation.
But again, they have also stressed that the country has a conservative culture and fans will be asked to respect local rules. One of them is to refrain from public displays of affection. Many fans will have to make of that what they will.
It will certainly be a unique experience for the fans. Not only for culture differences, but also for the change in 'traditional' accommodation for these games. In the past, a three-star bed and breakfast or a pitch on a camp site was considered sufficient for a trip to the World Cup. Now, however, fans travelling to the World Cup in Qatar are to be offered a different and unique experience after organisers confirmed they had hired two cruise ships to serve as floating hotels in 2022.
There is a lot of controversy surrounding the 2022 World Cup. As teams are becoming more and more outspoken, how will the Arab nation react? What will be in store for one of football's great events in 2022? If the investigations reveal something awry lurking in the shadows, it could be devastating for the nation and FIFA alike.