Qatar’s World Cup: How FIFA and Qatar have taken the world’s most beloved sport and turned it into a death sentence for thousands

Dec. 2, 2010

Russia has just been awarded the bid for the 2018 World Cup and Sepp Blatter, the president of the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (more commonly known as FIFA), takes the podium to announce who is set to host the 2022 World Cup. Blatter opens the envelope to reveal that Qatar has won the bid. Qatar is a small peninsula bordering Saudi Arabia and juts out into the Persian Gulf. The money for hosting such an expensive event is no issue for Qatar as they have the highest Gross Domestic Product per capita at $145,894. In fact, they are predicted to spend over $100 billion preparing for the World Cup. Yet to many, Qatar’s successful bid has left people surprised and even stunned.

“I was a little surprised given the other countries that were in the running for it,” Curt Collingwood, former Spanish teacher at West Linn, said. “ Qatar is really small, but FIFA seems to be trying recently to award the World Cup to areas that have never hosted like South Africa in 2010.” Collingwood’s love for soccer stems from spending a few years in Spain’s capital city of Madrid, and following their futbol club, Real Madrid, ever since. Others around West Linn were more bothered by it than Collingwood.

“I laughed because it’s a stupid idea,” Jonathan Dorsey, senior, said. “It’s incredibly hot and the overall climate there is not ideal for a World Cup.”

 

2015

In the years that have passed since that day, nothing but controversy has risen as a result of Qatar’s successful World Cup bid. Not only is the deathly heat causing many people to scratch their heads, but the validity of how Qatar earned the bid is under fire. Allegations of bribery have come into play and people are not surprised, especially given FIFA’s suspect actions over the course of its existence.

“I think they try to act like a reputable organization, but always seem to be in the middle of controversies,” Collingwood said. “The fact that Qatar was awarded the cup seemed a little fishy from the beginning.”

“FIFA is so messed up and is really secretive,” Wind Lothamer, computer science teacher at WLHS, said. “All they care about is money.”

One of the most gut-wrenching issues that has come to light during the preparation of Qatar’s World Cup is the treatment of workers and what the government puts them through. Thousands of migrant workers from countries such as India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and even Nepal have traveled west to Qatar in hope of sending money back home to their families.

Unfortunately, that has not been the case as many workers have gone unpaid and are now bound to something called the Kafala System. The system requires all unskilled laborers to have an in-country sponsor that is usually their employer. That said employer will then handle all of their visas and legal status information.

It has been criticized heavily for exploiting migrant workers and abusing them with little legal repercussion. In a sense, workers are bound to their contract for however long the employer wishes.

Conditions for the workers aren’t much better as they are forced to live in buildings on the job site that are not suitable for daily living. Up to 10 people often occupy a room that can realistically only house two people. Not only are workers cramped, but they may be forced to work six to seven days a week in temperatures that rarely fall below 85 F. Added, this has lead to the death of 1,000 migrant workers in 2012 and 2013 it is expected to skyrocket in the years. In 2014, Nepalese workers died at a rate of one every two days and if the figure included workers from India, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh, the number may rise to more than one per day. By the time a ball is kicked off at the World Cup in 2022, over 4,000 people will have died building the stadiums. Despite the concern, Qatar has promised to “address the issue” but nothing seems to have been fixed as the death rates continue to rise.

“This is a humanitarian crisis that should be getting more press so that FIFA and Qatar feel more pressure to make sure things are on the up and up.  FIFA also needs to be criticized for awarding the cup to a nation that is not ready for such a large scale construction project,” Collingwood said.

“It’s a cause for a significant concern,” Dorsey said. “The fact that FIFA has done nothing about it is appalling.”

One solution to the problem has been the suggestion of moving the World Cup to another country that may be better prepared for it. But at this point it may be too late.

“With regards to how messed up FIFA is, it may not be much better,” Lothamer said.

“Now that everything is underway, I don’t think they can just pull it.  It would be difficult for another country to just immediately start preparations,” Collingwood said. “There certainly needs to be more oversight into the preparations.”

Another fix may be to boycott the World Cup completely, a task that is not so easily accomplished. On average, 2.6 billion people watch the World Cup every four years, along with the thousands who attend matches.

“In the end I’ll still watch the World Cup,” Lothamer said. “I also don’t think it’s possible to boycott it entirely, especially since no one boycotted the one in Brazil which also had issues of its own.”

Despite it’s difficulty, others have optimism that the boycott is possible “I actually think it’s possible,” Dorsey said. “If you can get one of the top three countries, such as Spain, Germany and England, it holds more meaning and could possibly bring the World Cup down.”

The World Cup is one of the few sporting events where the entire world stops to watch it. It’s appeal can be traced all the way down to a pride level.

“For one, there is a national pride aspect.  The traditional powerhouses have reputations to uphold on the global stage while up and coming soccer countries like the US are looking to take the next step,” Collingwood said. “You have the best of the best playing against each other almost non-stop for a whole month and a lot of young players make a name for themselves during the cup. Colombia’s James Rodriguez had a great cup last summer which lead to one of the biggest transfer deals ever when he went to Real Madrid,” he said.

Qatar’s World Cup, plain and simple, is a violation of human rights. It goes against all ethical boundaries set by society and yet nothing has been done to fix the solution. With all of the deaths which may result from this, it has become more so a human rights debacle, rather than the joyous anticipation for a sporting event.

“It’s an absolute failure of human rights. ‘Acceptable losses’ should not play a factor in any type of construction for an event,” Dorsey said.

“I would hope that FIFA would address these issues,” Lothamer said. “They are missing a huge opportunity to make things right and improve their reputation.”

“It is tragic what is going on during the construction of these stadiums and ultimately FIFA should be investigated for awarding the cup to a country with so many red flags,” Collingwood said.

In it of itself,  the World Cup may not be moved solely because of its immense popularity along with the difficulty of relocating. As phenomenal as the World Cup is, watching it In Qatar is something with which I cannot feel comfortable. Knowing that thousands of people have died putting on an event that in the end is just a game, is not acceptable. I love soccer as much as the next person but supporting FIFA and Qatar while they continue to turn a blind eye to human suffering is morally conflicting. If in 2022, the World Cup has not relocated, it will be one of the largest ethical failures in the history of sports.

 

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