By Robert Mazzarolo – Thompson Rivers University 2L JD Student
December 2, 2010, a date that will live in infamy for soccer (football) fans around the world. The Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) was set to announce the hosts for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. With the anticipated frontrunner being the United States of America (America) for 2022, the excitement in North America was palpable. The other hopefuls, which included Australia, South Korea, Japan, and Qatar, did not have a chance, or so it was thought. The World Cup would return to America to finish what it had started in 1994. What could be better? Inexplicably, this was not to be the case. As millions of soccer fans watched on their TV screens, FIFA President Sepp Blatter stepped up to the podium to announce the host nation for 2022. He opened the envelope and announced, “The winner, to organize the 2022 FIFA World Cup is, Qatar!” Yes! Wait … Qatar? Where is Qatar? This is where the tragedy of that evening begins.
How could Qatar surpass the United States for the right to host the 2022 World Cup? According to United Nations statistics, the population of Qatar in 2010 was 1.7 million people. Comparatively, the US’s population as of 2010 was 309 million. Less must be more in the eyes of FIFA. Of that 1.7 million people, three quarters are male. This bodes well for Qatar, as nothing says gender equality more than an extremely disproportionate amount of males compared to females. The US, on the other hand, is roughly evenly split at fifty percent male and femaler.
How about weather you ask? The average temperature in Qatar during the months of June and July is 42 degrees Celsius. Temperatures can reach as high as 50 degrees Celsius with continuous sunshine and no rainfall. These are the conditions to which FIFA agreed would be suitable for the World Cup. Qatar would argue that the heat will not be a problem as it will be countenanced by radical new cooling technologies capable of making 80,000 seat stadiums and the players on the pitch comfortable in the otherwise blazing heat. Comparatively, the average temperature in the US during June and July is a more reasonable 25 degrees Celsius.
What about labour force and working conditions? Surely, no matter what country is selected, infrastructure will need to be built to host the tournament. Qatar’s vast majority of trade’s workers are migrants from Pakistan, India, and Nepal. They have severe restrictions placed on their movement, including when they can exit the country. It is estimated by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) that at least 4,000 migrant workers will lose their lives in preparation for the World Cup in 2022. These facts along with others have led the ITUC General Secretary, Sharan Burrow, to classify Qatar as a “slave state.” Yikes! While America does have a history of slavery for its labour, at least they did the right thing and banned slavery almost 150 years ago. It would be interesting to hear FIFA’s defense of its decision in light of these facts.
Given these examples and others, it is clear that there are serious questions concerning Qatar being awarded the World Cup. Almost immediately after the results were announced, allegations of corruption within FIFA began to surface. Calls for an inquiry, an investigation became so loud and so widespread, even FIFA could no longer ignore them. FIFA hired former New York District Attorney, Michael Garcia, in 2012 to investigate the bid process and submit a report of what really happened behind the scenes. However, just to demonstrate FIFA’s arrogance, they will not release this report to the public. Furthermore, in the last few weeks, calls to strip Qatar from the right to host the 2022 World Cup have even come from within FIFA’s inner circle. Outspoken executive members of FIFA, such as Theo Zwanziger from Germany, remarked that he personally believes that the 2022 World Cup will not be held in Qatar. Even Sepp Blatter, the kingpin of them all, has stated that selecting Qatar to host a World Cup was a mistake. It may just be a matter of time before the right thing is done and the tournament is moved. Until then, FIFA should start to follow its own motto, “For the Good of the Game.”