The tournament in Qatar has been in the news for all the wrong reasons for some years now.

The footballing world is set for another World Cup this year after four long years. World Cups are arguably the biggest sporting events in the world and the epitome of world football. However, the biggest football competition this time has come under scrutiny and criticism. Controversies have been surrouding the event since Qatar won the bid for the event in 2010.

However, Qatar has put their best foot forward in order to make this a successful event. Within a short period of time, they have overhauled the entire country and built some outrageous stadiums. They have, meanwhile, been accused of violating human rights by the world. Step by step, let’s explain why this is the most controversial FIFA World Cup ever.

Bribery allegations in hosting selection procedure

Before the 2010 FIFA World Cup, FIFA commenced the process of selecting hosts for 2018 and 2022. For the 2018 World Cup bid, all non-UEFA nations withdrew their bid after a mutual agreement between nations. Thus, there were no UEFA nations bidding for hosting the 2022 FIFA World Cup, and Australia, Japan, Qatar, South Korea, and the United States were in the running.

Serious allegations of bribery were made on FIFA as Qatar won the bid comprehensively in 2010. Phaedra Almajid, a whistleblower, claimed African officials took $1.5 million in bribes to vote for Qatar. Despite the denials of all officials, several more allegations in 2014 substantiated his claims.

In 2014, Jack Warner, who was FIFA’s vice-president during the bidding process, received a $2 million dividend from a company linked to Qatar’s bid for the World Cup. Some more serious questions were also occasionally raised by large media outlets.

The Sunday Times revelations and sting investigation 

The Sunday Times, a UK-based news outlet, has made numerous revelations on a variety of topics which have led to serious allegations being made. They reported in 2015 that Bin Hammam, the-then President of the AFC, had bribed FIFA officials with $5 million and even contracted a former CIA agent to spy on FIFA officials. Furthermore, they revealed that Qatar’s Al-Jazeera news channel struck a secret agreement with FIFA one month before the bidding process for hosting rights began.

2022 FIFA World Cup
The 2022 FIFA World Cup is set to kick off in just under 100 days (Courtesy: FIFA)

According to the contract, Al-Jazeera will broadcast the 2022 World Cup and will pay $400 million for the rights. Out of this, $100 million will only be paid if Qatar hosts the tournament. Moreover, Al Jazeera promised $480 million to FIFA from Qatar’s government as part of the hosting agreement.

Qatar’s credentials questioned 

As soon as Qatar’s name was announced as the host, the whole football fraternity reacted with lacklustre. Qatar were ranked 113 when they won the hosting rights and had never won a continental tournament. This would be the first World Cup hosted by a nation that has never qualified for the competition. 

Playing conditions in Qatar also aren’t favorable. Middle-east is one of the most humid regions in the world, and footballers will have a tough time dealing with the heat there. The tournament – set to be held in November – will witness a significantly higher average temperature. The WC will also affect the normal club football cycle in Europe.

Human Rights violation

A number of controversies have surrounded the 2022 FIFA World Cup so far, but the most serious and sensitive is Qatar’s alleged open violation of workers’ rights. According to reports and some eyewitnesses, many workers have been enslaved by the Qatari government under ‘Kafala System’ for building their infrastructure for the mega event.

The government of Qatar has denied such allegations. Some investigations by media outlets and organizations have revealed that workers have been exploited and kept as prisoners without any contact with the rest of the world. Moreover, even the Nepalese ambassador in Qatar commented on the situation, describing it as an ‘Open Jail’ for workers.

Players’ take and Boycott campaign

Football fans, former players, and current players have all expressed strong opinions regarding the ongoing human rights violations in Qatar. Teams like Netherlands, Germany, and Norway wore human rights t-shirts during World Cup qualifiers, protesting Qatar’s horrendous treatment of workers.

Ex-players like Philipp Lahm have openly called out the authorities in interviews. Lahm recently said, “Human rights should play the biggest role in the awarding of a tournament. If a country is awarded the contract that is one of the worst performers in this regard, you start to think about the criteria used to make the decision. That shouldn’t happen again in the future. Human rights, sustainability, the size of the country… none of that seems to have played a role.”

The tournament is likely to go forward as planned, but the controversies surrounding the event will be remembered for years to come. Fans are excited for the tournament, as it might be the last opportunity to see many great players like Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar, and several others in an international event. But the dark side of the tournament can’t be neglected as well. 

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