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All the controversies surrounding the Qatar World Cup in 2022

After the traditional four-year wait, soccer’s grandest stage is just around the corner. Even before Sunday’s kickoff of the 2022 World Cup, this year’s iteration may already be one of the most controversial sporting events of the past decade.

The World Cup is set to be played in Qatar, and while anticipation is high, the road to the pitch has been quite rocky. Qatar’s initial bid for the games, treatment of workers during the construction of stadiums, checkered social climate, and lack of clear global initiatives have formed a cloud of controversy over the first Middle Eastern World Cup.

The bid

Qatar had no prior history in the World Cup prior to winning the bid in 2010. Its hot desert climate and brutal summers have never made it an ideal destination for such a grand event. Further, many soccer fans questioned how the small Middle-Eastern country won the bid during former FIFA president Sepp Blatter’s reign.

There were allegations of corruption, vote-swapping, and links to trade deals at the highest levels of government. Qatar was cleared of corruption by FIFA, but as recently as 2020, US prosecutors accused three former senior FIFA officials of receiving bribes for voting in favor of Qatar.

No wrongdoing has ever been proven, but the bizarre election has left many observers to question the legitimacy of the choice.

Sepp Blatter
Sepp Blatter
Getty Images

The treatment of workers

Stadium construction began in 2014. There have been three “work related deaths” on actual stadium construction sites since that time, and an additional 37 off-site deaths. Qatar authorities have said the count is in proportion with the size of the given migrant workforce. However, human rights activists claim there are many more unexplained deaths.

Living conditions have been at the heart of the issue. Amnesty International denounced the “appalling living conditions” for workers, and reported they bordered on “modern slavery.” The organization claimed that migrant workers from Bangladesh, India and Nepal were exploited, and in some cases lied to about salaries and other working factors such as their ability to leave the work camp or stadium.

Adidas, AB InBev, Coca-Cola and McDonalds responded to the issue with statements, expressing support for migrant reforms and compensation for workers in Qatar. However, all have remained as sponsors to the tournament. 

Construction workers on Khalifa International Stadium ahead of the 2022 FIFA World Cup
Construction workers on Khalifa International Stadium ahead of the 2022 FIFA World Cup
Getty Images

The social climate

Homosexuality is a crime in Qatar. A World Cup ambassador from the country recently said gay people “have damage in their mind.” Human Rights Watch recently reported that members of Qatar’s LGBTQ+ community were detained and physically abused by the country’s security services in late October.

Additionally, women have limited rights in Qatar and need a male guardian’s approval to drive or leave the country. Organizers have stressed that “everyone’s welcome” at the tournament, but some fans across the globe are skeptical of the tournament’s overall safety.

The global initiatives

All of the controversies have contributed to a broader discussion regarding global change. Some players have even drawn criticism for supporting the event. Former England defender Gary Neville, for instance, has been lambasted for agreeing to commentate at the World Cup for a Qatar-owned TV network. FIFA sparked outrage when they attempted to ease tensions between players (and fans) that may have questions regarding the politics in play when they instructed teams to “focus on football” rather than getting “dragged into every ideological or political battle.”

With so much lying underneath the surface of Qatar’s 2022 World Cup, it may be nearly impossible for the viewing public to solely “focus on football.”

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