In December of 2010, when FIFA awarded the hosting of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar, eyebrows were raised all across the soccer world. How could a country which is smaller and less populous than Connecticut and has no soccer history whatsoever host the sport’s biggest event? What was FIFA thinking?
In the four years since the decision was made, those raised eyebrows have turned into cries of outrage as it was revealed how Qatar managed to get the World Cup, and how Qatar is treating those working on the World Cup stadiums.
In the past few weeks, a new ESPN documentary provided more evidence to suggest that Qatar bribed officials to win the rights to host, and BBC journalists were arrested for trying to speak to some of the migrant workers. These are just the latest in a series of disturbing reports to come out of the country. For the sake of the beautiful game as well as the sake of human decency, Qatar must be stripped of hosting the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
The first reason is that corruption was more than likely present in the process of Qatar winning the right to host the World Cup. FIFA executive committee member Jack Warner was allegedly paid $1.2 million by a company owned by Qatari soccer officials according to The Daily Telegraph. A later report from The Sunday Times claimed that another Qatari official distributed “more than five million in cash gifts, expenses, and legal fees to FIFA officials” prior to the World Cup vote. Additionally, the recent ESPN documentary featured a member of the Qatari bid team who claimed that she witnessed members of the bid team bribe three FIFA officials with $1.5 million each. Such bribery cannot be rewarded with the world’s biggest sporting event, or the World Cup voting process will forever be a contest of who can pay more, not who will be the best host for the event. The only way to properly make sure that such criminal activity isn’t rewarded is to strip those responsible of the prize they bought.
Perhaps the most important issue at the heart of the Qatar World Cup is that of human rights. Qatar’s stadiums are being built using mostly migrant workers from countries like India, Sri Lanka and Nepal, and these workers are treated like disposable labor.
A series of Guardian reports detailed how these migrant workers have their passports taken from them, meaning they are unable to leave the country without their employers’ permission. They are paid as little as 68 cents per hour, and even that is not guaranteed for them as they occasionally go unpaid for months or longer. All of this is on top of working conditions that are unbelievably dangerous. Construction work is inherently hazardous, and no big project will be completed without injuries or deaths. However, in Qatar workers are dying at an alarming rate. In the first three-and-a-half years of World Cup construction, 1,200 workers have died on World Cup related projects, and a report issued by the International Trade Union Commission estimates that at least 4,000 total workers will die before a ball is kicked in November of 2022.
Qatari promises to address this situation have so far seemed mostly hollow. Amnesty International’s reports on the situation claim that Qatar is “dragging its feet” on making any meaningful changes that would help its workers.
These appalling conditions cannot be allowed to stand. The only way to protect workers, and show the world that treating migrant workers this way will not be tolerated, is to take away the prized possession that they are working on, the 2022 FIFA World Cup.