FIFA World Cup 2022: This Time in Arab World

Football, the world’s game is set to host its world cup finals in 2022. The excitement for the world cup rises even more as this is one of the major tournaments that will be held post pandemic. A total of 32 teams from 6 continents have been selected for the finals after the qualifiers. The world cup is organized by FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association). The 26th edition of the FIFA world cup will be hosted in Qatar and this world cup holds an incredibly special value for the football fans all over the world as this very well might be the last world cup for the legends like Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. But despite all of this, the 2022 FIFA world cup is said to be the worst scandal in world cup history, and United Nation had to intervene to solve the human rights issues, still there are issues remaining. It has been a long time since 2010 when Qatar was awarded the world cup and all these issues started back then. But first, let us look at how FIFA chooses a country to give the hosting rights of the world cup and how did Qatar win the hosting rights.

FIFA has a bid system placed for the selection of nation, various nations place the bids along with the financial plan and the infrastructure models. These bids are then analyzed by the FIFA bid evaluation task force and it investigates several aspects such as technical expertise required, commercial and legal compliance between the domestic and the international organizations to work in the host country. An independent audit company is then chosen to conduct the audit and to evaluate the financial risk of the bids, this also keeps check on the Bid Evaluation Task Force. When the bid evaluation process is done it comprises of many key components such as stadiums, facilities for teams and referees, transport, and mobility in the cities and between the cities, accommodation of the fans, proposed location of the FIFA fan fest, locations for the international broadcasting center to broadcast the event across the globe via various channels, estimated revenues of sale of tickets and hospitality packages, estimated revenue from the sale of media and marketing rights.

Besides the bidding process there are various rules of conduct set by FIFA a nation must follow. The rules of conduct include prohibition of inappropriate gifts, prohibition of any form of unethical collaboration between any associations as well as strict rules in relation to proposals to football development projects. FIFA also looks upon that all the authorities who are involved in the hosting and staging of the world cup that they must comply with the globally accepted human rights in lieu of UN's principal of Human rights and business. A comprehensive report is made identifying and assessing any risks of adverse impacts on human rights and labor standards that is informed by a study by an independent expert institution assessing the respective country’s human rights context. The host country is then chosen by the FIFA’s council through the exhaustive ballot voting system.

FIFA’s council chose Qatar for the 2022 world cup but with several irregularities. The bid evaluation rated Qatar as one of the riskiest to hold the world cup. It also is the smallest nation ever to host a world cup. Several instances of bribery were reported and in May,2015, 14 FIFA officials were arrested in Zurich. The former Brazil federation president Ricardo Teixeira is under criminal trial of being paid bribes to vote for Qatar at the decisive FIFA executive committee (exco) meeting in December 2010, where Qatar was given the hosting rights. Nicolas Leoz the former Paraguayan president of Conmebol, South American football’s governing body was also bribed to vote for Qatar. The former Vice President of FIFA Jack Warner had been banned from FIFA for lifetime and is under the process of being extradited from Trinidad to face the trials in the US. The long running president since 1988 of FIFA was banned and is exempted from taking part in any FIFA related activities.

To such allegations the Qatar's supreme committee responsible for hosting the world cup said that they would fight any accusation that they did not win the votes legitimately. “The supreme committee maintains that it strictly adhered to all rules and regulations for the 2022 FIFA World Cup bidding process and any claim to the contrary is baseless and will be fiercely contested”.

When it comes to Qatar there are far more complex issues other than the scandal by FIFA. Qatar is a rich nation in the middle east with huge oil reserves, it has the 4th highest GDP per-capita income in the world as per the International Monetary fund and it is a rising economy too which is based on oil and natural gas industries. The world cup was awarded to Qatar by FIFA in 2010 for the 2022 edition along with Russia which won the rights to the 2018 world cup. FIFA was heavily criticized for awarding rights for two consecutive events at the same time, but according to the former FIFA president it was great opportunity for a non-footballing nation to grow. The country follows a Kafala system of labor and does not have laws supporting the LGBTQ community, being a conservative country.

The Kafala system is a labor sponsorship system used in the Gulf Corporation Countries gives permission to individuals or companies to bring in domestic as well as the foreign laborers. The sponsor is supposed to be responsible to cover the travel and accommodation of the workers. The system has a huge flaw, as it comes under the jurisdiction of interior ministry of the state rather than labor ministry. Due to this the workers have no right to form unions and protest if being exploited. The workers are completely dependent on the employer to being able to transfer the jobs and to enter or exit the host country. This puts a huge risk to workers as they do not have the cultural sensitivity, they are not aware of the local language and they do not have any social security, they are made to live outside the city in extremely poor conditions and with unsanitary food and water supply. They are treated as second class citizens and are subject to racism. The problem is on an exceptionally large scale as laborers form 80% of the total population in Qatar. This is compared to modern day slavery.

The United Nation had to intervene to change the system as more workers are supposed to be employed for the huge infrastructure developments in country as they are hosting the world cup. It took years to make laws that would help workers and improve the working condition they are exposed to. Now the workers will be able to change their jobs after the initial probationary period, previously they had t obtain an NOC from their employer which was difficult to get. The kafala system was abolished. Non-discriminatory minimum wage system for all the nationalities was made common. The removal of exit permits for all workers, they will be leave and enter the country as they would wish to without the permission of the employer. As far as the situation of the LGBTQ community stands there are no laws to protects them and no specific laws for their trial too. However, the government says that the laws are same for everyone as intimate display is not legal in public places and everyone will be treated the same.

The tournament is held in the months of May and June typically and in Qatar the temperature rises to 104° Fahrenheit, it is impossible to play in open stadiums in this scorching heat. In order to tackle this situation, the tournament was shifted to November, but this collides with the major domestic and continental tournaments of major footballing nations. This can pose a problem as not only the match schedules are going to be tight but also that the players are in a high risk of injuries due to lack of recovery. The accommodation costs are exceedingly high, and the pandemic has worsened the situation and it is feared that the stadiums can remain empty as even Qatar has an extremely low attendance record of just 700 per match for the domestic league.

Taking in account all the issues related with the FIFA 2022 world cup, should fans still go to visit the event? I think yes, because as a nation Qatar is trying to showcase that how open it is to the world while still maintaining all its traditional values. Several steps have been taken by the government to promote football locally by significant investment into modern facilities and bringing world class players and coaches to train a new generation.

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