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Qatari controversy

December 9, 2022 at 5:00:00 PM

Anish Shrestha '24

When I think of the World Cup, I imagine myself glued to my couch with my eyes fixed on the TV during a relaxing summer vacation (Shakira also comes to mind); So now, it's a bit odd to watch the World Cup during Thanksgiving dinner, to say the least. 

For soccer fans at Mercersburg, this month will be full of early morning and mid-class viewings of this rendition of the World Cup in Qatar. Ideally, I don’t want to have to choose between getting a good night’s sleep and waking up at 5:00 am to watch Messi’s Argentina face off against Saudi Arabia in what should be a routine win (it was not). Nor do I want the USA and Iran scoreline bothering me during APUSH. Beyond my entitled grievances with this tournament, there are far more severe consequences of hosting the World Cup in Qatar. 

For starters, to build the venues for the competition, Qatar imported thousands of foreign workers. Nearly 6,500 South and Southeast Asian migrant laborers lost their lives while constructing Qatar’s host stadiums. In contrast, the number of deaths to laborers at the South Africa and Brazil World Cups can be counted on two hands. Unfortunately, the deaths could have been prevented by adherence to humane working conditions on the part of supervisors and employers. Migrant workers faced passport seizure preventing them from escaping their brutal and hostile workplaces. Stadium construction and the World Cup, itself, were only possible due to forced migrant labor. 

Mistreatment of migrant workers has been widely reported for the past year or so, yet FIFA failed to revoke Qatar’s host status or even condemn its blatant violation of human rights. Unnecessary worker deaths were the truth that Qatar, FIFA, and the world have chosen to overlook for the sake of the world’s entertainment. 

If FIFA wanted to increase the popularity of soccer in Western Asia and the Middle East, why not host the tournament in Saudi Arabia, a nation that has its own developed domestic league and stadiums? Tunisia, Morocco, or Algeria would have all been much more fitting hosts, given their rich soccer cultures and histories. And this is not the first time FIFA has come under criticism for its World Cup planning. The previous host nation was Russia in 2018; Putin seized the stage and awarded medals to the winners at the finals. Less than three years later, Putin initiated a full-on invasion of Ukraine, an aggression that effectively banned the Russian national team from competing in this World Cup: not a good look for FIFA in hindsight. 

And despite its years of preparation for this World Cup, Qatar failed to impress where it matters most: on the pitch. In their brief stint in the tournament, the Qatari national team was humiliated as the first host nation in the history of the competition to lose its opening match (courtesy of Enner Valencia and Ecuador) failing to even win a single game. Why should a nation that has never qualified for the World Cup based on merit be chosen as a host nation to begin with? The motivation behind hosting this World Cup in Qatar seems to have been a purely financial decision for FIFA, not one born out of a love or even care for the game.

The World Cup is heralded as a global event that unites people of different walks of life across the boundaries of race, culture, and creed, yet the Qatari games have been full of nothing but controversy and corruption.

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