FIFA president Sepp Blatter recently criticized the decision of the executive committee for its decision to hold the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar claiming that a mistake was made due to severe temperatures in the nation during summer months. The committee’s vote was almost unanimously in support of hosting the event in Qatar, which raises questions as to why the high temperatures were not taken into consideration in 2010 when the location was chosen.
It is also curious that the recent history of instability in Qatar did not warrant a comment by Blatter. Sexism and homophobia currently run rampant in Qatari culture and have even found their way into politics and law. Drinking alcohol, speaking against the government, and certain sexual acts including homosexuality are punishable offenses under the Islam-based law. Information from the US Department of State indicates that Qatar employs a labor system bordering on slavery. And, according to an evaluation by Amnesty International the construction workers are treated similar to “cattle”. Based on this it appears as if the heat is the least of the problems in Qatar.
The 2018 and 2022 bids, handed to Russia and Qatar, respectively, were granted without regard for their authoritarian governments, but seemingly only their oil reserves. The old tales of corruption amongst the football overlords have inevitably resurfaced. Many speculate that Qatar essentially bought the games from FIFA as some believe is common World Cup practice, but Sepp Blatter and his allies have consistently denied these allegations as, “English lies,” produced from England’s bitterness over losing the 2018 bid. There is no definitive proof that the allegations are true, however, there is a pattern to these accusations.
It was only in 2004 that bribery was officially made illegal within FIFA’s ethics code framework in Article 11.1. The racism and colonial spirit that pervaded the organization under former president Sir Stanley Rous that supported apartheid South Africa that was overthrown by president Joao Havelange’s corrupt commercialization of FIFA, achieved through, “small, brown envelopes going into big, black hands,” was all technically legal under FIFA’s internal legal structure. 2006 saw another scandal starring Jack Warner – head of CONCACAF, the Caribbean football alliance—when an audit revealed a million dollar profit from ticket sales in Trindad. The saga continued in 2011 when a Sunday Times sting found two members of the FIFA executive committee, Tahiti and Nigeria’s representatives, selling their votes for $800,000, which they claimed would help develop their countries, but which they demanded in the form of a personal transaction. And most recently, in 2011 when Sepp Blatter’s opponent in the bid for FIFA presidency, Mohamed bin Hammam—who actually ran on a platform of anti-corruption—was indicted for just that and suspended on counts of bribery. The last four locations in which the World Cup has been hosted represent a strong decline in the political standards set by the committee as the Democracy Index shows with South Africa (30th place) to Brazil (47th) to Russia (107th) to Qatar (137th).
To combat these corruption allegations, FIFA has brought in former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger to clean up the internal management of FIFA and combat the suspicions of corruption and announced that the future structure of FIFA would be dramatically changed to expand the executive pool to the 208 members of affiliated associations, instead of the traditional 24 of the executive committee. Such a practice would expand the electorate to a size where private “gifts” would be too expensive to be effective and allow true democratic process to prevail.
So the real question is not why Qatar is the wrong place, but rather how it was chosen as the right place. When presented with the facts and studies about the political and economic struggles in the region, what positives did the committee see that ultimately lead to their “mistake”? Even if the games generated mass economic profit for the nation, why should we trust the repressive government to give the money to its people? And, why should the world trust FIFA to avoid such blind “mistakes” again? The recent remarks about the heat being the reason that FIFA made a mistake just shows how willingly ignorant the entire western world is. The true mistake by FIFA lies in their ability to turn a blind eye to violent and systematic oppression, which is becoming an even more disturbing pattern in wealthy nations. As an organization that promotes global unity and equality, it is inexcusable that the committee to choose the location for its biggest event does not consider the application of basic human rights. This trend of international sporting events occurring in unstable and corrupt nations is becoming intensely relevant as Brazil looks to prepare for the upcoming 2016 summer Olympics, and the world cup later this summer. Massive protests demanding more funding for social projects instead of excessive spending on preparations are set to occur across Brazil, which begs the question; should third world countries be the setting for such large events? While the games can stimulate economic growth, if the government of a nation cannot pay for food, resources, and education for its people it does not make fiscal sense to have them pay billions for sports. The first world has a duty here to ensure that events take place in stable areas and should help financially to set up the event rather than watch idly by as the poor slave away to entertain the rest of earth.