So Russia 2018 has ended and Les Bleus have been crowned champions. Whilst France celebrates the rest of world licks their wounds and prepares to challenge them for the titles in 4 years time when Qatar plays host to the most viewed sporting event in the world.
I say four years, it’s actually four and a half after it was recently announced that the world cup will take place between the 21st of November – 18th December. Why the change from the usual summer viewing? Oh because during summers in Qatar temperatures can reach between 40 – 50 degrees centigrade.
Obviously running around for 90 minutes in such intense heat would be incredibly dangerous for the competitors not to mention incredibly uncomfortable for the fans. I’ve been in the Arabian lands during summer and I can attest to the fact that even just sitting out in the blistering heat is enough to dehydrate you to the state of a Raisin.
This rescheduling of the event has left a bitter taste in the mouths of many football fans, players and managers alike. Many feel that with a tournament right in the middle of domestic seasons that many players will not only be preoccupied with their clubs campaigns but also may be unwilling to compromise their fitness at such a time.
The change in scheduling is only one of the many issues that many have already raised with the 2022 world cup being hosted in Qatar. If you’re ready to open Pandora’s box and lay your eyes upon the chaos then stick around and we’ll delve into why this may just be the worst world cup ever.
First off let’s get the obvious reason out of the way. Qatar only has the rights to host the world cup due to money. It’s the worst-kept secret since sexism being part of Hollywood. Indeed allegedly (and I have to use that word legally) Julio Grondona, whom up until his death in 2014 was the head of the Argentine Football Association, claims he was owed money by Qatar for his vote. This is only one account of many that claim bribes numbering in the millions of dollars were offered to those in positions of power within FIFA. Money talks, it always has and unfortunately always will.
Don’t get me wrong with an event called the WORLD cup it always is nice to see an all-encompassing attitude. When the tournament was held in South Africa in 2010 it was a celebration of their culture and a brilliant tournament to witness, even if we were introduced to the new type of hell that goes by the name vuvuzela. Being the first world cup held in Africa it was a groundbreaking historical moment and worked towards making Africa a footballing continent of the future. It’s the corruption that just doesn’t sit right when it comes to Qatar. The middle east has never been known for footballing prowess, has little to no history in the sport and until recently has had little to no drive to develop football. It’s the same problem you see in modern day football and in many of the oil-rich states, you can’t just buy a culture, it comes across as superficial and lacking.
The biggest problem with the world cup being hosted in Qatar, however, is the moral conundrum it throws up for many competing and those who will be supporting their teams play.
This moral question comes due to the blatant human rights violations happening in Qatar as we speak. The workers out there are pretty much modern day slaves. In a country with one of the highest national wealth per capita in the world, there is a distinct lack of native working class people and labour forces. Often the workers who have been tasked with building the stadiums to host the event (seeing as the country were nowhere near capable upon winning the rights) are recruited from poverty-stricken areas in Bangladesh, India and Nepal. These workers are often deceived being promised certain contracts before arrival only to have the contract ripped up and their passports taken control of by their employers. This is part of a system known as Kafala that legally binds them to their employers. Even if they still had control of their passports, the extortionate loans they’ve already taken out to pay for recruitment agencies and flights means they’re trapped in a dept filled hole, making barely enough money to feed themselves/send back to their families, let alone a flight back to their homes. This is barely one step above slavery and it’s a disgusting practice.
These workers are housed in what is known as “Labour Camps” a name that anyone in the western world cringes at due to the connotations of the 1940s. Kept out of the seeing eyes of the rich inner-city residents these workers are transported to and from these “camps” by bus. Out of sight out of mind right?
Many of the camps are in dire states, housing sometimes up to 12 workers per room with insufficient hygiene regulations, lack of clean water and just all around terrible living conditions. Witnessing some of the footage taken (illegally) from these camps just highlights the problems further. Of course, the employers try to ban anyone from getting in and install a sense of fear in any workers speaking out. Just a quick search on YouTube can open up a world of horrors that’ll leave anyone with a conscious with a heavy sense of unease.
Of course, living and working conditions as dire as these are leading to quite an alarming death rate amongst the migrant workers. Whether this is through physical exertion in 40 – 50-degree heat, unsafe building sites or even suicide the estimates that the number of migrant workers deaths could reach over 4000 by the time the tournament kicks off with between 1000-2000 already having happened. It really is a modern day crisis that I can’t believe hasn’t been shut down already.
Between my first and second year of university, I worked as a labourer on the equestrian stand in Greenwich Park for the 2012 London Olympics. One day a fellow worker fell from one of the scaffoldings, Luckily and thankfully he survived but after shutting the site down for a day, new safety regulations were put in place. The fact he was mildly dehydrated led to routine water breaks being put in effect and the rest of the build went off without a hitch. That was one close encounter and it led to a complete restructuring of the entire project. The fact 1000 – 2000 people have already died puts the death toll of workers in Qatar higher than UK soldier deaths in the entire Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts put together.
When the world cup comes around 4 and half years from now there’s going to be a dark shadow hanging over the tournament. How many deaths is too many and how much money blurs the consciousness of those in charge?