Overhead shot of a stadium at the Qatar 2022 men's FIFA World Cup. Photo by David Ramos for Getty Images, courtesy of CNN.

Qatar’s World Cup of Controversy

Every four years, soccer fans gather to watch the FIFA World Cup tournament, a grand event for devotees to celebrate their home country’s prowess in the game. However, the host country of the 2022 men’s tournament, Qatar, has been rife with scandal. There has been controversy over the strict enforcement of Qatari law, which bans the sale of alcohol and pork products and prohibits displays of homosexuality. Other allegations include the country bribing FIFA to acquire hosting rights, bribing opponents to lose games, and using forced labor to build the stadiums and cities that house the World Cup.

FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) is the organization responsible for coordinating and regulating the World Cup. In the past, it has been widely criticized for corruption among its executives. In 2020, the US Department of Justice, in their ongoing investigation into FIFA, revealed significant evidence of five board executives being paid by Russia and Qatar for greater chances to host in 2022. Many of the people who received payments from either of the countries have been indicted for their wrongdoing, but Qatar’s bribery allegations have extended to actual play.

Amjad Taha (he/him), regional director of the British Society for Middle Eastern Studies, alleged that Qatar paid eight Ecuadorian players $7.4 million to lose the opening game of the World Cup. Taha, who has over 440k Twitter followers, tweeted out on November 17 that “five Qatari and #Ecadour [sic] insiders confirmed this.” Qatar went on to lose all three of their group stage matches. Qatar’s head coach Felix Sánchez (he/him) dismissed the allegation as “misinformation.”

The largest scandal that has surrounded the Qatar World Cup concerns the labor that went into building the stadiums. Qatar regularly hits temperatures of up to 122 degrees Fahrenheit and has very harsh labor laws concerning migrant workers. Human rights organization Amnesty International released a report detailing the poor conditions workers experienced. Under the kafala system, workers are required to have permits showing they have permission to work in Qatar. But workers told Amnesty International that employers would either not provide or not renew their permits, forcing them to stay in the stadium for fear of being fined or jailed. Others were not allowed to switch jobs or leave Qatar without express permission from their employers because their passports were confiscated. A report from The Guardian estimates the death toll among workers to have reached up to 6,500. Qatar’s World Cup chief Hassan Al-Thawadi (he/him) disputed that number during an interview with Piers Morgan (he/him), stating that there were around 400 to 500 deaths.

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