A red card for FIFA

The world cup has ended, but we have a few complaints about FIFA’s choice of the 2022 host country


Audrey Ghosh

In an intense game between Argentina and France, the entire world tuned in to watch the FIFA World Cup. But behind this tantalizing game remained questionable decisions FIFA got away with. “I love soccer so much, but I hate that it has to become a political thing,” varsity soccer player and junior Ava Relihan said. “Coming from the United States, where we do have so many rights, I don’t like [that] we’re hosting a global [event] in a place where so many rights are restricted.”

Blinding lights flood packed stadiums, illuminating the world’s greatest soccer players. But, as billions of eyes were watching the long-awaited FIFA World Cup, Qatar’s human rights violations — and FIFA’s neglect —  remained unaccounted for.

In 2010, Qatar won a $10 million bid to be the host country for the 2022 World Cup. In preparation, thousands of migrant workers, mainly from Nepal, Bangladesh and India, built state-of-the-art stadiums, hotels and highways capable of enduring the searing heat. But as the avant-garde arrangements emerged, so did many deaths. Despite Qatar only recording 37 casualties, media reports show that the inhumane conditions — unpaid wages, unexplained arrests, and 10 to 12-hour work days — led to over 6,500 deaths. While Qatar’s negligence toward bettering their working conditions is extremely disturbing, even more, deplorable is that FIFA did nothing to express concerns regarding these deaths, let alone hold Qatar accountable. 

Furthermore, the United States Department of Justice has accused top FIFA officials of taking bribes during the election process to win hosting rights. During the bidding process, FIFA’s technical reports labeled Qatar as a “high-risk” host country due to its climate and lack of infrastructure. Despite these warnings, Qatar ultimately won the bid against the U.S. after allegedly bribing three South American officials. While Qatari officials deny this allegation, a trial spearheaded by the U.S. is underway. 

In addition to worker mistreatment, people have criticized Qatar for social issues. Based on a fundamentalist Islamic code, Qatar does not recognize same-sex marriage, homosexuality or people who are transgender, even preventing citizens and tourists from campaigning for LGBT rights. Homosexual activity can lead to arrests, deportation and corporal punishment. 

FIFA has further enforced discrimination by silencing fans and activists. FIFA  banned players and fans from protesting about wearing rainbow armbands, confiscated rainbow buckets and discouraged public displays of affection such as holding hands or kissing. Stadium officials have also seized items from fans supporting the protest in Iran. Their actions have made many fans feel unwelcome in a sport that FIFA claims to make “truly global, diverse and inclusive.” 

But the LGBT community and workers are not the only ones affected by Qatar’s poor choices. Women were expected to keep shoulders and knees covered, Qatar’s guide claiming that wearing spaghetti straps, sleeveless tank tops and tight capris is not advisable. While many women, especially from liberal countries like the United States, were forced to dress conservatively, men were left unconstrained for the most part. 

Although we disagree with Qatar’s policies, their social codes are not ours to dictate. But as a global event, the FIFA World Cup should not discriminate against any of its fans, promote unsafe working conditions that have led to countless deaths or tolerate corrupt practices such as bribery.

“I’m annoyed that FIFA has allowed that much corruption to be a driving point for Qatar to host the World Cup. The country hosting the World Cup [is] supposed to be representative of the heart and soul of the world as a whole,” varsity soccer head coach and Latin teacher Tom Herpel said. 

Upon choosing Qatar, FIFA also neglected to take logistical issues into account. Despite the intense planning that goes into hosting a World Cup, Qatar decided to ban the sale of beer two days before the event’s first game to adhere to the country’s Islamic morals, driving a wedge between FIFA and Budweiser, a long-time FIFA sponsor. While this choice wasn’t nearly as unfavorable as some other decisions FIFA has made, for many fans, drinking beer is a crucial part of the football culture and the stadium’s atmosphere. It is clear that involved parties, including Qatari officials and sponsors, did not have clear and direct communication before the World Cup, demonstrating FIFA’s overall incompetence and lack of organization behind this event. 

Thus, when fans only condemn Qatar, they often ignore the true culprit: FIFA and its corrupt executives. It is important to note that FIFA is not new to controversy. When Germany hosted in 2006, human rights organizations warned of Neo-Nazi hate crimes and human trafficking. And in Brazil, eight workers died during construction for the 2014 World Cup. But while FIFA is not new to controversy, Qatar is unique in that it is the first Middle Eastern country to host the World Cup.

“There is definitely a double standard when it comes to the World Cup this year because it is taking place in a Muslim and conservative Arab country. Not everyone believes in what America believes in. Even though people are quick to criticize, I truly respect Qatar for staying true to Islamic culture and their values,” junior Rand Alhachami said. “A lot of the critiques toward Qatar are harsher than [that towards] past host countries. [That] stems from the trend towards growing Islamophobia and racism.” 

In recent years, Islamophobia has skyrocketed in Western countries. When the public only denounces Qatar, they ignore controversies of past host countries. This pervasive prejudice has played into the media’s negative coverage of events in the Middle East. When Russia hosted the 2018 World Cup, Western media openly broadcasted the opening ceremony despite Russia’s arming of the oppressive Assad regime in Syria. But in an unprecedented action, the BBC refused to air the opening ceremony of the Qatar World Cup, a grand display of Arab culture, instead showing a report on Qatar’s human rights issues. 

But acknowledging media bias does not imply we tolerate Qatar’s human rights abuses. While we should recognize the influence of Islamophobia on public opinion, we should simultaneously condemn all injustices caused by FIFA. Over the years, FIFA’s corruption has turned soccer from a global pastime to a spectacle of human rights abuses and discrimination. FIFA represents a worldwide community and thus should hold its host countries more accountable for undertaking fair practices and making sure fans and workers are safe. 

While Qatar is allowed to dictate its policies within its borders, FIFA is fully to blame for choosing Qatar as a host nation despite its discriminatory practices and logistical risks. As an international organization, FIFA should choose World Cup hosts not just based on the highest bid but also on whether the country represents inclusive values so that anyone and everyone can enjoy soccer.