Whether its deaths due to exhaustion and heatstroke or the consequences of living in poverty due to withheld pay, the preparations for the 2022 World Cup have been shrouded in controversy. The costs of hosting a World Cup are always extortionate, but this time the costs are not only fiscal.
The Guardian reported that at least 24000 migrant workers in Qatar have been subjected to human right abuses. Not considering 2022 so far, by the end of 2020 this led to upwards of 6500 casualties in the host country, solely as a result of the working conditions. The hosts were granted the rights to this tournament in December 2010 and since then seven stadiums have been built to accommodate football fans worldwide. Migrants have travelled across the world from their home countries such as India, Pakistan, and Nepal all with the hope of finding work here to help aid the buildup to the tournament in winter of 2022. Some of these workers have been tasked to work up to 20 hours a day with no breaks and little food and water. In the scorching heat of Qatar, where the average in May is 39 degrees Celsius, it is much more severe than usual compared to other countries. Deaths range from falling from heights and suffocation to ‘Natural Causes’ – which often are related to breathing problems and heart failure. There have even been some cases of suicide among these workers, as they cannot bear the circumstances any longer. To add insult to injury, many of these poor souls have faced breaches of their rights relating to their pay and benefits. Only just recently, in March 2021, did the minimum wage in Qatar rise to 1000 riyals (£221.40) from 750 riyals (£166). This is not nearly enough for anyone, let alone considering the jobs of these workers and the conditions they are in. With the excessive cost of living here it makes matters worse, especially when certain workers are having their payments suspended and not receiving their wages at all. They have described having to beg for food and being beaten, and if it gets to the point where they must try and escape their current situation, they have been arrested. If they ever build up the cojones to complain to authorities, workers will find themselves being threatened and abused further.
Similarly, there are many cultural clashes and political issues revolving around the tournament this year. The legal status of homosexuality in Qatar has been a topic of discussion. Being LGBTQ in the host country is illegal, and punishments can be as harsh as fines and up to seven years imprisonment. There were rumors that they would introduce screening tests to identify and ban those who are homosexual from entering the country, but these do not seem to be true. Australian, openly gay footballer Josh Cavallo voiced his concerns about performing in the tournament. Previously I the past, Qatar have attempted to bribe football players worldwide to switch nations. In 2004, Three Brazilian players (Ailton, Dede and Leandro) were encouraged to join but FIFA blocked the move and there has been worries ever since about the credibility of the national team. An integral part of the footballing community is alcohol, but in Qatar they clamp down on it quite heavily. As a result of the majority Muslim population, the consumption of alcohol Is frowned upon and if caught drinking or being drunk in public you may be fined, imprisoned, or even deported. This is vastly different to guidelines in countries such as England or Brazil for example, where boozing before and during a game is seen as the norm. This essentially removes a huge aspect of the fun from football, being used even by players, for example when winning a trophy and during celebrations. In response, Fatma Al-Nuaimi of the supreme committee announced specific fan zones will be erected to accommodate those who want a drink but drinking in public will continue to not be permitted. Finally, there was controversy around the Qatari view on Israel. If they were to have qualified, they would have been allowed to play but the fact that Qatar does not recognize Israel as a state was a problem I the first place.
The accusations of corruption within the World Cup also needs to be addressed, as many believe Qatar used bribery in order to secure themselves as hosts. In May 2011 is when the allegations began – an email became known which stated Mohammed bin Hammam ‘bought’ the rights to the tournament. Phaedra Almajid said that African officials were paid $1.5million by Qatar but later retracted her statement which rang alarm bells within FIFA. Three years later on June 1st unmistakable evidence such as bank transfers was attained by The Sunday Times which backed up the earlier allegation as it was shown over $5 million was paid in an attempt to push the Qatari bid. The big news however and the most important accusations all came out in 2019, starting with a supposed deal for beIN Sports to pay $100 million to FIFA if Qatat won the vote. The dubious part is that a high-ranking member of FIFA named Jerome Valcke allegedly knew about the agreement and was later banned for corruption. Also, a total of $880 million was offered by Qatar to gain the rights to the 2022 World Cup. The Sunday Times yet again gathered this evidence, and it was written that $400 million was for broadcasting rights, $100 million if Qatar wins the ballot, and in three years’ time, they will pay another $480 million. These documents are currently in the hands of Police who are investigating the matter.
Finally, another conversation to be had around the situation is the cost of the matter. Firstly, the actual monetary cost is massive. It is estimated to set Qatar back around £138 billion. Qatar had to resort to scrapping the plan of having 12 stadiums and reducing it to 8 due to the cost. In total the building of these stadiums amounted to approximately £107 billion. To put this into context, The final amount spent on the 2010 World Cup in South Africa was £3.5 billion – around 60 times less than the tournament this year. Is the result really going to be worth the cost in the end? Do you really need to spend so heavily? As well as this, the infrastructure and transport here would bring about huge costs to the climate also. It is estimated that they will produce up to 3.6 million tonnes of CO2. Over half of this figure will be due to fan, media, and team travel. Alexander Netherton of Eurosport worked out that this figure would be greater than the CO2 produced by Congo, Iceland and Montenegro combined over the course of a year. In order to combat this, Qatar have introduced a few precautions in an attempt to limit their environmental damage. Five of the eight stadiums situated in the host country are equipped with solar installations used to convert the sunlight into electricity which will cool down the contents of the venue. Qatar have also built the ‘Doha Metro’ which connects five of the stadiums on one line, and then a bus service that connects to the remaining three. The majority of these buses are also electric, which helps with carbon emissions too.
With a mere 6 months to go until the event begins, not much can be done in regard to tweaking matters, but discussions are and will be rife for years to come. Let’s hope from now on more light can be shed on the specific proceedings and anything unjust can be rectified accordingly.