On the 2nd December 2010 the Arabian peninsula state of Qatar was awarded the rights to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup, a decision that shocked the world of football, and baffled many a fan, including me.
The Qatari football team has never competed in a World Cup finals and it’s now impossible for them to qualify for The Russia World Cup next year. They are rated 84th in the world rankings and have never been ranked in the top 50. Qatar is also a fairly controversial country in terms of politics and government, with homosexuality remaining illegal and with sexism still rife. They are also hard to get to, and the daily summer temperature often rises above 50 degrees Celsius. Using any rationality that you would expect someone to have, you would dismiss the Qatari bid almost instantly. Except FIFA didn’t, in fact, FIFA actually awarded Qatar The World Cup.
The World Cup has been proposed multiple times to be played during the winter, in order to avoid the blistering heat of the summertime desert, but we still do not know how likely this will be, as Sepp Blatter had rejected it, but his power has now dissolved, and the decision hangs in the balance. Should the tournament be played during the winter, due to the expansion to 48 competing teams, this would cause major disruption to the domestic seasons in Europe, which clubs will certainly not like (see my previous post on the international break).
Ever since the awarding, there has been controversy constantly following the Qatari FA, with multiple accusations of bribery, buying votes and corruption inside FIFA itself, with Heidi Blake and Jonathan Calvert (both journalists for The Sunday Times) writing a whole book on their proposed story for the bid of the world cup, named “The Ugly Game: The Qatari Plot To Buy The World Cup” (actually an excellent read, I would definitely recommend it). Even FIFA’s own employees began writing reports, most notably Michael J. Garcia’s, which eventually lead to the American’s resignation.
Following the accusations, the world football governing body seemed to go into panic mode, with sackings, resignations, arguments and heated discussion all over the place, eventually leading to the banning of Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini from all footballing activity for 8 years, and Blatter’s resignation, and finally the complete reform of FIFA.
The Qatari Bid was officially lead by Sheikh Mohammed Bin Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani, son of Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani (a former Emir of Qatar) and former captain of the Qatar Equestrian team. Sheikh Mohammed also has a degree from Harvard University.n However, Mohammed Bin Hammam (don’t get him mixed up with Mohammed Bin Hamad), who has previously lead the Asian Football Federation, run for FIFA president, worked at the FIFA ethics committee and is one of the richest men in the world, was hugely influential in the campaign for an Arabic World Cup, and is mainly the one accused of bribing other FIFA employees. On 23rd July 2011 he was handed a life ban from all footballing activity, but his second appeal against the ban was successful, and on 19th July 2012 the ban was annulled. However, the ban was reinstated in December 2012 for a “conflict of interest during his time as president of the AFC”. How FIFA can ban such an influential part of the bid for bribery and corruption, without accepting that the bid itself was corrupt is completely and utterly mind-boggling.
Bin Hammam isn’t the only one to have been handed a lifetime ban. Former member of the FIFA executive committee, Jack Warner, was also given one, as the English FA alleged that the Trinidad and Tobago politician requested a sum of $1.6 million, plus another $2.5 million as funding for an education centre in his home country, in exchange for his vote during England’s campaign to host the 2018 world cup. He has also been found out to have been reselling tickets to the German World Cup in 2006 through travel business ‘simpaul’ , which his private company owned shares in.
During September 2013, The Guardian released their report on the alleged use of slave labour from Nepalese migrant workers. 185 of these migrant workers died due to exploitation and over-working in 2015 alone, and these deaths have continued at a rate of 1 each day. It is accused that the workers were offered high paying salaries before their move to Qatar, but their contact was destroyed upon arrival.
Although, yet Sepp Blatter may have left FIFA, and Gianni Infantino has taken over, it seems to be anything but the end for the money laundering, bribe taking, corrupt FIFA we have today. Infantino has recently had plans accepted to expand The World Cup from 32 teams to 48 teams in order to “give smaller countries a better chance at qualifying”. Coincidentally (NOT), this means FIFA can also gain almost 50% more money from television rights and marketing. Funny that, isn’t it?
But what does this mean for football fans? Well, it means time to empty out your wallet. Currently, the cheapest flights from London to Doha cost £461 each, plus another £138 each for one night in a Doha hotel, plus an estimated £300 per ticket to a single World Cup match, so overall, you trip will cost you at least £2000, and that’s not including food, extra costs, purchases, extra activities and basic needs.
I know I certainly won’t be making the trip out to Qatar to see The Three Lions, and I expect that the 2022 World Cup will be one of the most under-achieving World Cups there has been.
So what will come of the 2022 World Cup? We don’t know, is the short answer. Who knows what world football will look like in 5 years? Whether it’s played in winter or summer, in Qatar or elsewhere, at least the world’s greatest tournament will return for a 22nd time.
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