Qatar and the Issues with the World Cup

Beginning on November 20th, The 2022 Qatar World Cup kicked off the largest sporting event in the world.

However, the host nation of Qatar has brought with it a variety of issues and problems that have permeated ever since the announcement of their hosting. This year’s edition of the World Cup has been one of the most controversial yet.

Ever since the selection of Qatar’s bid for the World Cup, the Arab nation has been under immense scrutiny from many advocacy groups. Their bid for the biggest sporting event in the world has placed them under a microscope, leading to a questioning of their ethics, tactics and practicality of their hosting of the World Cup.

Qatar’s nomination for the World Cup was a slow and calculated effort that took many years of work to build up to. The Qatari royalty has had a dream and interest in international athletics, investing massively in the growth of their sports sector. Prior to the bid win, the Qatar royalty had established a sports academy to help the growth of their sports sector.

Many things had been done prior to the nomination in order to butter up FIFA in order to win the right to host the event in 2022, eventually culminating in Qatar being chosen as the host in 2010.

Throughout the years, accusations of “sports washing” have been piling up for them. Sports washing has been described as using sports to improve reputations tarnished by wrongdoing. Many see the Qatari government as using sports, and in this case Soccer, in order to help gain good publicity in the eyes of the world.

In 2011, state-owned Qatari shareholding organization founded by Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani (The Emir of Qatar) purchased a majority stake in soccer club Paris Saint-Germain.

A year after the total acquisition of the team in 2012, Paris Saint-Germain struck a deal with the Qatar Tourism Agency in order to promote Qatar. In return, PSG would earn $1B over 5 seasons effectively funding the club in exchange to gain good publicity through sports.

Through its wealthy owners and state-owned agency deals, Qatar has been pumping money into the club transforming it into a super team as the years have gone by. Using PSG they have been promoting Qatar through their on-shirt sponsors and things of that nature.

Issues with the practicality of the tournament have plagued FIFA since the beginning. FIFA had been adamant from the beginning that there would be no changes to the tournament and its usual setup.

However as the tournament approached, FIFA decided to backtrack on its original thoughts and moved the World Cup back to November and December.

This comes as a result of the extreme weather in Qatar. As the tournament has been played players such as Antony and Christian Eriksen have complained about the air-conditioning and how they have been feeling ill effects because of the changes in weather.

The teams competing have been affected as well from the decision to move the tournament forward to November. A plethora of otherwise fit players picked up injuries as the months to the world cup wound down.

The current Ballon D’or winner, Karim Benzema, missed the world cup alongside his two other French teammates Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kante. Three world class players were unable to participate in the tournament because of injuries picked up prior to the tournament’s beginning.

These players are just 3 in a field of many injuries and teams having to adapt to some star players unable to participate. Senegal, Mexico and England have also been affected with crucial players missing the tournament.

Despite accusations of sports washing and the impracticality of the movement of the tournament to later in the year, the shady dealings as well as controversial actions by the Qatari state have been some of the most compelling.

The human rights concerns regarding the Qatar laws have been a point of contention from the beginning. The LGBT community is routinely oppressed by the people of Qatar and are frequently not welcome. Anti-LGBT laws and rhetoric plague the nation and make it a hostile environment for the community

An Ex-national player and ambassador for Qatar has been on record calling being gay a “Mental defect” despite FIFA and Qatar assuring the people that they would be welcome. We have seen LGBT flags being confiscated at stadiums as well.

Apart from the LGBT issue, shady dealings from the nation have been well documented. Sepp Blatter, a corrupt ex-FIFA president involved in his own host of controversies came out to speak on the Qatar bid.

“It’s super unfortunate to hear about and cast a shadow over the whole thing, it leaves a bad taste in your mouth to watch games knowing all the stuff going on in the background”

— Jimmy Lozano, GV Senior and Varsity Soccer Player

Blatter alleges that originally the World Cup was supposed to go to the US. However a week before the FIFA convention to choose the winner, the then Union of European Football Associations president and former French footballer, Michel Platini, was told by the president of France to put their four votes on Qatar. Blatter goes on to say that 6 months later, Qatar had bought French fighter jets for 14.6 billion dollars.

Qatar had been willing to do anything to gain this tournament and nothing was below them. Their work was not over once the tournament had been secured, instead it had just begun. Investigations show that it went much deeper.

Over nine years, Qatar had contracted a spy agency headed by an ex-CIA agent in order to gain control and favorable viewing around the world.

The documents show that the goal was to not change anything within FIFA and make sure nothing came to light putting Qatar’s World Cup in danger.

Despite all of the infractions, corruption, oppression, and issues revolving around Qatar and the World Cup; Will this change anything? Will all the problems around them actually lead to decreased viewership, income, or public standing?

Official FIFA sponsors have already begun reacting to Qatar and their issues regarding the situation. Budweiser, the official beer sponsor for FIFA, have been shifting strategies after Qatar reversed its decision to relax its strict alcohol restrictions.

Beer is a main money maker for the tournament and its sponsor and this decision blindsided Budweiser, a move that has most likely decreased their profits. In regards to all the left-over beer, the company stated that it would give the unused beer to the eventual winners of the tournament.

Do the issues and controversies surrounding Qatar affect the people enough for a true boycott of the tournament?

Jimmy Lozano, a current Golden Valley High School Varsity Soccer player and avid Soccer fan, details his thoughts on the tournament and if current events affect his viewing experience. “It’s super unfortunate to hear about and cast a shadow over the whole thing, it leaves a bad taste in your mouth to watch games knowing all the stuff going on in the background”

In the end, the reality is next to nothing will change. The casual viewer turns on their TV to relax, party and enjoy sports. “To me it’s soccer.” Arya Soleimani, another current Golden Valley High School Varsity Soccer player, goes on to explain, “I watch it to be with friends and family plus this comes only once in four years.” Big government state heads will continue to vie for the tournament no matter the cost.

However, we should not quit advocating, acknowledging and speaking on these issues. The more people know about these things the better hope we have for 2026 and beyond.