Growing up around an Egyptian father–absolutely obsessed with football–there were certain truths that I had to accept and never question:
1. Pele is the greatest soccer player of all time, and any Argentinian fan who disagrees is blinded by bias.
2. Never trust a fan of the Algerian national team.
3. Never be optimistic about the English national team.
4. Never trust FIFA because it is the most corrupt governing institution in the world.
With the 2022 World Cup eight short years away, FIFA President, Sepp Blatter, arguably the most nefarious man in sports, has dug himself into an inescapable hole by picking Qatar to host the world’s largest sporting spectacle. On December 2, 2010, Blatter, a well-rounded (and I mean well-ROUNDED), middle-aged Swiss man, waddled onstage in Zurich, Switzerland and announced, with his slimy little DeNiro-esque smile, that the 2018 and 2022 World Cups would be in Russia and Qatar, respectively.
Utter shock swept the world regarding Blatter’s announcement. After being courted by Prince William, David Beckham, Morgan Freeman, and Bill Clinton to name a few, Blatter and FIFA’s 24-man selection committee chose the “riskiest” potential host nations, according to FIFA’s own inspection team.
In Qatar, the simple yet effectively untouchable problem is the heat.
It does not take a weather man to understand that Qatar is one of the hottest countries in the world. But in case there are disbelievers out there: Qatar averages 100 degrees Fahrenheit six months of the year, and moreover tends to regularly exceed 120 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer months. The FIFA Inspection team reported to the selection committee a “potential health risk for players, officials, the FIFA family and spectators,” if the World Cup were held in Qatar. And who can blame them? The country is a human hotbox. There is a reason that more people live in Montana than live in Qatar.
Despite these very real dangers, Blatter and FIFA still chose Qatar. One of many explanations for the decision lies in the fact that many prominent FIFA personalities may benefit from lucrative economic interests in the Middle Eastern country. In an interview with German magazine, Die Zeit, Blatter rather candidly admitted that “European leaders recommended to their voting members to vote for Qatar, because they have economic interests with this country.” Two of the big names rumored to have heavily pushed for Qatar for this reason are former French president Nicolas Sarkozy and UEFA president, and former French national star, Michel Platini. Furthermore, in October 2010, reporters from the Sunday Times posed as American lobbyists and secretly videotaped two ex-selection committee members demanding “hundreds of thousands of dollars for their votes.” All of this seems a little fishy to me.
Now, with the eyes of FIFA and the rest of the sporting world fixated on the potentially miserable Qatar World Cup, slimy Sepp keeps trying to push for change to a Winter World Cup–a divergence from tradition that would not only enrage soccer Puritans around the world, but also postpone major league play for 1-2 months. A hiatus like this is even less likely than Scotland winning a World Cup. In other words, it is very, very, very highly unlikely.
However, FIFA, corruption aside, cannot stand idly by and let players and fans die from heat exhaustion at a summer World Cup in Qatar. Such a situation would diminish FIFA’s legitimacy and could potentially bring about the end modern-day FIFA.
On top of the problems with the Qatar World Cup, stories are now surfacing about Qatar bringing Nepalese immigrants to build the stadiums–effectively indentured servants. To make matters worse, hundreds of these servants have already died due to heat exhaustion and unfair working conditions, thus raising global awareness of potential for danger in a Qatar World Cup. In recent weeks, worldwide uproar has broken out over these blatant human rights violations, violations persisting under FIFA’s so-called “philanthropic” nose.
In my opinion, the only solution to this predicament is to uproot the 2022 World Cup, relocating it to one of the more qualified original bidders, like the US or England. With the high stadia count and abounding infrastructure in these two countries–not to mention their substantially superior labor conditions–would it be inconceivable for one of them to muster up a short-notice World Cup? Although it would not be ideal, what other options do Blatter and FIFA have?
Whatever is done about this World Cup, one thing is for sure: Qatar 2022 will go down as one of the biggest mistakes ever made in, not only the history of FIFA, but also the history of global soccer altogether.