ALEXIS CRUZ WRITES – Six years have passed since FIFA awarded Qatar the right to host the 2022 World Cup, and there are now six years left until the first kickoff. The first half dozen years saw allegations of corruption, bribery, and human rights abuses flowing in a seemingly endless stream of criticism and disbelief.
Scandals have come and gone but nonetheless Qatar hosting the World Cup seems all but inevitable. Despite numerous reports on the abuse of migrant workers FIFA is adamant that Qatar will not lose the right to host, and in April, they predictably set up a panel to oversee working conditions in response. FIFA president Gianni Infantino, in his visit, to the country said, “we take our responsibility seriously and are committed to playing our part.”
Critics are not impressed. Conditions have not improved that much, but FIFA is not exerting much pressure, according to Human Rights Watch. The respected advocacy group points out that the new FIFA oversight panel would not impact anything; Qatari construction firms are already subject to oversight. According to HRW, the only real way to change policy is through dramatic action but FIFA still sees no reason to change hosts.
The controversial work-sponsorship program that brings in a million workers from countries like Nepal, India and Bangladesh has not been dismantled. Human Rights Watch stated that workers still suffer horrible conditions, especially in the summer when the temperature exceeds 120 degrees Fahrenheit. The most that was done for workers this summer was having them participate in a soccer tournament called, aptly, the Workers Cup.
No amount of criticism ever seems successful at shaking FIFA. In May, two Danish players, Tom Hogli and William Kvist condemned worker’s conditions in Qatar in a video produced by the Danish Players Association. “That thousands must die to build stadiums has nothing to do with football,” claimed Kvist. However the video didn’t get much traction, and no other players joined the Danes. Even accusations that Quatar bribed FIFA to attain the World Cup failed to derail the 2022 train –besides several FIFA officials being banned. No one from Qatar has faced indictment in relation to the bribery scandal.
Qatar is looking to make a name for itself through sport. The tiny nation has already hosted Asia’s top soccer tournament, the AFC Asian Cup, in 2011, the first of many international competitions Qatar is hosting this decade. The list includes last year’s men’s handball championship and the 2019 world athletics championship.
FIFA says it is pleased that the country’s preparations for infrastructure and stadiums are on track and plans are going well. FIFA is confident that the World Cup will have a lasting positive effect. So, as far as FIFA is concerned, everything seems to be fixed just fine.