The Qatar Conundrum

Moral questions burden this year’s international display of the world’s most beautiful game.

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Getty Images for Supreme Committ

DOHA, QATAR – SEPTEMBER 03: The Official Emblem of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™️ is unveiled in Doha’s Souq Waqif on the Msheireb – Qatar National Archive Museum building on September 03, 2019 in Doha, Qatar. The FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™️ Official Emblem was projected on to a number of iconic buildings in Qatar and across the Arab world and displayed on outdoor digital billboards in more than a dozen renowned public spaces major cities. (Photo by Christopher Pike/Getty Images for Supreme Committee 2022)

The World Cup is one of the world’s most renowned competitions. Every four years, 32 nations come together to compete in the ultimate soccer tournament. The World Cup started this year in 2022 on November 20th, with Qatar and Ecuador leading off the first game since Qatar is the host country. The process behind the FIFA’s preparation for the World Cup is a windy road many find obscure, arduous, and quite shady. The process to create such a large event takes years of planning in advance. But what kind?  

Qatar was chosen as this year’s holding place for the World Cup games at the same time as 2018s place was being chosen, Russia. Where the World Cup will be is chosen roughly seven years before the game is held to give the country enough time for preparation. In Qatar’s case, they needed as much time as they could get due to their lack of infrastructure and lodging. Qatar was chosen as the 2022 host in 2010, given them 12 years to prepare.

In anticipation of the world’s greatest sporting event, Qatar spent around 220 billion USD, making it by far the most expensive World Cup ever. Qatar spent over twelve times the amount Russia did for the 2018 tournament. The reason that Qatar spent so much money is the fact that they were not prepared whatsoever for any kind of event on this scale. But, more Qatar had larger shadows looming over this tournament than fiscal or physical unpreparedness.

Many rumors of allegations and proven crimes of money laundering, bribing, and human rights violations Qatar had been made by whistleblowers and journalists around the world. For the 2022 pick Qatar was in a pool with America, Australia, and Japan, among other smaller countries. Only two prior countries in Asia have ever been used to host being Russia and South Korea hosting jointly with Japan. America sought to be the 2022 host but instead the continent of North America will be the host in 2026.

Many soccer officials were under a formal investigation of being bribed to vote for both Russia and Qatar. But, Qatar went even further with bribes and corruption to seek marketing and streaming rights for the international soccer event. With this control, they were able to affect what is aired and what is not. For example, Qatar allegedly removed minutes from the Portugal vs. Uruguay game where a pitch invader ran onto the field holding a Gay Pride flag and donning a shirt supporting for oppressed women of Iran. This stunt proved Qatar’s control was about more than just the game. They even implemented other regulations, such as confiscating any articles of clothing or accessories with rainbows since intersexual marriage is banned in their country. 

Qatar is an extraordinarily wealthy country due to being a massive provider of natural gases needed as an energy source for the world.  With this power comes global strength. With said strength and the money to back it up, they were able to bribe people from all corners of soccer.  

For example, an Argentine television executive, Alejandro Burzaco, admitted that he was one of four other officials – named Leoz, Grondona and Teixeira – Qatar bribed in order to obtain votes. This is not the only act of paying their way through that Qatar has committed. Many teams will pay for players to play on their national team, and Qatar really took advantage of this. Only 4 out of 26 players on their team have actual roots of Qatari in them. Although FIFA states a player must have residency in said country for five years and over 18, many players have slipped under the radar and come close to the borderline of what is allowed.  

Another part of paying their way through the games was all the money they spent building the new industrials for the World Cup.  This became a huge sacrifice for Qatar, then being stuck under a microscope after rumors emerged that thousands of people died while working to build these structures. These are the same ghost-filled stadiums thousands from all over the world stand in to watch a game be played on a field. Many humanitarians have started to raise money for these families of lost laborers who were mostly migrants, moving to Qatar to help build the structures. One fundraiser has started and is created to match the amount that the World Cup winners would receive.  

All of this also pulls the question of is it morally correct to support and watch the World Cup in Qatar? Is it unethical to go to these games and sit in the stadiums that people died making? I think that  the decision is ultimately up to the viewer. Hundreds of thousands of people come to these host countries ready to support the country they stand so proudly for, and many have felt deterred to do so because they did not want to support a country with a track record of human rights violations and labor abuse.  One solution is donating to organizations that are helping families and laborers who went through the struggle of working for Qatar.

The passion for soccer is strong and is only growing. Worlwide, it is more popular than American football. Viewership in the States is growing even larger with the success of the U.S. Men’s National Team as well as the fortunate fact that it coincided with the holidays due to it being postponed as a result of Qatar’s sweltering summers. That means this passion will not just go away, but instead the support for the game and its players will live on regardless of where games are played and the burdensome moral quandaries that sometimes come from geopolitical conflicts. It is up to us to whether we want to forgive and forget or to understand what Qatar has done, not support their decision, but support the men playing for their countries instead.