BY LEON ELLIOTT
It is estimated that 1,200 workers have died and hundreds more injured in Qatar since the country was awarded the 2022 World Cup.
FIFA president Sepp Blatter has now confessed that awarding the cup to tiny oil-rich Gulf state was a ‘mistake’.
After years of speculation and scepticism, however, this acceptance has come too late in a scandal that should leave a stain on FIFA; and will hopefully be a wake-up call for those prepared to put money before morals.
When Qatar was awarded the World Cup in 2010, it did not take long for the heat to rise.
There was never any doubt that FIFA’s attempt to branch out to the previously un-trodden Middle East would have its difficulties, but still many anticipated the opportunity. However, when allegations of bribery surfaced in May 2011, it was suggested that Qatar’s success was less the result of a progressive campaign for opportunity, and was instead mired in controversy.
Despite being played down by FIFA at the time this issue has since swelled into a farcical affair.
Questions over the practicality of holding the World Cup in Qatar have loomed on a number of levels, but this time they have stretched further than the country’s infrastructure.
But whilst the South Africa 2010 World Cup – the first ever in the continent - saw the host nation overcome both political and structural barricades, the location of the 2022 World Cup has brought about new challenges over discrimination, alcohol and slave labour.
With the current illegality of homosexuality causing indignation from LGBT groups, and with commercial complications regarding the state’s banning of alcohol, it’s clear that the ongoing problems of Qatar stretch much further than the headline-dominating weather issues.
This obsessive focus on the climate may be masking much deeper and more serious issues.
Gifted such a major tournament, the state – with a population of just under 4.5 million people -was obviously going to have a task trying to find the necessary workforce.
However, in a nation where 85 percent of the population are migrant workers, it soon became clear that the area’s rapid development and progress relied heavily on migrant labour.
Qatar’s explosion since the 1940s has ridden on the back of of its vast oil and gas reserves, and in the last few years this has had fatal repercussions for the migrant Indian, Bangladeshi and Nepalese workforce. The numbers are staggering. Since work began in 2010, construction has seen the deaths of 1,200 workers, with hundreds more injured Rumours of mass overworking in harsh conditions have scraped the daily papers, yet still these stories have – until very recently – failed to reach the same public exposure of the climate debate. In a media where extortionate transfer fees and incessant gossip blather make frequent back-page headlines, it is almost beyond belief that this hasn’t provoked a worldwide scandal.
Qatar 2022 should celebrate the arrival of the most prestigious sporting event in the world to an Arabic nation for the first time in history, yet instead the dawn of a new era of football will be over-shadowed by the workings of FIFA .
The host nation cannot be held blameless but FIFA ’s contribution to the operation makes them the principal wrongdoers.
Global expansion and equality is needed in football, but with all the alleged corruption Qatar in 2022 was evidently not the time for it.
This event should thus stand as a message for the future:A warning that the wealth of the game should never come above the welfare of the game.