For the first time in history, the FIFA World Cup will not be played in summer, but in winter, from November 18 to December 21. The temperatures in Qatar in summer, which reach between 40º and 50º Celsius, make a summer tournament impossible. The selection of the tiny but wealthy country as hosts has led to a series of controversies and opened a debate on the biggest question of all: is money the only ball that really moves the world of football?
Qatar’s controversial election
The selection process which saw Qatar chosen as the host country for the 2022 World Cup in December 2010, as well as the awarding of the 2018 tournament to Russia at the same time, was the detonator which led to the case. 2015 FIFA corruption charge (FIFA gate), which led to 14 indictments by the FBI and ended Sepp Blatter’s decade-and-a-half reign as president of football’s world governing body. It was the first time in World Cup history that two host countries were announced at the same time. The election process is based on the votes of the 24 members of the FIFA Executive Committee. FIFA vice-president and president of the Spanish Football Federation at the time, Ángel María Villar, was convinced that a joint bid by Portugal and Spain would win the 2018 World Cup. didn’t know was that votes would have been bought while there was a subsequent swap between Russia and Qatar to favor their respective victories, with additional pressure applied to ensure that Qatar’s name emerged from the envelope in Blatter’s hand.
Then-UEFA President Michel Platini later admitted that nine days before the World Cup election he held a meeting at the Elysee Palace with then-French President Nicolas Sarkozy, during which the latter explained the opportunity to promote Qatar’s candidacy. The National Finance Prosecutor’s Office maintains an open investigation into the economic advantages allegedly obtained by Sarkozy thanks to his relationship with Qatar. FIFA, which is expected to make a profit of some $4.5 billion – 85% of its revenue over the four-year World Cup cycle – did not dare withdraw the tournament from Qatar because, without being able to prove the suspected corruption, she faced a multi-million dollar lawsuit. What resulted from this process was an institutional change: now, the 178 national federations of FIFA vote on the flagship nation of the World Cup, and these votes are made public. Through this process, the joint bid of the United States, Mexico and Canada won the 2026 tournament.
The FIFA Congress held the day before the 2022 World Cup draw, on March 31, was peppered with the usual praise for the organization, at least until the president of the FIFA Football Federation of Norway, Lise Klaveness, takes to the podium and breaks the artificial harmony at the Doha Exhibition and Convention Centre. What Klaveness had to say resonated around the world: “In 2010, the World Cups were awarded by FIFA in an unacceptable way with unacceptable consequences. Human rights, equality, democracy: the fundamental interests of football were not in the starting XI until many years later.
These basic rights have been pressured on the ground as substitutes by outside voices. FIFA has addressed these issues, but there is still a long way to go. There is no place for employers who do not guarantee the freedom and safety of World Cup workers. No place for leaders who cannot accommodate women’s football. No room for hosts who cannot legally guarantee the safety and respect of LGBTQ+ people coming to this theater of dreams.
Klaveness’s speech highlighted two of the most controversial issues during the highly publicized preparations for the World Cup in Qatar: the deaths of migrant workers from Nepal, India and Bangladesh during the construction of tournament stadiums with inhumane working conditions, and accusations of ‘sportswashing’ by the football industry for regimes with questionable human rights records. An Amnesty International report from August 2021 accused Qatar of failing to investigate the deaths of thousands of migrant workers over the past decade, while a Guardian investigation put the death toll at 6,500. among workers in stadiums and other infrastructure related to the World Cup.
The World Cup in Qatar has opened a new debate on whether sport should be used to help open up authoritarian regimes by awarding international sporting events, or whether a policy of isolation should remain in place. FIFA President Gianni Infantino’s response to Klaveness’s speech partly explains the governing body’s position: “From the start, we lobbied the Qatari authorities and found in them a willing partner to implement human rights changes. Infantino said, adding that Qatar had shown “exemplary” commitment to the issue.
FIFA also highlighted the positive reports from the International Labor Organization and the United Nations. Qatar has said the display of LGBTQI+ banners and symbols will not be banned during the World Cup, despite Qatari law expressly condemning homosexuality. Last December, Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy (SC) Chairman Nasser Al-Khater said members of the LGBTQ+ community would be welcome at the World Cup but should avoid public protests. affection out of respect for Qatari culture. .
One of the peculiarities of the 2022 World Cup is the distance between the eight host stadiums, all located within a radius of 50 kilometers from each other. This means that fans can attend two or even three games in a single day. FIFA sold 800,000 tickets in the first sales offer and hopes to reach three million in total ticket sales. However, one of the downsides for the average fan is finding affordable accommodation. Deep-pocketed fans will have no problem as Qatar has a huge high-end hotel offering and there are plans to anchor luxury liners on the country’s shores. Welcoming fans with fewer means is something FIFA and SC are considering.
Play a Winter World Cup
When Qatar won the 2022 World Cup, there were no immediate plans to change the dates of the tournament from its traditional summer, despite temperatures over 40° Celsius during the Qatari summer. However, in 2015 it was decided that the tournament would be moved to the cooler winter months of November and December. This has caused a serious problem with domestic football calendars, with league and cup competitions around the world forced to stop for a month, as well as continental tournaments such as the Champions League.
The counter-argument is that the World Cup will benefit from having players in peak physical condition, with fatigue often proving to be a major factor in summer tournaments when international teams are coming off a grueling nine. or ten months. season.