Al Ahram Weekly 12/1/2017
A symbol of high spirits, dedication, camaraderie and loyalty, football remains the de-facto most popular sport in the world with more fans than most other sports combined. These traits have secured more viewership and garnered abundant financial gains for its games all across the world. For two decades, the oil-rich state of Qatar thought to play a bigger role than it was meant for by attempting to control the popular sports worldwide by mostly dubious actions. Qatar, that has no sports history to speak of, and particularly in football, has allocated substantial amounts of funds to monopolise broadcast of most of the world’s major football tournaments, especially in the Middle East and Europe.
The former Al-Jazeera Sports, now BEIN Sports Qatar, is monopolising the broadcast of the World Cup, Intercontinental Cup, World Cup for Clubs, UEFA Champions League, UEFA Europa League and almost all major European and international renowned football leagues. Through financial temptations directed towards governments’ officials worldwide and in the Arab world particularly, Qatar managed to control the broadcasting of almost every major football event. Coincidentally enough, these TV broadcast rights were given during Sepp Blatter’s reign of corruption at FIFA, which ended after he was charged.
CORRUPTION AND FAVOURITISM: Corruption and favouritism towards choosing Qatar as host for the World Cup 2022 have been practised with an unprecedented level of audacity. Qatar, which doesn’t meet even the very basics of FIFA requirements for hosting the World Cup, was chosen and even favoured against many much more qualified contenders, including the United States, South Korea, Japan and Australia. All of these contender countries possess world class sports stadiums, sports facilities, metropolises, hotels and incredible experience in hosting state-of-the-art standard sports tournaments.
FIFA requirements for World Cup hosting countries stipulate that countries must have at least eight major hosting cities and 10 world class stadiums, each with a capacity of no less than 40,000 spectators. Qatar has been allowed to bypass these rules by dividing its own City-State like capital Doha into multiple districts, each with a different stadium to be built in the future, as most of its proposed venues were only available as blueprints.
Furthermore, for the first time in World Cup history, the World Cup in 2022 will be held in November-December instead of June-July to avoid the scorching heat Doha has in such months, despite the protests of most countries on the new winter dates.
To justify this questionable choice of host, FIFA cited that it would be the first World Cup to be held in the Middle East region, which is absurd. If FIFA was keen on handing World Cup hosting rights to a Middle Eastern country, then they shouldn’t have ignored all the major countries in the region, such as Egypt, Morocco, UAE, Turkey and several others with the expertise, infrastructure and sports and touristic facilities that would enable such countries to host an excellent football World Cup tournament.
SLAVE LABOUR SCANDAL: In March 2016, a delegation from the International Labour Organisation (ILO) warned the Qataris that they would escalate the matter to the United Nations if they didn’t take immediate action on the horrible violations they uncovered during their visit to Qatar. The delegation was shocked at the conditions of labourers’ residences, which comprise rooms that cram together 10-12 workers with poor safety and sanitary facilities.
The Qataris have been given 12 months to end migrant worker slavery or face a possible UN investigation. The ILO report mentioned: “Qatar fails to maintain a legal framework sufficient to protect the rights of migrant workers consistent with international law and to enforce the legal protections that currently do exist.”
Another report of December 2015 by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) estimated that 7,000 workers in Qatar will die before the start of the 2022 World Cup. The general secretary of the organisation, Sharan Burrow, was quoted as saying: “Qatar’s labour laws are ruinous for workers. All the government has done is to codify slavery. Employers can now even lend out workers to another employer without the worker’s consent, for up to a year.”
Unfortunately, on 6 January 2017 a Swiss court rejected the lawsuit filed against FIFA by the Netherlands trade union FNV Bondgenoten, along with two Bangladeshi unions. However, the fight against the human rights abuses of Qatar still ongoing, despite this court rejection.
The country that allocated over $100 billion for infrastructure projects for the World Cup chose not to spend much on the poor workers who flew half way across the world to work. The blood soaked policies of the Qatari regime towards these workers doesn’t simply warrant a UN investigation, but also FIFA’s withdrawal of hosting rights from Qatar if not a long-term ban.
The officials in FIFA, knowing about these official reports surfacing all over the media across the world, still insist on keeping Qatar as the host despite the dubious methods that surrounded the voting process for choosing the host country along with the inadequacy of the host nation, and more importantly the inhumane practices of the regime to get the infrastructure done by bleeding their slave labour dry in one of the most scandalous events in the 21st century.
On 13 December 2016, the Qatari government introduced a new labour law which they claim that will bring “tangible benefits” to workers in the country by abolishing the afala (sponsorship) system. It is yet to be seen if the country that utilised such an inhumane system of labour will change its policies as a result of the new law.
WAHHABI SHARIA LAW APPLICATION: The Wahhabi interpretation of Islamic law practised in the likes of Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Pakistan is applied in Qatar to the full, including floggings, stoning and executions. Qatari law doesn’t permit the consumption of alcohol except in a very limited scale to non-Muslim visitors, and only in selected five star hotels. In 2014, the pro-Islamist Qatari regime issued a campaign for “modesty dress codes” to remind foreigners and tourists — particularly female — not to wear any clothing that may be deemed as revealing to Qatari nationals.
Such are the laws and atmosphere where the greatest sport event on the planet will be held in 2022.
FIFA ATONEMENT: Football as a noble sport of fairness cannot be tainted by the attempts of Qatar to exploit the sport towards propaganda, vainglory and whitewashing the reputation of an autocratic regime. FIFA’s motto, “For the Game. For the World,” represented the responsibility of the organisation in preserving human rights around the globe, but right now, the motto sounds like “For the Game. For the Money.”
Accordingly, FIFA and all the world sporting bodies along with nations that care about human rights need to step up and stop this suffering of tens of thousands of workers who found themselves trapped in slave labour conditions until World Cup 2022.
Fortunately, there is still five years before the shameful World Cup in Qatar is to take place. It is ample time to find a substitute host for the great event. There are countries with great financial and sports experience and merit that can host this great spectacle. These countries will not require five years of preparation but less than five weeks. Examples of such countries are Germany, the United States, the United Kingdom and Japan.
The Qatari regime and its World Cup organizers had the audacity to utilize slave labour methods in establishing facilities for the tournament. Qatar cannot be awarded the great honour of hosting the World Cup after the ill deeds committed in these past years, otherwise FIFA and the rest of the known world are equal culprits of such shameful acts of inhumanity. Corruption, medieval laws and slave labour cannot be the means to host the greatest sports event on earth next to the Olympics.
Accordingly, to answer the common question, which is: How adequate is Qatar to host the World Cup 2022? It is as adequate as an atheist becoming the next Pope of the Vatican!
Original Post at Al Ahram Weekly 12/1/2017