How Qatar ended up hosting the World Cup



CNN

With the World Cup underway in Qatar, many are wondering how it got to this moment – ​​that a small Gulf nation with little soccer history ended up hosting the biggest event the sport has to offer.

Qatar had never previously appeared in a World Cup tournament – ​​let alone an organized one – and became the first host nation to lose their opening game of the tournament with a 2-0 defeat to Ecuador on Sunday.

The country’s World Cup debut has been 12 years in the making, a period in which Qatar’s hosting status has caused controversy within the football community and beyond.

When Qatar was named to host the 2022 World Cup in 2010, it was chosen ahead of bids from the United States, South Korea, Japan and Australia.

During the bidding process, it faced several hurdles as FIFA, soccer’s governing body, flagged concerns in technical reports. Among them are the lack of existing infrastructure and the intense heat in the region during the summer, when World Cup tournaments are traditionally held.

Indeed, reports even went so far as to label Qatar’s candidacy as “high risk,” but the country still triumphed with 14 votes to America’s eight in the final round of voting.

At the time, Qatar promised to make the world “proud of the Middle East” as the first country from the region to host the tournament, while then-FIFA president Sepp Blatter welcomed the prospect of the football event going to “new countries”.

“I am happy as president when we talk about the development of football,” he said.

Twelve years later, Blatter is more critical.

Earlier this month, he told Swiss newspaper Tages Anzeiger: “Qatar is a mistake… the choice was bad.

“It is too small a country. Football and the World Cup are too big for that.”

Blatter said FIFA had changed the criteria it used to select host countries in 2012 in light of concerns about working conditions at tournament-related construction sites in Qatar.

“Since then, social aspects and human rights have been taken into account,” he said.

With a population of three million, smaller than that of Connecticut, Qatar has invested billions in its soccer infrastructure in preparation for the 2022 tournament.

But questions persist about how Qatar qualified for the World Cup.

As recently as March 2020, the US Department of Justice alleged that top officials accepted bribes as part of the voting process to select Russia and Qatar to host the tournament for the 2018 and 2022 events—allegations Russian officials denied and Qatari officials called “false” in a statement to CNN.

The DOJ has been investigating allegations of corruption in international soccer, including FIFA, for years. To date, there have been more than twenty convictions, and some cases are ongoing.

FIFA said in a statement in April 2020 that it “supports all investigations into alleged criminal offenses relating to domestic or international football competitions and will continue to provide full cooperation to law enforcement officials investigating such matters.”

“FIFA is closely following these investigations and all related developments in the ongoing legal processes in the United States and other parts of the world.

“It is important to point out that FIFA itself has been granted victim status in the US criminal proceedings and that senior FIFA officials are in regular contact with the US Department of Justice.”

US prosecutors gave FIFA victim status because they believed soccer’s world governing body had been virtually hijacked by a number of corrupt individuals.

Qatar’s human rights record has also been in the spotlight ahead of the World Cup, particularly in relation to the welfare of migrant workers.

Considering the minimal infrastructure Qatar had at the time it was awarded the right to host the World Cup, seven new stadiums were built ahead of the tournament, as well as new hotels and extensions to the country’s airport, rail network and highways.

This has led to a reliance on Qatari migrant workers, who make up 90% of the total workforce, according to Amnesty International.

Since 2010, many migrant workers have faced delayed or unpaid wages, forced labor, long hours in hot weather, intimidation by employers and the inability to quit their jobs because of the country’s sponsorship system, rights groups have found.

DOHA, QATAR - NOVEMBER 19: FIFA President Gianni Infantino speaks ahead of the opening match of the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qatar during a press conference on November 19, 2022 in Doha, Qatar.  (Photo by Christopher Lee/Getty Images)

The FIFA president launched an explosive tirade against Western critics of Qatar

However, Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy (SC) said the health, safety and dignity of “all workers employed on our projects remained steadfast”, with “significant improvements” regarding workers’ rights.

FIFA president Gianni Infantino also told CNN Sport’s Amanda Davies that he has seen “a big evolution” in Qatar’s labor reforms, with the International Labor Organization noting reforms such as a non-discriminatory minimum wage that Qatar was the first in the region to adopt.

Meanwhile, discrimination against LGBTQ people supported by the state of Qatar has also been criticized in the years leading up to the World Cup.

Sex between men is illegal and punishable by up to three years in prison in the country, and a Human Rights Watch report published last month documented cases as recently as September of Qatari security forces arbitrarily arresting LGBT people and subjecting them to “sickening treatment” .”

A statement sent to CNN on behalf of the SC said it was committed to an “inclusive and non-discriminatory” World Cup, pointing to the fact that the country has reportedly hosted hundreds of international and regional sporting events since being awarded the World Cup. championship 2010

“There were never any problems and every event was held safely,” the statement said.

“Everyone is welcome in Qatar, but we are a conservative country and any public display of affection, regardless of orientation, is not approved. We simply ask people to respect our culture.”

Perhaps the most obvious sign that this World Cup is different from most is the decision to hold it in November and December, rather than the usual June and July.

The blistering heat of Qatar’s summer months has necessitated the change, although temperatures are still forecast to soar above 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit) later this week.

Other changes in the organization of the tournament were more at the last minute.

On Friday, FIFA announced that alcohol would not be sold in stadiums, then on Monday captains from seven countries were warned they would receive yellow cards if they wore armbands promoting inclusion and opposing discrimination.

FIFA announced earlier on Monday that it had launched its “No Discrimination” campaign – which also features a specific armband – adding that “all 32 captains will have the opportunity to wear this armband” during the World Cup.

FIFA’s kit regulations state that “for FIFA final competitions, the captain of each team must wear a captain’s armband provided by FIFA”.

Time will tell what the legacy of this World Cup will be, but if the past few days, months and years are anything to go by, it’s likely to be complicated and controversial.

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