In December 2010, FIFA voted to decide the host of the 2022 World Cup. The USA, South Korea, Japan, and Australia all made bids, and FIFA, in their infinite wisdom, chose Qatar.
Sepp Blatter, who is the head of FIFA and perhaps the most aptly named man in the world, has dealt with a lot of criticism in the time since, but this has not caused him to waver from his confidence in Qatar’s ability to host the tournament. I wrote some months back about the problems with Brazil hosting next year’s World Cup. 2018′s host, Russia, has a bevy of problems of its own, including but not limited to homophobia and racism. But the decision to award 2022 to Qatar is FIFA’s most ill-advised yet. This is no small feat.
1) Everyone aside from those who hold the power regarding these matters assumes that the decision was bought. FIFA, like most large institutions, is hopelessly corrupt, and on paper Qatar’s bid had many more problems than their competitors.
2) The average high temperature in June and July in Qatar is 106 degrees Fahrenheit. It is not advisable to play soccer under these conditions. This is not news, but the original Qatari proposal promised a fleet of stadiums that, despite being outdoors, would be air-conditioned. Never mind the feasibility of such technology. Two years after this idea won the approval of FIFA, everyone now understands that promise to be a pipe dream. Always on their toes, FIFA has suggested that the tournament be held during the winter. This creates problem three.
3) Most of the professional soccer leagues in the world, and all of the best ones, play games in the winter. The domestic seasons in Europe run from mid-August to early May, leaving little room for a 50 day break in winter. Compounding this problem, 2022 is a Winter Olympics year, and Sepp Blatter has expressed a desire to avoid holding the tournament at the same time as the Olympics. Fox, who holds the US broadcast rights, is concerned that they won’t get their expected ratings if the World Cup goes up against the end of the NFL season.
4) Qatar has fewer people than Connecticut. It is, by far, the smallest country to host a World Cup, at least since the very first tournament was held among eight teams in Uruguay. While next year’s World Cup in Brazil will showcase 12 stadiums in 12 different cities, the 2022 World Cup will be limited to Doha and locations that are currently desert. I suppose, at least, that fans will be able save money on travel costs.
5) Alcohol can be hard to come by in Qatar. There is one liquor store in the country, and people are required to get a permit before they can purchase alcohol. I, for one, can’t think of any reason why this might upset traveling supporters.
Those reasons are enough make one question the wisdom of hosting the world’s biggest soccer tournament in Qatar. Then in late September, The Guardian uncovered how Qatar expects to raise world-class stadiums from the desert: slave labor. It seems the migrant workers who are building the brand new stadiums—because the country is too small to have a workforce of its own citizens for a project this size—are being held at the mercy of their employers. Said employers retain their salaries and confiscate their passports to keep them from leaving, and some workers say that they’ve been denied drinking water, despite the fact that they work in a desert.
The 2022 World Cup is being built in an undeserving country on the backs of workers who are treated as slaves, regardless of who it inconveniences. If FIFA were to admit its mistakes and change the host (not likely), there is roughly one country in the world that has the large stadiums and infrastructure required to host the World Cup on short notice. It’s the US. Fingers crossed.