The 2022 World Cup has been, perhaps, one of the most politicized sports events in recent history. The tournament has been engulfed in a string of scandals ever since the Gulf nation won the bid to host the World Cup back in 2010. Targeted media attacks, calls for boycott, attempts to discredit the country – everything was employed to make sure that the competition would eventually be relocated somewhere else. But what is the main complaint thrown at Qatar when it comes to organizing the World Cup?
It certainly does not concern sports infrastructure, tourists’ safety, or the training conditions of the participating teams. Qatar has invested a whopping $200 billion in the 2022 World Cup, making this the most expensive Football World Cup Ever. Apart from the newly built state-of-the-art stadiums, the Gulf country has spent the bulk of its money on infrastructure that includes the construction of an innovation center with hotels, a sophisticated metro network, airports and roads.
It also certainly does not concern the football competition itself, i.e. the very experience that the majority of people are looking for during the World Cup. No, because this is not about football, this is about the host country itself.
Qatar is the problem, the critics say, starting with the way it won the bid to host the World Cup in the FIFA selection back in 2010, and up to how the Gulf country is ruled and structured. Nothing about football, just politics. But why is that? What don’t they like about Qatar specifically?
Well, for that we have multiple answers: its political system, its economy, and its laws. So basically everything. Their narrative, to put it mildly, is that one of the defining events of the planet – maybe the greatest, in terms of audience – should be hosted in a beacon of democracy and human rights. But what about the previous World Cup? Where were the critics then?
We often hear that FIFA can endorse no discrimination, and that’s fair enough. But isn’t it discriminative to not wanting to know what the other side’s opinion is? To understand what they have done to address the said issue? In other words, to know the full story? Because only then can an informed individual might answer a simple question: is it good or is it bad?
So, is it good or is it bad that thanks to the 2022 FIFA World Cup:
- The Arab world received a historical chance to promote its culture and heritage to the planet?
- Qatar is the first country in the Gulf region to introduce a non-discriminatory minimum wage?
- Migrant workers from Qatar now have access to a public platform where they can submit any complaints against their employers?
- Qatari employers are now obliged to pay their employees through a banking system called
- Wages Protection System, which forces each company to transfer the salaries to its bank within seven days after the due date?
- There are no more legislative barriers for migrant worker to leave Qatar whenever they see fit?
- Qatar is the only Arab nation that has started dismantling the archaic “kafala” system?
So let’s take another minute to reflect on this: is it good or is it bad that Qatar won the selection to host the 2022 World Cup? Did the country’s elite understand what was at stake? Did they start a massive reform process that has seen Qatar become one of the most liberalized Arab nations in the region? Could all of this have happened without the help of football?
The critics are always quick to point out all of the negatives, especially when they’re paid to do so. But to completely leave out all of the good things and focus only on discrediting the host country, well that’s just disingenuous and malevolent. And it should be addressed by all of us, because all of the reforms, all of the positive structural changes within Qatar, everything was made possible by the unifying power of football.
And that’s something we should celebrate and replicate in all of the future competitions from now on.