The World Cup is a beautiful event that brings billions of people from all over the globe together for a couple precious months. This year’s World Cup, however, is shrouded in controversy, suspicion, and scandal. Should the World Cup have been in Qatar? Are they stripping fans of freedoms or merely standing up for their religious values? On a lighter note, how has the actual quality of play been? Here at the Northwest School, we may have watched on our phones during lunch or on the big screen in the commons, but should everyone have been so eager to support this World Cup? Many students voiced concerns over the apparent lack of human rights in Qatar, with one NWS student describing the host nation as a “Corrupt nation ruled by oligarchs that abuse the populace for power, money, and entertainment.” Whether you’re an avid fan, have concerns about the host nation, or both, it’s important to be educated on the dark backdrop for this World Cup.
At Northwest, teams from all over the world are supported. This includes Spain, Portugal, South Korea, Brazil, France, Mexico and of course the United States. The American team had been attracting massive amounts of attention due to their unprecedented success and core of young, strong players. They entered the World Cup with the second youngest team, after Ghana. After tying Wales and England, the US defeated Iran to advance to the Round of 16. Unfortunately, they were defeated by the Netherlands and eliminated. The esteemed Brazil squad, who were favorites to win the entire tournament, was shockingly eliminated in penalties against Croatia. Argentina then knocked off Croatia, and France defeated Morocco to advance to the final. The final started off quick for Argentina with Leo Messi slotting a penalty kick in the 23rd minute and Angel Di Maria scoring in the 36th. France came roaring back however, with Kylian Mbappe scoring consecutively in the 80th and 81st minute to tie the game. Messi and Mbappe each scored once more in the dying minutes of the game to send it to penalty kicks. Argentina dominated in the penalty kicks, winning the game and cementing Messi as the greatest player of all time. While the world watched the tournament eagerly, an unusual amount of scrutiny was directed towards the host nation of Qatar. Qatar is the smallest nation to ever host a World Cup, with a population of 2.9 million. They are also the first host country ever to be eliminated in the group stages of the tournament. But the real concern over Qatar isn’t the level of play they show on the field, it’s much darker.
On December 2nd 2010, the host for the 2022 World Cup was announced. Sepp Blatter, the president of FIFA steps up to the podium and announces Qatar will be the host nation, beating out bids from Australia and the United States. The audience is shocked. Why Qatar? Initially, the decision was met with celebration, as Qatar would be the first Middle Eastern country to host the World Cup. It would break down barriers and improve the public view of the Middle East and the Arab world. Problems rapidly appeared though. Firstly, Qatar is one of the hottest places on earth, and the World Cup is traditionally held over the summer. Summer temperatures in Qatar can reach 120 degrees fahrenheit, which are dangerous conditions to play in. The solution to this problem would be holding the World Cup in the winter rather than the summer and using sophisticated air conditioning in the stadiums. Another problem came up: what stadiums? Qatar had none of the needed infrastructure to host a World Cup, not having a single stadium that met FIFA’s size requirements. What’s more, the World Cup attracts millions of fans who travel to watch their team. Where would all these fans stay? Qatar would have to pull off one of the greatest feats of construction ever to host the World Cup. The nation’s apparent lack of qualifications to host lead to almost instant suspicion. Was bribery involved? The United States Department of Justice has officially accused FIFA of accepting bribes from Qatari officials to win the bid for the World Cup. The investigation specifically examines three South American FIFA officials who have been receiving payments from both Qatar and Russia. Julio Grondona, an Argentinian official who was being investigated, has since passed away, as did Nicholas Leoz, who was also under investigation. Ricardo Teixeira, a FIFA official from Brazil, is the only one of the 3 officials who remains alive. It is not only possible but very probable that there was money exchanging hands to make sure Qatar’s bid beat out that of other nations. Lucy, a 7th grader at NWS said, “With bribery, I am not surprised. I am not saying it is right, but it has happened in previous World Cups”. Regardless of whether bribery was involved in the decision to hold the World Cup in Qatar, Qatar’s actions since they were selected have been even more controversial.
The stark lack of infrastructure in Qatar was a major issue. Tens of thousands of migrant workers, largely from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka poured into Qatar to construct the stadiums and other infrastructure. They worked in dangerous conditions and lived in relative slavery, often working 18 hour shifts and receiving little to no pay. According to the Guardian, over 6500 of these workers died between 2010 and 2022. The true death toll is believed to be much higher, as the estimate did not include any of the thousands of Kenyan and Filipino workers who may have lost their lives in Qatar. This shocking and disgusting truth caused several countries to consider boycotting the event. In Germany, Spain, and France, there were large movements to boycott the World Cup, but they did not go through. Also concerning for fans are the rules in Qatar regarding LGBTQ people. One Qatari official said that homosexuality is “damage in the mind,” also saying that any fan with a pride flag will be jailed for 7-10 years. Some have defended this as Qatar maintaining their religious beliefs and values, but when those values are objectively oppressive, how can this be the case? One protester ran onto the field waving a pride flag during a game between Portugal and Uruguay. His fate is unknown. This plethora of human rights violations has been recognized and felt at Northwest, as one NWS junior said, “It was sad and it was the reason I didn’t go out of my way to watch it.”
Here at Northwest, all of this is interpreted in a wide variety of ways. Some are hesitant to watch a World Cup with such a problematic background. One senior said, “I think that Qatar was cruel to those who they hired to work, especially ignoring their suffering. I find FIFA to be corrupt and an embarrassment to the sport of football. The LGBTQ issue is also pathetic. I understand that Qatar might have their views, but they are outdated and Qatar needs to recognize that LGBTQ people have rights that cannot be ignored.” This captures the view of many at our school. Many experience disgust at the actions taken by FIFA and Qatari officials, and think they cast a dark shadow over soccer/football as a whole. Lucy, a seventh grader, was outraged by the events, and stated, “It is absolutely horrendous that the government made migrant workers work 18-plus hour days in the scorching sun.” For many at the Northwest School, the Word Cup is significant enough to overshadow the controversies surrounding it. It is, after all, an event that unifies the world, and brings out passion in all of us. So whether you were disgusted by the actions of the host nation, or only wanted to watch the beautiful game, the 2022 World Cup left its mark on the Northwest School.