In March I had an article about the perilous situation for workers in Qatar published in the Wessex Scene magazine. Since then there have been significant developments about the responsibility of keeping Qatar as the host nation for the 2022 World Cup. FIFA’s dubious role in awarding the biggest global football if not sports competition to the country has been questioned from the outset. Now Blatter and his fellow members increasingly find themselves in the difficult position of electing huge embarrassment or having blood on their hands, by continuing to turn a blind eye to the huge amount of problems facing this World Cup, and instead focusing on a hollow declaration of joyously spreading football to everywhere and everyone.
Of course, this article now appears to fall into what Mr.Blatter considers as ‘racist’. However powerful he may be or indeed knowledgeable (perhaps) on this issue, many will find his accusation hard to take, considering he has once declared football to be free of racism yet contradicted himself by saying those that are targeted should get on with it and shake hands at the end. I could go on about further mishaps but let’s not turn the article into one huge vendetta against a man who is a controversial figure, to say the least. Sexist, racist, corrupt and generally immoral are all boxes he has been and will continue to be associated with.
So…Qatar. One can look at the nation in terms of geography and suitability rather quickly, it is smaller than Yorkshire. Summer temperatures exceed 5oC, this causes further problems with the country’s surface being made up of sand. Ideal for holding the tournament in the usual summer slot? No. A bit better in winter? Yes. And…that would work for everyone? No. It is hard to avoid a heavily sarcastic tone in regards to the decision to award Qatar with this hugely rich tournament because, to the vast majority, it simply does not make much sense. Blatter has described it as a ‘mistake’ which is very honourable as we all make mistakes don’t we? However out of all the countries on offer and the time period available to make the decision, it is an admission that comes far too late for any real credibility.
Lax account management and illicit payments under and involving the Vice-President Jack Warner have already been exposed, and keeping Qatar as the host nation will only further corrupt the world of football. Fifa’s own rule of having 3/8 stadiums in a country’s capital has not as yet been exercised. Currently all of the stadiums are being constructed within a 12 mile radius of Doha, which is clearly shambolic considering that Fifa’s own committee have labelled Qatar ‘high risk’.
The death toll of migrant workers has now reached the 965 mark, a despicable statistic and one that must not be allowed to continue further. FIFA must act and now appear more likely to do so, but they must do so quickly. It won’t bring those lives back and it will be of very little consolation to the families of the dead, but 8 years is sufficient time to fully reorganise and restructure for the 2022 World Cup. It will be better for the welfare of workers, essentially a more humane message to everybody and merely easier for football players and supporters. All FIFA have to do is sacrifice their own greediness. Some may argue the benefits of the tournament in Qatar and argue this to be a simplistic view but, if I had a choice, I would be happier less wealthy and a little more respected, than wealthier with very little respect.
Bin Hammam who was heavily involved in the bidding process has since been exiled as a committee member, as he was caught up in another corruption scandal surrounding his campaign for FIFA presidency in 2011. Hardly further endorsement of the fairness and clarity of the process by which Qatar won. Corruption aside, it is the impact on humanity and its relationship with sport that is so badly under threat if the organisation insist on maintaining their original decision. Sport (especially football) can attract negative attention about its ability to divide as well as unite. If by 2022 we are watching this amazing tournament in the city of Doha, then it is quite likely that our relationship with the beautiful game will have soured tremendously.