Soccer. Corruption, human rights, environment: World Cup 2022 in Qatar, twelve years of controversy

Two more months before the start of the World Cup (November 20 to December 18), the most popular and most publicized sporting event on the planet. But the usual excitement is far from having the same flavor as this 2022 edition, organized in Qatar, approaches. Blame it on twelve years of scandals, against a backdrop of corruption, trampled human rights, thousands of deaths on construction sites and ecological nonsense.

  • 1 Suspicions of corruption

  • It did not take long to switch to controversy: from the first seconds following its award by Fifa, on December 2, 2010, suspicions of corruption rained down: did Qatar buy the 2022 World Cup? , the first in the Middle East?

    In March 2020, the American justice, under the pen of the federal prosecutor of Brooklyn, assures that several voting members of the executive committee of Fifa received bribes against their vote for Qatar.

    Switzerland is also conducting a judicial investigation and, in France, the National Financial Prosecutor’s Office opens in 2019, after three years of investigation, a judicial investigation for “active and passive corruption”, “receiving” and “laundering”.

    At the heart of the suspicions, a lunch organized at the Élysée, on November 23, 2010, between President Nicolas Sarkozy, Michel Platini, then President of UEFA, the Crown Prince of Qatar Tamim ben Hamad Al Thani, who has since become Emir, and Hamad bin Jassem Al Thani, then Prime Minister of Qatar. Justice wonders if there is a link between this interview and Michel Platini’s vote in favor of Qatar. No indictment was issued.

    Former Emir Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani and former FIFA President Sepp Blatter at the awarding of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar in 2010. (EPA Photo)

  • 2 “Modern slavery”

  • A case supplanted by a humanitarian scandal of a completely different scale, which sends shivers down your spine. According to a survey by The Guardian in February 2021, 6,500 workers died on the World Cup sites, in ten years, among five nationalities of immigrant workers (Sri Lanka, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal). Victims of accidents, falls, heart attacks, exhaustion, heat stress in the stifling heat of this desert country.

    The consequence of a titanic construction program, disproportionate for a country the size of Île-de-France (2.8 million inhabitants, 90% of whom are immigrant workers), with in particular eight stadiums, hotels, airports, highways and even an entire city: Lusail, which will host the opening ceremony and the final.

    Many media and NGOs had already denounced for a long time infernal work rates, unpaid wages, forced labor, speaking of “modern slavery”. And for good reason, until 2018, migrant workers could not change jobs or leave the country without the authorization of their employer. Since then, reforms have been adopted and migrant workers can leave Qatar or their jobs. But “these have not yet been implemented, due to the culture of impunity that reigns in the country”, says Amnesty International.

    This does not prevent Fifa, through the voice of a spokesperson, from defending itself: “With the very strict health and safety measures on the site, the frequency of accidents on the construction sites of the World Cup was low compared to other major construction projects around the world. »

    epa08083079 Construction workers at Lusail Stadium during a media tour in Doha, Qatar, December 20, 2019. Lusail Stadium is one of eight stadiums built for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.  EPA-EFE
    The Lusail stadium construction site in 2019. (Photo EPA)

  • 3 Environmental impact

  • Behind these mass constructions, it is also an ecological scandal that is looming. With the untenable climatic conditions in summer (around 45 degrees), Qatar and Fifa did not hesitate to shift the traditional summer meeting to autumn.

    It will still be hot, between 25 and 30 degrees, and Qatar has integrated, if necessary, an air conditioning system in seven of the eight open-air stadiums, causing a certain environmental impact.

    The Minister of the Environment of Qatar, a country attached to its soft power, nevertheless affirms a carbon neutrality objective, judged improbable in particular by the NGO Carbon Market Watch, at the end of May: “The documented data that the emissions linked to the Cup of the world will therefore be higher than expected by the organizers”, estimates the author of the report, Gilles Dufrasne.

    These many controversies – not to mention the aberration in the sports calendar – lead to more and more calls for a boycott of this event which is not yet quite ready. According to the Belgian daily Het Laatste Nieuws, a test match, organized at the beginning of September at the Lusail stadium, worried the supporters: shortage of drinking water at half-time, 34 degrees, broken air conditioning, crowded metro…

    But, long before it started, what many call “the World Cup of shame” has been a symbol of the drift of modern football for twelve years.

    Fans arrive at Lusail Stadium for the Lusail Super Cup soccer match between Saudi Arabia's Al-Hilal and Egypt's Zamalek on the outskirts of Qatar's capital Doha on September 9, 2022. (Photo by A
    Several fans before the test match at the Lusail stadium on September 9. (PhotoAFP)

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