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Football : The Game We Love, The Game They Play

Football is not just a game; it’s an emotion. For devoted football fans, watching a thrilling game is nothing less than an extreme sport in and of itself. It is an emotion that can make your heart skip a beat, cry till you forget your team losing, or cheer till your lungs stop breathing. And sometimes you can be just crazy enough to put a rocket up your arse.

But there is a dark side to this entertaining game. The People who are controlling this sport can also take control of your emotions. And it can get ugly.

The Fifa world cup is about to kick off and nothing is more exciting for football fans. FIFA has always been controversial, but with this FIFA world cup that Qatar is hosting, the allegations that are being brought against the Qatar Government and FIFA officials are something that just can’t be overlooked. This world cup has provoked some strong emotions from both sides of the spectrum.

It’s not just allegations of bribes and misconduct, there could be a severe human rights violation that is being highlighted by the mainstream media and is being talked about by the whole football community.

When qualified to host the World cup Qatar didn’t really have much footballing history and not even a single one of those lavish stadiums that you get to see now. Qatar never even qualified for the world cup.

So how did they manage to pull it off?

Simple! Bribe top FIFA executives millions of dollars to vote for Qatar. Behind all the glitz and glam and celebrity endorsement, there are allegations of severe human rights violations.

Let’s take a closer look into it:

Zurich 2010. FIFA is announcing which country will host the World Cup 2022, the single biggest sporting event in the world. The announcement came in with a bit of a surprise.

Qatar has been chosen to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup. When the Qatari people were cheering on the streets of Doha, the decision came in as a massive letdown for the other delegates. And it’s not hard to figure out why….Qatar is not a major football power in the world and there is no profound footballing history. Yet, somehow a country in the middle of a desert with scorching heat was hosting the largest sporting event.

Countries including the US, South Korea, Japan, and Australia were among the other contenders. With this announcement, Qatar became the smallest country to host the world cup.

Qatar is a country of 2.9 million people and only 1/10th of them are Qatari citizens. And Qatar is rich… rich? Like Wakanda Rich. No, they don’t have vibranium like Wakanda, but they have something as expensive; world’s largest reserves of natural gas. Qatar is so rich they air condition outdoors.

The World Cup traditionally kicks off between June and July, but during this time of the year, Doha’s temperatures regularly reach 45 degrees or higher. So it’s obvious that this atmosphere is not optimal for either the players or the fans. Keeping this in mind FIFA as a result decided to transfer the activities to November and December when the weather will be a bit more bearable.

This rescheduling might seem like a good idea at first but it comes with a domino effect. This change in plan disrupts the whole professional league schedules all over the world. And it’s a lot more concerning for Europe where 13 of the 32 World Cup teams are from.

The former head of the German Football Federation even said that a change in the schedule has an impact on lower divisions because of the league’s promotion and relegation system.

The qualifying rounds for the UEFA Champions League will now take place in November, and the seasons of Spain’s La Liga, Italy, and Syria will now go through June. The English Premier League will take a six week hiatus which can negatively impact players and clubs.

Hosting a world cup in the middle of a desert was a gamble and expectations were already high.

Thank you for believing in change. Thank you for believing in expanding the game. Thank you for giving Qatar a chance and we will not let you down. So I’m a happy president when we speak about the development of football.

Remember how we talked about how rich Qatar is? Well winning this bid to host the world cup came with a price tag that only a county like Qatar would be happy to pay.

So how much is Qatar spending? A lot, and by that, I mean a staggering $220 billion. Yep, let that sink in for a moment. This budget dwarfs what the previous 3 hosts spent combined.

Just to give you a sense of how crazy it is, Qatar just built a whole freaking city just to host the final match of the world cup. Qatar also constructed brand-new, top-notch stadiums, hotels to accommodate millions of fans, expand its airport and build new infrastructures, including a brand-new rail network.

Qatar just had 12 years to complete the largest infrastructure project in the history of the World Cup.

So how did they manage to pull this off with a population of just 2.8 million people?

This is where the next controversy comes in…..labour. Qatar had to mostly rely on foreign labours for all the construction work.

According to Amnesty International, almost 1.7 million migrant workers make up 90% of the country’s workforce. These labours mostly come from Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Nepal. And many human rights group has put a question mark on Qatar’s treatment of migrant workers.

Because of the Kafala sponsorship-based employment program, which contractually bound employees to their employers, many workers are being mistreated. Human Rights Watch has been vocal about the mistreatment of migrant workers and documenting their experiences.

According to Amnesty International, many migrant workers in Qatar have to live in cramped, dirty and unsafe accommodations. There are allegations of poor working conditions and some are being subjected to forced labour. The workers often wait months to get paid.

There are also allegations of passports being confiscated by employers. What’s more, if they want to leave Qatar they have to get an “exit permit” approved by their company. But employers often ignore these requests or threaten workers.

The Guardian reported in 2021 that since the World Cup was awarded, at least 6,500 migrant workers had died in Qatar. The Qatari government denies that number and claims that its 37 death and just three were work related.

The International Labour Organization asserts that this is a severe underestimate because Qatar doesn’t count deaths from heart attacks and respiratory failure as being work-related. Even though these are common symptoms of heatstroke, which is what can happen when you’re doing hard labour in high temperatures.

And while the tournament may have been rescheduled to winter, construction continued year-round, including during the peak of summer.

In 2017. The Qatar government promised to implement minimum wages, improve working conditions, and implement other changes.

But there are still other concerns which include social considerations. Qatar is a country where women’s right is still being curtailed. Qatar’s discriminatory male guardianship system denies women the right to make many key decisions about their lives

Even though Qatar’s constitution enshrines equality among citizens, the US State Department and human rights groups say the Qatari legal system discriminates against women when it comes to their freedom of movement and issues of marriage, child custody and inheritance.

There’s also a ban on same sex marriage and homosexuality is a crime in Qatar. People can be jailed and under Sharia law could be sentenced to death for homosexual acts. And it goes without saying that FIFA would prefer to project a forward-thinking and modern image for themselves rather than be associated with something like this.

Qatar want this world cup to be inclusive and for all. The Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani has said that gay fans will be welcome at the 2022 World Cup,  but demanded that visitors “respect our culture”. everyone is welcome, regardless of race, background, religion, gender, orientation or nationality.”

Many nations have raised objections to this world cup in various ways, and some have even called for boycotts, but none have done so as of yet.

The US squad will show their support for the LGBTQ community by way of a rainbow-themed team logo inside their training facility and media workroom.

Meanwhile, the shirts worn by the Netherlands team during the tournament will be auctioned to support migrant workers in Qatar.

During qualifying matches, Norway and Germany staged protests using t-shirts carrying messages promoting human rights. And during the tournament, the Denmark national Jersey will be all black to pay tribute to one of the workers who died during construction.

There are numerous issues regarding this world cup and there is no one to police it. We can’t expect FIFA to take any actions because they are already knee-deep in scandals and corruption. FIFA is not the flag bearer of human rights and is surely not the one talking about it.

Qatar winning the world cup bid is a controversy in itself.

Leading figures connected to the world cup’s governing body have been named disgraced and suspended throughout the years. Do you remember the raid on a luxury hotel in Zurich in 2015, the US Justice Department charged numerous FIFA executives and associates with allegations of racketeering, wire fraud, and money laundering.

And do you still remember Sepp Blatter? He resigned just a few days after being elected to a fifth term as FIFA president, after holding the position for nearly 17 years. He was being investigated separately in Switzerland for making disloyal payments.

in 2020, the US Justice Department alleged corruption was involved in the Qatar World Cup bid. It accused three FIFA executives of taking bribes to vote for the Gulf state to host the tournament. Ultimately, more than half of the 22 men who voted for Qatar were later accused of or charged with corruption.

There is a growing chorus of criticism and outrage before the tournament kicks off. But it would be unfair to say that Qatar didn’t make any progress. They made a lot of changes, tried adapting international standards, and tried to be accepting of everyone. Even though it’s not a permanent social reform for Qatar, they are slowly taking steps towards equality starting with this tournament.

Although it can be argued that if Qatar was the best bid, it is surely an Interesting one. Qatar is making some big promises with this world cup.

With their massive 220 billion budget Qatar is spending graciously on this world cup. It’s building state-of-the-art arenas that are well in line with international standards and principles. They’re promising to stage the first fully carbon-neutral World Cup featuring energy-efficient and air-conditioned stadiums that are within a 50-kilometer radius of Doha to cut down on the need for long-distance travel.

Regarding the infrastructure, Qatar wants it to be sustainable after learning from Brazil in 2014 and the Olympics two years later, where several stadiums turned into a wasteland and fell into disrepair despite the high costs. To avoid this happening again, the World Cup 2022 arenas will contain modular components that can be modified to better accommodate entertainment or the region’s most well-attended sporting events.

However, Qatar’s abuse towards migrant workers will forever tarnish this FIFA edition. These stadiums will go down in the history books as modern-day pyramids. The only difference is, it is not royalties buried in them, it’s the migrant workers.

Written by Mustafizur Rahman

Mustafizur Rahman is a member of the Daccanomics editorial team.

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