2022 FIFA games in Qatar spark controversy, set for this fall
It’s minute 65 of the 2018 soccer World Cup final game in Moscow, Russia. French player Kylian Mbappé strikes the ball past the Croatian defender, through the Croatian goalie’s fingertips and into the bottom left corner of the goal. Swoosh. The ball hits the back of the net. The stadium erupts in cheers as the crowds scream, “Goallllll!” The game ultimately ends in a win for France. This final goal, at the end of the final match, left audiences buzzing for the first goal of the next World Cup.
Every four years, teams from all across the globe are brought together to play the most popular sport in the world: soccer. For the first time in the World Cup’s history, the tournament will be held in the Middle East this November. Qatar was awarded the role of hosting in 2010, and due to the temperatures that typically exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit, the tournament will be hosted in the fall instead of the summer.
“The World Cup is supposed to be during the summer when people aren’t working,” junior and lifelong soccer fan Dalyan Prieto-Akmansoy said. “It’s easier to visit in the summer, whereas in the fall, many people can’t go. Now it being during the [fall], it’s weird. It’s, like, not what it’s supposed to be.”
Upper school history teacher Marc Salz shares similar sentiments about the change in season.
“I’m so happy to have Thanksgiving break games, but I would have preferred the summer,” Salz said. “Nonetheless, nothing will deter fans from rooting for their nations around the world.”
The tournament will begin on Nov. 20, with the opening match in Al Khor, Qatar, just 30 miles from the capital, Doha. Sixty-five matches will be played at eight stadiums around Qatar, and the city of Lusail — where the final game will take place — was built for the World Cup. These stadiums have been under fire from the media, politicians and some countries for years as Qatar exploited migrant workers from Nepal, Bangladesh, India and the Philippines to build the massive structures, according to the Guardian. Ninety percent of the workforce (1.7 million people) are migrants.
“I’m concerned about the conditions for workers in Qatar,” Salz said. “I think the 2 million migrant workers supporting the Qatar economy generally, and the World Cup specifically, are being treated in a manner of 19th-century indentures.”
Hundreds of articles across the Internet condemn Qatari companies for their violations of human rights in their preparation for the tournament: the BBC claimed that some workers went unpaid for seven weeks, Amnesty International said that migrant laborers had their passports confiscated and the Human Rights Watch asserted that workers faced illegal wage deductions, among numerous other articles. The workers were sleeping in rooms of eight or more people despite the Qatari law only allowing four to a room, according to Amnesty International. Additionally, the Guardian exposed that 6,500 migrant workers had died since the bid was awarded to Qatar. In response, the Qatari government imposed reforms to their labor laws and wage protection.
“The way the stadiums were built was inhumane,” Prieto-Akmansoy said. “It’s really wrong, even though the stadiums are really amazing.”
Accompanying the controversy around the stadiums are investigations into the honesty of Qatar’s bidding. Qatar, according to the New York Times, beat the United States for the right to host the Cup in 2022 in a run-off in 2010, and an investigation revealed that three South American officials were bribed to vote for Qatar. In 2014, the Sunday Times reported that Mohammad bin Hamman, the president of the Asian Football Confederation, paid $5 million to soccer officials to ensure that Qatar would receive the bid.
“I also worry about the level of corruption and the ‘purchase’ of these games by Qatar,” Salz said. “They had no stadiums, no weather and no infrastructure, but they won the bid by bribing the now-fired leadership.”
Despite concerns and controversies, millions of fans from all over the world still plan on supporting their countries this November. The U.S. Mens National Team qualified for the tournament, evoking excitement in supporters of the team as they did not qualify in 2018. FC Dallas, Dallas’ Major League Soccer team, has announced that they will host a free watch party at Toyota Stadium.
“If teams had boycotted, I might have joined their efforts to protest,” Salz said. “As it is, I’ll root for the USA at the top of my lungs and figure out which other team I’ll support afterward. In years past, I’ve backed Uruguay, Italy and Belgium after our ouster from the tourney. I dream of our victory, but I don’t think we’re nearly ready yet.”
Varsity soccer player and junior Alex Ramirez usually celebrates the World Cup by having family get-togethers. This year, however, will pose new challenges because of the tournament occurring in the fall.
“Normally, you would get together, and you’d have good parties — [it’s] a big event for a lot of different cultures,” Ramirez said. “If it’s during the year and if people live in different areas, sometimes it can be hard to get together for something that you do every World Cup. Whereas in the summer, you get together with family and friends, and you have a good time, but during the school year, people are a lot busier, and it’s harder to do things.”
FIFA recently announced that Dallas will be a host city for the 2026 World Cup, among 15 other cities in Canada, the United States and Mexico. The final match will be played in the heart of Dallas at the AT&T Center, just 20 minutes from school. The tournament will also expand to having 48 teams compete, compared to the 32 teams that will compete this year.
“I think that it’s super cool, although it might bring up some issues just like Qatar,” Ramirez said. “We do align a lot better with South America [in regards to time zones], but the difference to the Middle Eastern and some of the European countries might be difficult as well. You come into these issues no matter where you go. Obviously, being from Dallas, I love that, and I’m very excited.”
For those interested in watching, FOX Sports will broadcast the games, and Peacock, Fubo, SlingTV and Vidgo will stream the games, as well. There are eight groups of countries, and the U.S. is in Group B. Over three match days, a total of 48 games will be played, with 16 each day. These games will determine the bracket which will start with a round of 16, then quarter-finals and semi-finals, finishing with the final game on Dec. 18.