FIFA has confirmed that the 2022 World Cup Finals tournament will take place in Qatar after all. There will however be no final decision on the actual timing of the tournament until after the 2014 tournament in Brazil. A well-funded, well-fed and self-important FIFA Commission, possibly including vocal opponents of a winter World Cup, has been planned “to carry out very deep consultations and investigations and show some diplomacy and wisdom” a FIFA spokesperson stated, with a commendably straight face.
The latest decisions and non-decisions have been made in spite of shock information that has slowly seeped into the heads of FIFA President Sepp Blatter and other officials since December 2010 when the event was originally awarded to the middle-eastern oil state, which has been ruled absolutely by the Al Thani family since the mid-1800s. These shattering revelations include the news that;
- Qatar gets quite warm in the summertime;
- Alternative times of the year, whilst cooler (merely “bloody hot” as opposed to “blood-boilingly impossible, even for a camel“), are inconveniently taken up with league programmes in the world’s major football-playing countries;
- Migrant workers are routinely having their rights abused;
- There have been instances of deaths on World Cup-related construction sites.
Mr Blatter has stated that he has “sympathy and regret for anything that happens in any country where there are deaths on construction sites, especially when they are related to a World Cup.” But he feels that such considerations must not be allowed to get in the way of his vision for football. “The Fifa World Cup 2022 will be played in Qatar. There you have it.”
Such an autocratic approach has been welcomed by the authorities in Qatar itself, where this is pretty much how they run things all the time. The state is ruled absolutely by Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani who seized power in 1995. Corporal and capital punishment continue to be practised, and several elements of the Western way of life are severely proscribed, including sexual orientation and freedom of expression. A Qatari poet Mohammed al-Ajami, also known as Mohammed Ibn al-Dheeb was handed a life sentence, apparently simply for words he has uttered or written. FIFA have either been aware of all of these factors at all relevant times since 2010, or have become aware of them since – but there is no indication that their decision has been in any way affected, beyond Mr Blatter’s “regrets”.
The area of labour is similarly fraught. Many cases of ill-treatment of immigrant labour have been observed. Qatar does not maintain wage standards for its immigrant labour. Under the provisions of Qatar’s sponsorship law, sponsors have the unilateral power to cancel workers’ residency permits, deny workers’ ability to change employers, report a worker as “absconded” to police authorities, and deny permission to leave the country. As a result, sponsors may restrict workers’ movements and workers may be afraid to report abuses or claim their rights. It’s a system thought to be much-admired by some Cabinet Members in the UK’s coalition government, though nobody has been available to comment upon this.
One fact that may well have had some bearing on the FIFA stance is that Qatar has proven reserves of oil and natural gas, putting the state at the top of Forbes’ list of the world’s richest countries.
FIFA: “Putting money and commercial opportunism ahead of liberty and human rights since 1904”