How Qatar eventually became host of the World Cup


With the World Cup underway in Qatar, many are wondering how this moment came about: that a small Gulf state with little footballing history finally hosted the biggest event the sport has to offer.

Qatar had never before appeared in a World Cup tournament – let alone hosted one – becoming the first host country to lose the opening game of the tournament on Sunday with a 2-0 defeat to Ecuador.

The country’s World Cup debut was 12 years in the making, a period when Qatar’s host status has sparked controversy within the football community and beyond.

When Qatar was named to host the 2022 World Cup in 2010, it was selected ahead of bids from the United States, South Korea, Japan and Australia.

It ran into several obstacles during the bidding process when FIFA, football’s governing body, raised concerns in technical reports. These include a lack of existing infrastructure and the region’s intense heat in summer, when World Cup tournaments are traditionally held.

Reports went so far as to label Qatar’s bid as “high risk”, but the country nevertheless prevailed by 14 votes to the US’s eight in the final round of voting.

At the time, Qatar vowed to make the world “proud of the Middle East” as the first country from the region to host the tournament, while then-FIFA president Sepp Blatter welcomed the prospect of football’s showpiece going to “new countries”. would go.

“I am a happy president when we talk about the development of football,” he said.

Twelve years later, Blatter is more critical.

Earlier this month, he told Swiss newspaper Tages Anzeiger: “Qatar is a mistake… the choice was bad.

“It is too small a country. Football and the World Cup are too big for it.”

Blatter said FIFA adjusted the criteria it used to select host nations in 2012 in light of concerns about working conditions at tournament-related construction sites in Qatar.

“Since then, social considerations and human rights have been taken into account,” he said.

With a population of three million, smaller than Connecticut, Qatar has invested billions in its football infrastructure in preparation for the 2022 tournament.

But questions about how Qatar won the right to host the World Cup continue.

As recently as March 2020, the US Justice Department alleged that bribes had been accepted by top officials as part of the voting process to choose Russia and Qatar as the tournament hosts for the 2018 and 2022 events – claims Russian officials denied and Qatari officials called “false” in a statement to CNN.

The DOJ has been investigating allegations of corruption in international football, including FIFA, for years. To date, there have been more than two dozen convictions and some cases are still pending.

A statement from FIFA in April 2020 said it “supports all investigations into alleged acts of criminal misconduct related to domestic or international football competitions and will continue to cooperate fully with law enforcement officials investigating such matters.

“FIFA is closely following these investigations and all related developments in the legal processes underway in the United States and other parts of the world.

“It is important to point out that FIFA itself has been granted victim status in US criminal proceedings and senior FIFA officials are in regular contact with the US Department of Justice.”

FIFA was given victim status by US prosecutors as they believed the governing body of the football world had been nearly hijacked by a number of corrupt individuals.

Qatar’s human rights record has also been in the spotlight in the run-up to the World Cup, particularly around the welfare of migrant workers.

Given the minimal infrastructure Qatar had at the time it won the World Cup hosting rights, seven new stadiums were built ahead of the tournament, as well as new hotels and expansions to the country’s airport, rail network and highways.

That has appealed to Qatar’s migrant workers, who, according to Amnesty International, make up 90% of the total workforce.

Since 2010, many migrant workers have respectively faced back or unpaid wages, forced labour, long hours in hot weather, employer harassment and the inability to leave their jobs due to the country’s sponsorship system, human rights groups have determined.

FIFA president launches explosive diatribe against Western critics of Qatar

However, Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy (SC) said the health, safety and dignity of “all workers working on our projects have remained steadfast,” with “significant improvements” made around workers’ rights.

FIFA President Gianni Infantino also told CNN Sport’s Amanda Davies that he has seen “great evolution” in Qatar’s labor reforms, and that the International Labor Organization has noted reforms such as a non-discriminatory minimum wage that Qatar is introducing as the first in the region.

Meanwhile, state-sponsored discrimination against LGBTQ people in Qatar has also been criticized in the years leading up to the World Cup.

Sex between men is illegal and punishable by up to three years in prison in the country, and a Human Rights Watch report released last month documented cases as recently as September in which Qatari security forces arbitrarily arrested LGBT people and subjected them to “ sick treatment in detention.”

A statement sent to CNN on behalf of the SC said it was committed to an “inclusive and discriminatory” World Cup, pointing to the fact that the country had hosted hundreds of international and regional sporting events since it was awarded the 2010 World Cup.

“There has never been a problem and every event has been delivered safely,” the statement said.

“Everyone is welcome in Qatar, but we are a conservative country and any public display of affection, regardless of orientation, is frowned upon. We simply ask people to respect our culture.”

Perhaps the most obvious sign that this World Cup is different from most others is the decision to hold it in November and December, rather than June and July, as is the norm.

The scorching heat during Qatar’s summer months has necessitated the switch, though temperatures are still predicted to soar above 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit) later this week.

Other changes to the organization of the tournament are more recent.

On Friday, FIFA announced that no alcohol would be sold in the stadiums, and on Monday captains from seven countries were warned they would receive yellow cards if they wore armbands that promote inclusion and deter discrimination.

FIFA announced earlier on Monday that it had brought forward its “No Discrimination” campaign – which also features a special armband – adding that “all 32 captains will have the opportunity to wear this armband” during the World Cup.

FIFA’s equipment regulations state that “For FIFA Finals competitions, the captain of each team must wear the captain’s armband issued by FIFA.”

Time will tell what the legacy of this World Cup will be, but as we watch the past few days, months and years go by, it’s likely to be complicated and controversial.

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