As if there weren’t already enough issues with Qatar’s hosting of the 2022 FIFA World Cup, it now appears that the international soccer body may have to adjust three seasons of global soccer just to make the Qatari World Cup to happen.
The World Cup is usually held in June and July – the northern hemisphere summer and football off-season – but on Monday, the FIFA consultation group offered January and November 2022 as alternative options for the World Cup kick-off due to Qatar’s scorching summer heat.
However, there are already doubts about whether a January kick-off will be possible, given that the 2022 Winter Olympics is set to take place in its traditional February slot.
If the World Cup kicks-off in November it means that the UEFA Champion’s league will have to close down for two months in the middle of the season as most of its group stage matches take place in November and December.
In May, FIFA President Sepp Blatter admitted that it had been a mistake to host the tournament in the sweltering Qatar summer.
“Yes. Well, a mistake. A mistake. You know one makes many mistakes in life. The technical report on Qatar clearly indicated that it was too hot in summer,” said Blatter in an interview with Swiss TV.
The Qatari World Cup has been clouded in controversy since the very beginning. The Gulf state won the bid to host the 2022 World Cup in December 2010 when the 22-member FIFA Executive Committee assembled in Zurich. The award prompted various criticisms including allegations of collusion and corruption when two members of the FIFA executive committee were suspended for corruption.
Since then other concerns about Qatar’s hosting have come to light.
Homosexuality is considered illegal in Qatar, and questions have been raised about what this might mean for LGBTQI soccer fans. Blatter sparked controversy back in 2010 when he suggested that gay football fans should “refrain from any sexual activity” while visiting Qatar for the World Cup. LGBTQI soccer groups have raised concerns over Qatar’s hosting of the tournament. Some have suggested that FIFA should ask Qatar to decriminalise homosexuality by 2022.
Qatar has also been accused of exploiting migrant workers and effectively using slave labour in its efforts to get ready for the 2022 World Cup. In 2013, hundreds of Nepalese migrant labourers died in Qatar’s appalling working conditions. The Guardian reported that labourers were forced to work without pay and had their passports and documentation ceased, amongst other things.
Though still eight years away, the World Cup in Qatar has been riddled with speculation and scandal; yet FIFA has stuck by the Gulf state throughout. One has to ask whether it’s been worth all the trouble for FIFA. More importantly, what is in it for them?