Opinion: Crisis in Qatar

Lucas Misera

The last week in February saw a critical election take place: The Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), the governing body of soccer around the globe, held elections to replace scandal-ridden Sepp Blatter. The ex-president was infamous for his corrupt behavior and financial mismanagement, leading to a six-year ban from the game. Although he no longer holds his position as president, past decisions made by Blatter are set to leave a lingering impact on the game.

In December 2010, Blatter announced the locations for both the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. Russia will host the former, a decision that many deemed questionable due to its proximity to the 2014 Sochi Olympics and the rising tension with Eastern Europe and Turkey. However, many are far more baffled by the host of the 2022 World Cup: Qatar.

Many speculate that Qatar, a small country on the Arabian Peninsula, “bought” its World Cup bid from Blatter. Initially, the major concern behind Qatar hosting soccer’s greatest event was the intense heat that exists in the country. With temperatures reaching well above 100 degrees, Qatar simply seemed like a logistical nightmare. Nearly five years after being awarded the opportunity to host the World Cup, it’s evident that Qatar was a questionable choice for reasons far beyond the weather.

In May 2015, “The Washington Post” published a startling estimate that approximately 1,000 workers have died working on facilities for the games. Many of Qatar’s workers are migrants, and their deaths are often undocumented and hard to track. Although the total number of injuries from the construction is disputed, the fact remains: Workers in Qatar are facing deplorable living conditions and staggeringly low wages. The new president of FIFA, Gianni Infantino, needs to regulate this situation and observe actions by the Qatari government more closely.

The World Cup is a lucrative event, as FIFA aids minimally in construction for upcoming events yet grosses billions of dollars on the games. Undoubtedly, Blatt’s irresponsible actions as president has left many skeptical of FIFA and its ethical compass. But it’s not too late for Infantino to mitigate the effects of the situation in Qatar. If FIFA can verify the unsafe working conditions, stepping in must be a priority. These deaths are a reflection of FIFA’s past organizational negligence and greed-driven behavior and confronting the lack of appropriate supervision and response from Qatari officials would be a sufficient first step in escaping the shadow of Blatter’s failed presidency.

Watching FIFA struggle is painful. The World Cup is arguably the most coveted competition in sports, so many are disappointed to support such a beautiful event when such an incompetent, immoral organization is behind it. Infantino’s first task as president should be confronting a growing crisis in Qatar before fans around the world are given yet another reason to grow frustrated with FIFA. 

Lucas Misera is a columnist for The Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].