On the eve of the start of the 2022 World Cup matches, a report published by the newspaper “The New York TimesThe most important football competition may have affected the host country, Qatar, over the past few years, but at the same time it may be “Qatar changed football forever.”
The report explains that “the decision to hold the World Cup in Qatar” may have “damaged the reputation of FIFA, the governing body of world football, and changed the fabric of sport.”
The report recalled Qatar’s victory in organizing the 2022 World Cup matches, which began in November 2010, when Michel Platini, then President of the European Football Association and Vice President of FIFA, met with Qatari officials, in the presence of the Emir of Qatar, Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, as the Qataris wanted at the time to discuss The ambition of their “rich little Gulf” country to host the World Cup.
Before this meeting, Platini had said in previous conversations that “allowing Qatar to organize the largest sporting event in the world would be disastrous for FIFA,” expressing his opinion that he wanted the “2022 tournament to go anywhere except Qatar.”
But after this meeting, which was joined by the French President at the time, Nicolas Sarkozy, Platini’s reservations faded away, and a week after this lunch in the conference hall in Zurich, it was confirmed that Qatar would host the World Cup in 2022.
After that, a series of investigations began in which members of the FIFA Board of Directors were accused of accepting “bribes” related to Qatar obtaining support to organize the World Cup, and dozens of FIFA officials were arrested, and the scandal almost brought down the institution itself.
Members of the FIFA Committee have suffered over the past decade from accusations of corruption and bribery, and the US Department of Justice accused three voters from South America of accepting seven-figure bribes to choose Qatar, as some were arrested and forced others out of FIFA, and they were prevented from participating in any football-related activities.
The newspaper report indicates that the decision to obtain Qatar the right to organize the World Cup changed the “economics of football for first-class clubs,” especially with Doha’s rapid moves to consolidate its position in football, to buy the Paris Saint-Germain team, and to start a sports network owned by this country. Gulf pump money into the European football industry.
It is estimated that Qatar has allocated more than $220 billion to rebuild the country’s infrastructure, construct 7 giant stadiums, dozens of hotels, and a network to transport and host fans during the World Cup.
And with the start of building the infrastructure and stadiums that the country will need, Doha found itself facing a new file related to the country’s dealings with “immigrant workers”, as accusations of ill-treatment arose, while Doha insisted that it had “taken the necessary steps to protect migrant workers.”
Qatar has recruited hundreds of thousands of migrant workers from some of the poorest regions of the world, which has increased the country’s population by more than 13 percent over the past years, but their rights and living conditions have remained controversial.
Until now, no statistics are available on the number of workers who died during the past decade, while thousands of them returned to their homes while they were sick or injured, and were even denied their salaries, according to the newspaper report.
Changing the rules of play
Apart from what the workers suffered in building the stadiums, the debate revolved around a new crisis over whether the country was able to “welcome the masses and fans, especially those from the LGBT community.”
The report indicated that Qatari officials spent hours in media training sessions with public relations consultants recruited from Europe, trying to craft responses to potentially embarrassing inquiries, whether they were related to gay rights or the rights of migrant workers.
An example of Qatar’s obtaining the right to organize the World Cup was a game-changer, changing the date of the World Cup to November and December, so that the high heat would not be an obstacle for everyone.
In another example, the contracts that were conducted by Qatari authorities doubled the records for contracts in 2017, when they contracted with Brazilian striker Neymar from Barcelona at a cost of $ 222 million, and then contracted with Frenchman Kylian Mbappe for $ 180 million, which led to a radical shift in the market. Transfers and contracts for soccer players forever.
With the opening of the tournament approaching, the report notes that “it may be too late” to criticize FIFA’s decision to organize it in Qatar, but it is difficult not to feel the changes that have taken place in football.
In the face of the campaign of criticism that Qatar faced 12 years ago for hosting the World Cup, officials respond that their country is vulnerable to “racism” and “double standards”, according to a previous report by Agence France-Presse.
Qatari officials point to reforms to working conditions and safety that have been hailed as pioneering in the Gulf region.
Qatar expects more than a million fans to come to the country during the World Cup over the course of the 29-day tournament.