By: Catherine He
NOV 20 (ST. CATHARINES, ON, CAN) – Today is November 20, 2022. For the average bookworm, it’s likely this day doesn’t mean much. However, for all the soccer fans out there, today is a beautiful day for the kick-off of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar! Unfortunately, never has a World Cup been shrouded in so much controversy. So what exactly is going on?
The First-Ever World Cup in the Middle East
To preface, Tariq Panja of the New York Times calls the World Cup the biggest sporting event in the world, even large than the Olympics. This soccer (or football) competition is the most watched event in the world, occurring every four years and seeping into many people’s lives as a major highlight. The 32 competing teams often gain massive fanbases, with many viewers choosing to adopt a team and support with intense passion. In Asia, where historically speaking teams fail to qualify for the World Cup, viewership and support is especially high. Approximately 1 billion people are expected to tune in for the final on December 18th.
Now, there are many factors at play in making this year’s World Cup unique. While the games are normally hosted in late spring into summer, the start date was pushed to November to accommodate for the desert country’s heat earlier in the year. This change had the implication of upending the entire global soccer schedule. Additionally, Qatar is the smallest location to ever host the massive global tournament. However, there is a more sinister element that is creating waves among the international community.
A Shady Vote & Transforming a Country in 12 years
As noted in ABC News, the criticism of this year’s World Cup stretches back to over a decade, when FIFA, the governing global decision was made for Qatar to host in 2022. In the lead up to the Cup, there has been scrutiny and criticism on the part of legal authorities and human rights group because of the circumstances around the bid to host and questioning if the country is truly fit to host the premiere soccer competition.
The first issue arises from corruption allegations, which the country strongly denies and charged have been denied. As Reuters says, that hasn’t stopped suspicion and rumours from swirling around the 2010 vote by the FIFA executive to hand the 2022 World Cup to Qatar without any human rights due diligence nor migrant workers protection who would be needed for the massive infrastructure construction.
Furthermore, there have been numerous concerns about the state of human rights in Qatar. As detailed in a 42-page guide titled “Qatar: FIFA World Cup 2022 – Human Rights Guide for Reporters,” the preparation for the World Cup in terms of completely transforming the nation in the span of a little over a decade has led to many human rights abuses. Qatar has attracted hundreds of thousands of overseas workers, especially those from South Asia, to complete this difficult task. Thousands of these workers have died in the country since the country won hosting rights, and many more were injured in the building or refurbishing of the eight air-conditioned stadiums that will have little use after the conclusion of the competition.
“It’s been a collision of some of the world’s poorest people with the ambition of some of the world’s richest people.”Tariq Panja
A Lack of Pride
Recently, a Qatar World Cup ambassador has been dragged all over Western media for calling homosexuality a ‘damage in the mind.’ As explained by Pink News, another reason for the controversy surrounding the Qatar World Cup is the ‘archaic, deadly laws’ surrounding LGBTQ+ rights in the country.
Article 285 of Qatar’s Penal Code bans same-sex sexual activity for both men and women, with a maximum sentence of seven years in prison. The Penal Code also criminalizes “leading, instigating or seducing a male in any way to commit sodomy” and “inducing or seducing a male or female in any way to commit illegal or immoral actions.” And a “protection of community” law means Qatari forces are allowed to detain people for up to six months without charge or trial if there are “well-founded reasons to believe that the defendant may have committed a crime.” In conjunction, these laws permit Qatar security services to arbitrarily arrest LGBTQ+ people and detain them without any access to accountability or trial.
Obviously, this is problematic. While it seems that Qatar has been toning down their stance on LGBTQ+ status for the duration of the World Cup, Human Rights Watch has documented research findings that Qatar Preventive Security Department forces, under the Interior Ministry, had arbitrarily arrested six Qatari LGBT people and subjected them to ill-treatment, including severe beatings and sexual harassment, in detention.
What is next?
With the World Cup beginning today, it seems that only time will tell the implications of Qatar hosting the 2022 iteration of soccer’s most important competition. For now, all we can do is continue to be vigilant, call out the country for its wrong-doings, and wait for justice to be served.