Why is the Qatar World Cup so controversial?


(AP Photo/Toufik Doudou)

The 2022 Qatar World Cup logo is projected on the opera house of Algiers, Tuesday Sept.3, 2019. Flashed on big screens and projected onto landmarks worldwide, the 2022 Qatar World Cup logo was revealed Tuesday with a design that reflects both the tournament’s compact infrastructure and winter schedule.

Elias Lilienfeld, Student Writer

The biggest sporting event of the year is currently taking place. The FIFA World Cup started on November 20, with the best 32 teams around the world (the US included) competing for glory in soccer’s biggest trophy. Sadly, the excitement that follows most World Cups is being challenged by the controversial allegations surrounding the host nation of Qatar, a tiny country in the Middle East, for this 22nd edition.

The decision of hosting the World Cup in Qatar, a country of only 4,471 square miles, brought instant criticism after being announced in 2010. Since then, reports of the dire conditions of migrant workers, human rights violations, lack of infrastructure, bribery, and corruption have persisted. Even the former FIFA president, Sepp Blatter, whose term ended in 2015 and is facing corruption and bribery scandals, said that the decision of picking Qatar was a “bad choice”.

Qatar has 2.8 million residents, yet only around 300,000 are Qatari citizens. Most of the labor force is made up of migrant workers from different parts of the world, especially from south Asia. The living and working conditions of the migrant workers who constructed the sporting and commercial venues for the World Cup (including 7 new stadiums) have been heavily criticized by human rights activists. According to a 2021 investigation from The Guardian, around 6,500 migrant workers died since 2010, from workplace accidents, suicide, and even the heat.

The host nation has also brought concerns over the human rights situation in the country. A report from Human Rights Watch urged journalists to be aware of “the numerous human rights concerns surrounding Qatar’s preparations for the 2022 World Cup.” One example is the treatment of the LGBTQ+ community in this Muslim country, where homosexuality is criminalized with up to 7 years in prison and some are subjected to conversion therapy.

The choice of Qatar has been surrounded by corruption and bribery charges since the beginning. In 2019, Michel Platini, a famous French ex-player, and former head of European, soccer was arrested during an investigation into a $2 million payment connected to his efforts to bring the World Cup to Qatar. According to the journalist James Montague, there have even been political machinations, such as gas deals, for countries to vote for Qatar as the host nation. 

FIFA’s mission, according to its current president Gianni Infantino, is “to make football(soccer) truly global, diverse and inclusive, for the benefit of the entire world”. Some may think that by picking Qatar as the host, a country with serious human rights issues, FIFA is going against its own mission. The global soccer event should focus on the sport, but sadly the controversies and allegations of this year’s World Cup can overshadow what is currently happening on the pitch.