With the World Cup taking place in Qatar, many are wondering how this moment came about – that a tiny golfing nation with little footballing history ended up hosting the biggest event the sport has to offer.
Qatar had never appeared at a World Cup before – let alone host one – and on Sunday became the first host nation to lose the tournament’s opening game, losing 2-0 to Ecuador.
The country’s World Cup debut spanned 12 years, a period during which Qatar’s host status has generated controversy within the football community and beyond.
When Qatar was named to host the 2022 World Cup in 2010, it was selected ahead of bids from the United States, South Korea, Japan and Australia.
It encountered several obstacles during the bid process as the football governing body FIFA raised concerns in technical reports. These included the lack of infrastructure and the extreme heat in the region in summer, when World Cup tournaments are traditionally held.
In fact, reports went so far as to describe Qatar’s bid as “high risk,” but the country nonetheless won by 14 votes to the US’ eight in the final round of voting.
At the time, Qatar vowed to become the first country in the region to make the world “proud of the Middle East” hosting the tournament, while then-FIFA President Sepp Blatter hailed the prospect of football’s flagship event traveling to “new lands” would go.
“I’m a happy president when we talk about the development of football,” he said.
Twelve years later, Blatter is more critical.
Earlier this month he told the Swiss newspaper Tages Anzeiger: “Qatar is a mistake… the election was bad.
“It’s too small a country. Football and the World Cup are too big for that.”
Blatter said FIFA changed the criteria for selecting host countries in 2012 amid concerns over working conditions at tournament construction sites in Qatar.
“Social and human rights have been taken into account ever since,” he said.
With a population of three million, smaller than Connecticut’s, Qatar has invested billions in its football infrastructure in preparation for the 2022 tournament.
But the question of how Qatar got the right to host the World Cup continues.
As late as March 2020, the U.S. Department of Justice alleged that bribes were accepted from senior officials as part of the voting process to choose Russia and Qatar to host the tournament for the 2018 and 2022 events — claims Russian officials denied and Qatari officials called out “wrong”. a statement to CNN.
The DOJ has been investigating allegations of corruption in international football for years, including FIFA. To date, there have been more than two dozen convictions and some trials are still pending.
In an April 2020 statement, FIFA said it “supports any investigation into alleged criminal activity relating to domestic or international football competitions and will continue to cooperate fully with law enforcement officials investigating such matters.”
“FIFA is closely following this investigation and any related developments in the ongoing legal proceedings in the United States and elsewhere.
“It is important to note that FIFA has itself obtained victim status in the US criminal proceedings and senior FIFA officials are in regular contact with the US Department of Justice.”
FIFA was granted victim status by US prosecutors who believed the world’s governing body had been nearly kidnapped by a string of corrupt individuals.
Qatar’s human rights record was also in the spotlight ahead of the World Cup, particularly in relation to the welfare of migrant workers.
Given the minimal infrastructure Qatar had at the time the World Cup hosting rights were awarded, seven new stadiums, as well as new hotels and expansions to the country’s airport, rail network and highways, were built ahead of the tournament.
This has led to a dependency on Qatar’s migrant workers, who make up 90% of the total workforce, according to Amnesty International.
Since 2010, many migrant workers have faced late or unpaid wages, forced labour, long hours in hot weather, intimidation by employers and the inability to leave their jobs because of the country’s sponsorship system, human rights organizations have noted.
Fifa president launches explosive tirade against western critics of Qatar
However, Qatar’s Supreme Delivery and Legacy Committee (SC) said the health, safety and dignity of “all workers employed on our projects have stood firm” with “significant improvements” in relation to workers’ rights .
FIFA President Gianni Infantino told CNN Sport’s Amanda Davies that he had seen a “major development” in labor reforms in Qatar and the International Labor Organization had identified reforms such as a non-discriminatory minimum wage, which Qatar was the first company to introduce in the region .
Meanwhile, state-sponsored discrimination against LGBTQ people in Qatar in the years leading up to the World Cup has also been criticized.
Sex between men is illegal and carries a penalty of up to three years in prison in the country, and a Human Rights Watch report released last month documented cases as late as September of Qatari security forces arbitrarily arresting LGBT people and calling them ” made sick”. -Treatment in custody.”
A statement sent to CNN on behalf of the SC said it is committed to an “inclusive and non-discriminatory” World Cup, noting the fact that the country has hosted hundreds of international and regional sporting events since it awarded the World Cup 2010
“There was never a problem and every event was conducted safely,” the statement said.
“Everyone is welcome in Qatar, but we are a conservative country and any public display of affection, regardless of orientation, is frowned upon. We simply ask people to respect our culture.”
Perhaps the most obvious sign that this World Cup was different from most was the decision to host it in November and December instead of the usual June and July.
The sweltering heat of Qatar’s summer months has necessitated the move, although temperatures are expected to climb above 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit) later this week.
Other changes to the organization of the tournament were made more at the last minute.
On Friday FIFA announced no alcohol would be sold in stadiums and on Monday captains from seven countries were warned they would receive yellow cards for wearing wristbands promoting inclusion and campaigning against discrimination.
FIFA announced earlier Monday that it had brought forward its “No Discrimination” campaign – which also has a special armband – adding that “all 32 captains will have the opportunity to wear this armband during the World Cup”. .
FIFA Kit Regulations state that “at FIFA final tournaments, the captain of each team must wear the captain’s armband provided by FIFA”.
Time will tell what the legacy of this World Cup will be, but looking back over the past few days, months and years it will likely be complicated and controversial.