There comes a point at which the rotten core at the heart of football will become too much for most to take. We have come to accept the greed and the avarice as a part of life, as if there is no other way in which these people behave, and we are pacified only, it seems, by the collection of three points on a Saturday afternoon. Perhaps, though, for the corrupt culture that has burrowed its way into FIFA over as many decades as you choose to select from, some sort of day of reckoning is fast approaching.
We all took the awarding of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar as being utterly and hopelessly corrupt to the core, a decision made for dozens of reasons that had little to do with anything but the greasing of palms, and the endless quest to accommodate the tournament up to the point of holding it in the middle of the winter for the first time has done little to satisfy those who have who have already arrived at this conclusion. On the whole, though, the arguments in favour of moving the 2022 World Cup finals have been dismissed with a sneer by FIFA, Perhaps, though, that situation is about to change.
When misgivings about awarding the 2022 World Cup finals to a micro-state with no discernable football culture to speak of were first aired in this country, they were dismissed by FIFA as being the jealous whines of a nation that had just lost out on a bid to host the tournament. Never mind that it wasn’t the same tournament as the one that people were expressing these misgivings about. There are enough people out there who blindly hate the British for the likes of Sepp Blatter to be able to easily deflect criticism to an appreciative audience. There is, therefore a certain irony to the fact that the real shame of this tournament has been revealed by a British newspaper. We suspect that this time Blatter will not find it as easy to brush criticisms aside.
It has been The Guardian that has spent much of this exposing the appalling condition that migrants working on the construction of facilities in Qatar which are being built in no small part in preparation for what will doubtlessly be an orgy of opulence in just under nine years time. They found that Nepalese workers have been dying at a rate of almost one a day, whilst workers face exploitation and abuses that amount to modern-day slavery. Further claims have alleged that workers have been denied water whilst working, have had wages withheld to prevent them from leaving Qatar – something made considerably easier by the debt that migrant workers find themselves in just to get there in the first place – whilst the International Trade Union Confederation has claimed that the 2022 World Cup is on course to cost the lives of at least 4,000 migrant workers before it starts.
The usual ameliorating platitudes have already been offered by FIFA, who have stated that they are “”very concerned about the reports presented by the media regarding labour rights’ abuses and the conditions for construction workers” (something that they could have found out a little more about had they bothered to look, well, during the bidding process), whilst Qatar’s World Cup organisers have stated they were “appalled” by the Guardian revelations and said there was “no excuse” for the mistreatment of workers, a statement which indicates that they were similarly oblivious to persistent claims regarding exactly this that have been made for some time with regard to the treatment of immigrant workers in their country. After all, more than seven hundred Indian workers died in Qatar between 2010 and 2012.
Perhaps, though, they only care so much because it has been exposed so publicly. This is, after all, very publicity for the tournament, the governing body and its organisers, and rightly so. But what can we do? The truth of the matter is that FIFA and the tournament organisers could just try and ride this out. After all, it’s still almost nine years before the tournament starts and people’s memories seem to be getting shorter and shorter these days. This, however, doesn’t mean that we should do nothing. Trying to apply pressure to those organising it all would seem to be beyond our reach. The Football Association in this country, however, aren’t, and pressure should be applied for this organisation to actually stick its head above the parapet for once and make it clear they will not tolerate this sort of behaviour in what is ultimately their name.
It may or may not work, but it has to be worth a throw of the dice. The World Cup has a history that will be irrevocably tarnished – and has been before in 1978, when the hosting of the tournament held by a country with a military junta caused outrage, but nowhere near the level of organised global protest that improvements in communications and technology now make possible – by the being associated with this sort of situation. If there is a moment at which push must come to shove, then this, surely should be it. There is no moral argument to make that justifies the conditions in which those desperate enough to seek work in Qatar, and even if it was possible to make one, it would surely still be impossible to argue that this should be infrastructure for the hosting of a bloody football tournament. The World Cup should be removed from Qatar, and if this doesn’t happen, then FIFA should be stripped of the omnipotence that it holds by whatever means are necessary.
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