By Sarafina Napoleon
Sarafina Napoleon is from Nigeria and is a first-year graduate student in Sport Administration at BGSU. As a journalist for 9 years, she brings a wealth of experience and insight to the Maxwell Media Watch.
October 25, 2022
As the 22nd FIFA World Cup tournament approaches, the error made by FIFA under Sepp Blatter in choosing Qatar as the host nation is becoming more apparent. It is a decision that reeks of financial gains without adequate consideration of other factors. So how did we arrive at this point? It is pertinent to note that Qatar won the bid competition over Australia, the United States, Japan, and South Korea. Before Qatar won the bid, the country had never hosted a World Cup, making them the first Middle Eastern state to be awarded World Cup hosting rights. This will be the tournament’s second appearance in an Asian confederation country after Japan, and South Korea co-hosted in 2002. So, if staging the tournament in a new location provided an opportunity to develop the world, why the outrage?
There are several compelling reasons why Qatar shouldn’t be hosting the World Cup. The decision was flawed from the beginning from all angles. One convincing reason is the climate condition in Qatar. The climate in Qatar during the summer is uncongenial due to the scorching desert heat, making it impossible to stage a one-month tournament under such conditions. What was the solution? Your hunch is as good as mine. The only viable option was to relocate the tournament to a less inimical period. The usual schedule of World Cup tournaments’ is during the summer when all European leagues and league play have concluded. It was an aberration of everything the competition stands for to shift the World Cup to a time frame outside the established format. Still, the world football governing body (FIFA) was unperturbed. The tournament was eventually rescheduled without thoroughly examining how the timing would affect the soccer calendar, making it the first World Cup in the Winter. This is where things get interesting; the typical soccer league season runs from August to May, allowing players at least a three-week rest period before the World Cup. Staging the tournament during the Winter meant the tournament would take place during the regular league season. Because the competition will be in the Winter, it will take place during the regular league season. Many players competing at the World Cup play in Europe. They compete in their respective local leagues, UEFA competitions, and league cup competitions.
So, how about the players’ well-being?
What about LGBTQ peoples’ rights? The decision to award the hosting rights to Qatar, a nation where homosexuality is illegal, has further demonstrated that FIFA’s commitment to inclusivity is little more than a façade. Since Qatar was awarded the 2022 World Cup in 2010, FIFA has faced backlashed for its laws and views on LGBTQ rights and issues. After Russia hosted in 2018, this is the second World Cup in which LGBTQ soccer fans must decide whether or not to visit a country with a dismal record on gay rights. For instance, the official LGBTQ group of Wales will not attend the World Cup. Members of the group feel it is unsafe to visit the Middle East, given its track record on gay rights. In April, a senior Interior Ministry official in charge of security for the football tournament, Major General Abdulaziz Abdullah Al Ansari, told the Associated Press that rainbow flags might be confiscated from visiting fans to keep them safe from being attacked while advocating for gay rights.
According to a recent survey by a Scandinavian media organization, three of the 69 hotels on FIFA’s official list of recommended accommodations would refuse entry to same-sex couples. Only 33 of those surveyed said they had no objections to same-sex booking relationships. In contrast, 20 others stated they would accommodate same-sex couples as long as the couples hid their sexual orientation from the public. FIFA retaliated by announcing that it would cancel any agreements with lodging establishments that discriminated against same-sex couples.
Considering what the Middle East stands for, many LGBTQ soccer fans will be reluctant to attend this year’s showpiece. Looking at the highlighted reasons why Qatar was the wrong destination which FIFA should have chosen, the bigger question is, on what basis were they awarded the hosting rights?