The 2022 World Cup will never be forgotten, and should never be repeated


Evelyn Shue

Over the course of a month, 32 teams competed for a chance to win the World Cup.

Ari Fine, Sports Editor

Welcome to Fine Points, a monthly column where I will give my opinion on a sports topic outside the walls and sidelines of RM. For this issue, I will dive into the controversy surrounding the 2022 Qatar World Cup, and what has happened so far in the tournament. 

Hidden below the breathtaking skyline of Doha, and above the sky-blue beaches of Al Khor, lies a scandal. Through years of oil extraction and exportation, the Qatari government has accumulated a large sum of riches, built off unfair labor contracts and conditions. With this, they bribed members of the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA), according to both the New York Times and NPR, resulting in the small nation of Qatar hosting the 2022 World Cup. 

The controversial selection led to thousands of migrant worker deaths and left a country the size of Connecticut with six billion-dollar stadiums (with no guarantee they will ever be used again), but these consequences risk being forgotten due to the unexpected success of the tournament this year. 

While this World Cup has been one of the most exciting yet, filled with historic upsets such as the Saudi Arabian victory over Argentina, the surprising group stage elimination of Germany, and Morocco’s brilliant penalty-shootout round of 16 win over Spain, the most watched soccer tournament in the world should have never been in Qatar in the first place.

The seeds of this controversy were planted in 1964 when the FIFA Executive Committee gained decision-making authority over the host country. The committee is made up of the top leaders from all six FIFA confederations (CAF, CONCACAF, CONMEBOL, OFC, UEFA), and top FIFA officials, such as the president and vice president.

When FIFA was founded in 1904, the selection of the host country was in the hands of the federation’s Congress, a body composed of one representative from every FIFA member country. This assured any one vote could not sway the outcome, ensuring that every country had a voice. Then, in 1964, as profits from the World Cup continued to soar, the 24-member FIFA Executive Committee stripped the FIFA Congress of its power to select the host country. Due to this change, for the past 50 years, it has taken as little as 13 votes to select a host country, which made it much easier for bribes and illegal deals to be made.

In 2010, FIFA had the responsibility of choosing the next two hosts of the men’s World Cup. For the 2018 competition, Russia was chosen over a number of European countries, including England. To many, England was a strong favorite, as they already had the infrastructure necessary to host 32 teams, including soccer-only stadiums across the nation, and millions of fans. But behind closed doors and open wallets, Russia won the bid, promising to spend over $10 billion on 16 new stadiums. Just minutes later, the same mistakes by FIFA led to the appointment of Qatar as the host nation of the 2022 World Cup.

Qatar, a country unknown to many soccer fans, pledged a record $200 billion in spending, promising to construct 12 air-conditioned stadiums due to the extreme heat in the middle-eastern peninsula. While this was made public, the numerous bribes to voters were kept secret.   

Over the following years, journalists primarily in England, accused a Qatari company of paying former vice president of FIFA Jack Warner $2 million to side with their country in the vote. This was not the only time, however, as an allegation in 2015 stated that Warner was bribed $5 million by Russia to support them. Along with alleged Qatari payments to three other voters, it seemed FIFA had been overrun by a culture of corruption.

There were no criteria to decide which country deserved the honor, which enabled authoritarian countries like Russia and Qatari to abuse their riches and allow the decision to be made without the approval of the entirety of the association. After multiple FIFA officials were arrested by the FBI in Zurich in 2015, the federation realized they needed to change. In 2016, FIFA officially returned to a Congress-based decision on the appointment of future host nations. 

But it was too late, as Russia and Qatar had already begun their preparation, and questions rose about whether it was morally right for these countries to host such a prestigious event. To some fans however, it does not matter where the soccer is played. Soccer is soccer, whether on a dirt pitch in the middle of a warzone or under the lights of a million-dollar stadium.

So far in this World Cup, the level of play, and the level of excitement, have been what seems to be at an all-time high. Between the rise of popularity in the US, along with their advancement past group play, some of Qatar’s mishaps have been overshadowed by all the buzz surrounding the competition. Underdog stories have swallowed up the media, as juggernaut soccer countries such as Spain, Germany, and Portugal have been eliminated earlier in the competition than expected by teams such as Morocco and Japan. 

Worries about dirty hotel rooms, no alcohol sales and disappointing fan experiences have drifted away. Throughout the weeks of the World Cup so far, Qatar has held numerous fan fests, creating a space for fans across the world to gather, cheer and enjoy the sights of some of the greatest soccer players on Earth. 

Despite that, the Qatari World Cup should have never happened. Sadly, a federation built to help foster the next generation of soccer players, and support the professional players those same children look up to, has succumbed to the desire for money and power. To protect the integrity of the world’s most popular sport,  FIFA must ensure they do not repeat their actions. Whether FIFA implements strict punishments for bribery and personal communication with the bidding countries, or requires that bids be anonymous, the rules must continue to be restructured and remade. The worst thing that could happen would be Qatar basking in glory and reaping the benefits from the World Cup, with no punishment and acknowledgment of the wrongs they have done.