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The World Turns its Attention to Qatar

As the global pandemic gets under control, people in all nations are hungry for a joyful reminder of normalcy. That return is the upcoming 2022 FIFA World Cup. Qatar is scheduled to host the international soccer tournament in November-December 2022. As soccer grows in popularity globally, the enthusiasm to cheer on your country’s team spans generations and provides a welcome break from the serious global issues in today’s headlines. While the World Cup is a globally unifying event, murmurs about FIFA's reputation for corruption are cause for concern. That being said, after years of heartbreak brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, it is time for the world to be brought together under one common interest: soccer.

The FIFA World Cup began on July 13, 1930, in Uruguay, where only thirteen teams entered. Today, fans all over the world watch the World Cup with over a billion people tuning into the games. The World Cup is more than just games of soccer. The FIFA tournament has been a historic symbol of global unification and revealed the world's immense passion for soccer. Some notable events include the 100-hour football war between El Salvador and Honduras or the defeat of England against Argentina in 1986 as a symbolic defeat against Margaret Thatcher. The passion for the sport runs deep and reflects the economic and political change.

Economics is a key part of the history of hosting the FIFA World Cup finals. Because of the magnitude of the event, the host of the event attracts a large crowd of tourists. People from all corners of the world flock to their homes to go to the tournament and the host country profits from all the tourism.

In December 2010, FIFA awarded Russia the bid to host the 2018 World Cup and Qatar to host the 2022 World Cup. Later, more information emerged showing these decisions were tainted with bribery and corruption. BBC and other news sources claimed that senior FIFA officials Nicolas Leoz, Issa Hayatou, and Ricardo Teixeira accepted bribes. The story reported that the officials who voted on World cup bids in 2018 and 2022 took bribes in the 1990s, which then propped up Russia and Qatar for hosting the tournament. Some officials ended up stepping down, and some were banned but in 2012 U.S. attorney Michael Garcia and the newly appointed head of FIFA’s ethics committee published a report proving the corruption and bribery within FIFA’s executive committee. Despite the shady backdoor deals, Russia remained the host of the 2018 FIFA World Cup and Qatar will host the upcoming World Cup as well.

Unfortunately, that is not the end of the controversy surrounding Qatar. After FIFA elected Qatar to host, the building of stadiums, roads, public transport systems, and hotels began on a large scale. With whole new cities being built up in preparation, there was an enormous demand for a large labor force. Companies and businesses, including the building of the stadiums themselves, brought in migrant workers from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka and provided them with little to no workplace protection. In the past 10 years of preparation, over 6,500 of these migrant workers have been killed. These bodies are classified as injury-related deaths but many by natural causes. The cause of the migrant workers’ death on the job is difficult to prove due to a lack of a thorough autopsy if there was an autopsy at all. Though suffice to say, the sheer number of lives lost makes death by natural causes not credible. There is little transparency through the deaths of all the workers and it is devastating for the hundreds of families’ personal stories of the ones they lost.

Despite this cloud over the upcoming games in Qatar, many countries are excitedly anticipating the tournament with the recent qualifying games. Twenty-nine teams have now officially qualified for the tournament, including our very own US Men’s National Team. The remaining eight teams will have to play for the last three spots. The competition is rigorous this year, with some of the largest soccer countries like Italy, Columbia, Russia, Chile, and Egypt all failing to qualify. Brazil, England, and France are favored to win in Qatar, but anything could happen.

After two years of devastating loss and isolation because of the COVID-19 pandemic, communities can come together to root for their favorite teams and watch the beautiful game. The world will get a glimpse of Qatar, a nation that most know little about. Ten-year-old Qatari student Mohammed Al Sulaiti, who is a young soccer player himself, is thrilled to welcome fans from all over the world. He says, “I’m proud of my country and proud to be Qatari, and I’m looking forward to meeting different people and learning about their cultures. I’m excited to show the world our country’s culture and heritage.” Although controversy surrounds this upcoming FIFA World Cup, people from all over the globe wait in excitement. Young and old, no matter what you believe in, or where you are from, the game of soccer brings communities together and even the whole globe under the love for the beautiful game.

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