December 2nd, 2010 was the date the World Cup 2018 bid team had been waiting for—decision day in Zurich. David Beckham showed his pretty face, David Cameron smarmed up proceedings and even Prince William took time away from planning his wedding to try and help England over the finishing line.
Even Eddie Afekafe, a backstreet good-for-nothing chap turned Manchester City ‘social inclusion manager’, was drafted in to give the FIFA delegates the grassroots factor angle. Allegations of corruption in FIFA were forgotten. The presentation was flawless. Football was surely coming home.
However, Russia spoiled the party. Despite Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s no show, along with worries over fan racism and the vastness of the country, the Russians were given the go-ahead to begin work on stadiums and other infrastructure estimated to cost billions.
But it is not the outcome of the 2018 World Cup bidding process that has turned the heads of most interested onlookers.
Immediately after FIFA president Sepp Blatter removed a card with the name ‘Qatar’ on it, therefore naming them as 2022 hosts, millions worldwide pulled their most exaggerated confused faces. Lots of football followers hadn’t even heard of the oil and gas-rich Arab state. In the hour following the announcement, the search terms ‘Quatar’ and ‘Katar’ were trending on Twitter.
But there was a much more serious bewilderment that arrived as a result of FIFA’s selection of Qatar as World Cup hosts. Images of slightly intoxicated fans in fan parks have become a fixture at modern tournaments—but Qatari law makes it illegal to be drunk in a public place. Such legislation is unlikely to be popular among supporters and sponsors alike.
Also the average temperature for June and July in the country is 41 degrees Celsius (106 degrees Fahrenheit). Less than a month ago, a FIFA panel reported to the executive committee on the Qatari bid and stated that they saw the bid as ‘a health risk’ due to the soaring heat.
But the most critical complication surrounds laws on homosexuality. Despite claims that Qatar is one of the most liberal states in the Middle East, homosexuality remains illegal and is an offence which is punishable by up to five years imprisonment.
And as recently as June, Amnesty International released a statement which condemned it for rejecting “recommendations to review and repeal laws that discriminate against women” as well as approaches to abolish the death penalty, which still exists in the country if only for espionage and national security offences. Giving the world’s biggest sporting tournament to Qatar renders any future anti-homophobia or equal rights campaigns by Blatter and his FIFA cronies meaningless*.
It may have been a miserable year for England after failure in two World Cup competitions, but FIFA hasn’t had the best of times either and scored another own goal on Thursday afternoon. By endorsing a sweltering hot, alcohol free competition in a tiny Arab country, the organisation has taken a big risk. However by seemingly ignoring Qatar’s homophobic legislation they have sent a vicious, careless message to the ‘football family’ they talk so often about.
Iran for World Cup 2026 anybody?
*Notably, FIFA does not mention on its website whether it has been involved in any anti-homophobia campaigns.Tweet