The controversial Qatar World Cup starts in a year and I seem to be a very rare voice who thinks that is a good thing.
First, we have to address the main reason why so many footballers are against the event and have threatened a boycott. The Guardian newspaper reports that more than 6,500 migrant workers have died in Qatar since the country won the World Cup in 2010. Human rights groups say several thousand. It is not known how many deaths were directly linked to the construction of stadiums and infrastructure for the tournament, but it remains a shameful number.
In no way do I want to downplay these tragic deaths or Qatar’s broader human rights concerns. However, I wish the other side of the argument to be heard, which is not often the case with the only Qatar defending itself.
Isn’t the best way to honor migrant workers to play in the stadiums they have worked so hard to build? Won’t some of them gain a sense of pride when Lionel Messi is likely to play his last World Cup?
DW’s Mark Meadows thinks Qatar World Cup is a way to spread the game
I would much prefer this World Cup to be in Qatar than to say Saudi Arabia or Iran. Their regimes are much more repressive. Russia hosted the last World Cup and also have major human rights issues, but the outcry against Russia was nothing compared to Qatar.
I think western arrogance plays a role here, because many believe that Qatar does not have football in its culture.
In fact, Qatar has injected billions of dollars into football, through its purchase of Paris Saint Germain and its sponsorships of Barcelona and Bayern Munich. Very few propose boycotts against these clubs. Qatar have shown their commitment to football and it’s not just about sports washing.
It’s time for Asia to welcome again
The World Cup has only been held once in Asia before – in 2002 in Japan and South Korea. It is a great shame. It’s Asian time again, but there aren’t many nations ready to welcome. China could but don’t want to be embarrassed by their poor team. Australia is not really Asia. We know the stadiums and transportation in Qatar will be wonderful.
Qatar is also the Arab world, which has never hosted a World Cup. Qatar 2022 sends the signal that they are part of the football family. Perhaps some of the pressure football put on Qatar over human rights has improved the situation there.
And don’t forget, Qatar is Asian champion. Would we prevent other continental champions from hosting?
German players sent a message ahead of their World Cup qualification against Iceland in March
It’s too late to boycott now anyway. Yes, some teams like Germany protested, but they knew it was partly a symbolic gesture and that they would still travel to Qatar next November.
There have been numerous allegations of corruption regarding the bids for Russia 2018 and Qatar 2022. FIFA officials have been implicated. If the World Cup was bought, it’s a mistake, but the world has had over 10 years to withdraw hosting rights or file a complaint against Qatar and never have.
It’s not just a problem in Qatar, the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City were bought and the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany has been proven to be as well.
November is suitable for some leagues
People have another scarecrow with Qatar 2022, the calendar of November and December rather than June and July. It wasn’t Qatar’s doing, they said they would be happy to host in June and use the air conditioning. Football decided it would be too hot AFTER granting them the rights.
But what’s wrong with November / December for once? It may not initially be suitable for the big European leagues, but it is better suited for many other leagues around the world. Again, this is Western arrogance. It could actually help players like England who are normally too tired after a long club season when June rolls around.
Another novelty is a World Cup which takes place mainly in a city (Doha). It may help given the coronavirus and makes a change from Euro 2020, which has strangely spread across the continent.
Let’s give Qatar a chance.