Qatar has been ruled by a single family known as the Al Thani since 1847. Although the Al-Thani have always controlled Qatar they have gone through phases of colonization by the British. Qatar operated as a British protectorate until gaining independence in 1971. They were quickly included in the international community through diplomatic relations in 1972. The governmental structure of Qatar is a constitutional monarchy with Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani as leader. He governs the country with absolute executive power. It is a small country with a population of almost 3 million people. Most of the governmental positions are controlled by members of the Al Thani family and have gone through phases of instability due to coups and disagreements surrounding oil. It has historically suppressed the rights of women and LGBTQ people and has most recently come under criticism for their labor violations leading up to the World Cup. The fact that it is one of the world’s richest countries is the reason for it being chosen to host the most recent World Cup of 2022. FIFA’s decision to host the World Cup in Qatar brought a revealing microscope to the governing politics and cultural makeup of Qatar. In preparation for the World Cup, they invested over $300 billion dollars on new infrastructure of stadiums and any facilities required for the 32 qualifying countries. There was considerable scrutiny about the labor practices and casualties that occurred leading up to the World Cup.
Qatar was chosen to host the World Cup back in 2010 during allegations of financial corruption by both the Qatari government and FIFA. When it came to nominating Qatar, people were also surprised by the decision to pick a host country that had never qualified for a World Cup of their own. Countries like the United States and France who have been contenders in the past were beaten by Qatar. Vox.com reported, “In 2014, the UK-based Sunday Times reported on a trove of leaked emails and other documents suggesting that prominent Qatari soccer official and former FIFA executive committee member Mohammed bin Hammam had allegedly paid millions of dollars’ worth of bribes to FIFA officials. (Bin Hammam had already received a lifetime ban from FIFA in 2011 for other corruption charges.)” There was even an official investigation conducted on FIFA’s decision making that concluded with insufficient evidence of corruption to condemn Qatar. FIFA has not been a stranger to accusations of corruption in their World Cup hosting decisions of the past. FIFA has been known to suspend members of the decision-making committee and many members have been accused of selling votes. This would not be the first instance of alleged corruption by FIFA in relation to their country’s nominations.
Another point of contention surrounding the World Cup concerns the fact that Qatar was not equipped to host the World Cup in 2010. Their lack of infrastructure caused people to question the reasoning behind FIFA’s nomination and the possibility of corruption being a part of the decision making by FIFA. Since their nomination in 2010, they have quickly constructed an entire city alongside numerous stadiums, hotels, a subway system, and so much more. These new additions to Qatar cost billions of dollars and have severely impacted the human rights of thousands of workers employed for the World Cup. The ability to host a World Cup provides countries with the ability to create jobs for millions of people. In Qatar they employed migrant workers from Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Kenya, Nepa, India, Pakistan, etc. Many of them were essentially indentured workers whose contracts ended up costing them their lives. The Guardian reported, “Data from India, Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka revealed there were 5,927 deaths of migrant workers in the period 2011–2020. Separately, data from Pakistan’s embassy in Qatar reported a further 824 deaths of Pakistani workers, between 2010 and 2020.” In the face of these harsh and illegal working conditions, workers were able to complete the necessary renovations in time for the first game on November 20th. The Qatari government has denied the allegations of 5,927 deaths and has countered that information by claiming that the statistics are false. The Qatari government believes that 37 migrant workers have died and that not all of them were due to the demanding World Cup preparation.
The World Cup attracts over 3 billion viewers every four years. This year’s World Cup Final is predicted to be one of the most watched World Cups ever. Therefore, the decision to host it in an authoritarian country surprised people all over the world, regardless of their appreciation for soccer. Many issues came forward long before the World Cup began due to the number of workers suffering and dying under strict labor practices. The blatant homophobia also excluded many players and supporters from being a part of the World Cup. In 2022, where everyone can be criticized or demand accountability, Qatar has moved along unscathed. With the World Cup coming to an end, it begs the question of which rights will be openly denied in the next host country.