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FIFA’s Contribution to the Human Rights Disaster in Qatar and the Hypocrisy of Western Media

Qatar’s World Cup organizing committee and FIFA spent years attempting to repudiate the accusations of the corrupt vote that secured them the 2022 World Cup. In 2019, a publicly posted 28-page legal document finally confirmed what is possibly one of the worst scandals within their executive committee. The report published to FIFA’s official portal included evidence of Brazil’s Ricardo Teixeira receiving a $1 million bribe for his vote for Qatar and detailed his lifetime suspension from the club. The two other officials mentioned, Paraguay’s Nicolás Leoz and Argentina’s Julio Grondona, have since passed. Corruption within FIFA is nothing new, in fact since 2010, 16 of the 22 officials who voted for Qatar have been indicted for conspiracy and corruption by the United States Department of Justice, yet this is the first time the association has confirmed the allegations.

Leading up to this year’s World Cup, Qatar has been pushed into the international spotlight for their suspected human rights abuses, persecution of LGBTQ+ individuals, underrepresentation of women within professional and government sectors, as well as various cultural differences. Migrant workers from primarily South Asian and African countries were contracted through kafala, or sponsorship, systems in order to build the facilities and seven stadiums in preparation for the World Cup. The European Parliament has estimated that thousands of migrant workers have died due to these unfair contracts of exploitation, unsafe working conditions, passport confiscations and forced labor. While Qatar has reimbursed a total of $320 million in unpaid wages through the Worker’s Support and Insurance Fund and passed significant labor reforms for migrant workers such as a minimum wage increase and protections to the right to change jobs without employer consent, the majority of infrastructure worker’s deaths have been reported as “death due to natural causes,” making compensation practically ineligible for families. Western critics continually fail to mention that European construction firms are the highest beneficiaries of these unfair labor practices. Dutch companies reported profits ranging from 1.5 million to tens of millions of euros for subway and port construction projects. A French construction firm, Vinci, has been charged with “labor or housing conditions incompatible with human dignity,” for their contracted transportation construction work. 

In protest of Qatar’s criminalization of homosexual conduct, Germany and seven other European teams planned a campaign to wear rainbow-colored armbands. However, FIFA threatened to issue yellow cards to the captains of any team who participated, leading to increased criticism of the organizing committee. Many critics have also lamented over the schedule change from summer to winter due to high temperatures in the Gulf state. There is an assumption that FIFA should enforce a schedule based only on European holidays, despite the fact that soccer is a global sport. With a constant failure to understand that Western values are not universal, fans have also complained about the ban on alcoholic beverages within stadiums. While alcohol is legal in Qatar, its sale is strictly regulated. FIFA’s president Gianni Infantino addressed the controversies saying, “I think for what we Europeans have been doing around the world for the last 3,000 years, we should be apologizing for the next 3,000 years, before starting to give moral lessons…Don’t criticize Qatar,” he continued, “Don’t criticize the players. Don’t criticize anyone. Criticize FIFA. Criticize me, if you want. Because I’m responsible for everything.” The tournament has become increasingly politicized over the years and FIFA has definitely not been exempt from legitimate criticism. As the tournament comes to a close with Argentina’s victory, fans have pointed out that since 1930 this is only the third time a non-Western country has hosted. Fans have also called for financial reimbursement from FIFA to affected migrant workers and their families as well as modifications to the official rulebooks regarding dress codes. As one of the most prestigious global sports organizations, FIFA has a dismal record in addressing fan criticism, and it’s highly unlikely there will be any material response by 2026.


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