On Nov. 20, the long-awaited FIFA World Cup will kick off in Qatar. Despite the excitement of fans worldwide, the 2022 World Cup has been rife with intense controversy. Qatar has been accused of devastating human rights violations against the workers who built the stadiums, and the country’s lack of environmental concern has also been a source of international contempt.
In 2010, FIFA officials granted Qatar the prestigious right to host the World Cup––a right that brings financial and political benefits. This decision was met with immediate backlash after allegations arose that a number of senior FIFA officials had been bribed to vote for Qatar. After a two-year-long investigation, FIFA’s ethics committee concluded that Jack Warner, Mohammed bin Hammam, and Reynald Temarii—the individuals most likely to be implicated—were no longer involved in football and elected to allow Qatar to host the event.
However, former FIFA president Sepp Blatter revealed in his autobiographical book, Ma Vérité, that the Qatar bid committee cheated to gain the rights to host the World Cup. Blatter explained that the Qatari government bribed and placed intense political pressure on FIFA’s senior officials, and that if the officials had properly reviewed Qatar’s candidacy, they would never have awarded Qatar the rights.
In the decade that it has taken for Qatar to build the necessary accommodations to host the World Cup, sources have reported over 6,500 migrant worker deaths due to the inhumane working conditions at many of the country’s construction sites. Despite reforms put in place, Qatar largely abides by the kafala system, which creates a fixed sponsorship between migrant workers and their employers. Workers are highly dependent on their employers, leading to rampant human rights abuses and exploitation. Amnesty International disclosed that workers’ passports were stolen, that they had been lied to about their salaries, and that their remuneration had been withheld from them. Workers were also prevented from leaving not only the country but the stadium itself, receiving constant threats from their superiors.
These environmental and humanitarian concerns make the 2022 World Cup a highly contentious event, leaving many fans to debate boycotting the event. For Blanche Cartier, BA ‘22, the right choice is clear.
“I will be boycotting the World Cup because it is an environmental and humanitarian disaster,” Cartier told The McGill Tribune. “I feel absolutely no desire to watch games that were built on the deaths of over 6,500 people. Even though Belgium and Canada are playing, which are my two favourite [teams], I refuse to watch because I do not want to support this.”
With the World Cup only taking place every four years and the Canadian National men’s team qualifying for the first time since 1986, many football fans are choosing to watch simply out of their excitement and love for the sport. For Peter Cocks, a third-year political science and history major, the decision to watch is complicated yet worthwhile.
“Football has a magical quality; regardless of controversy around a game, once that ball is in play half the world forgets everything other than the game,” Cocks told the Tribune. “We all get hooked in by the spectacle, it’s an escape from the real world and all the troubles it holds. FIFA can’t just pull wool over our eyes. Football can, but only for 90 minutes.”
Regardless of who chooses to boycott the World Cup, the event is undoubtedly tainted by the appalling human rights violations faced by the workers. Ignoring human rights violations sets a precedent that FIFA cares more about money than migrant lives. FIFA’s decision to allow the World Cup to proceed in Qatar—despite their knowledge of the conditions—has upheld the demand for migrant labour, exponentially increasing the number of lives harmed during the construction process. This event has tarnished the legacy of FIFA, and for many fans everywhere, it has marred their respect for the organization.