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Qatar FIFA World Cup controversy: What you need to know

The 2022 FIFA World Cup was held in Qatar from November 20 to December 18, where 32 countries’ men’s national teams competed in international football (soccer). Argentina clinched its third World Cup victory by defeating France in the final match.

This tournament marked the first time the World Cup was hosted in the Middle East after Qatar won the rights to host in 2010. Qatar’s national team made their debut in the tournament, while Canada returned after almost forty years, and Wales qualified for the first time since 1958. Among the favorites to win again were Argentina, Brazil, England, and France, as only eight countries had previously won any of the 21 World Cup tournaments. The preparation for this event, from Qatar’s bid launch in 2009 to its realization in 2022, was a lengthy and controversial journey.

  Corruption Allegations

The organizers of the 2022 World Cup strongly denied allegations from the U.S. Department of Justice that bribes were paid to safe votes while the hosting rights for the tournament were awarded 12 years ago. Suspicion and rumors had long surrounded both the 2010 vote by FIFA’s executive to hand the 2018 World Cup to Russia, and the 2022 tournament to Qatar, and prosecutors had set direct, formal allegations regarding both tournaments down in an indictment in 2020.

Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy, responsible for the necessary infrastructure and the host country’s planning and operations, had rejected the charges. Qatar 2022 CEO Nasser Al Khater had told reporters when the Middle Eastern country marked a year to go for the tournament that Qatar had been “unfairly treated and scrutinized” for a number of years.

Welfare of migrant workers

Qatar had faced intense criticism from human rights groups over its treatment of migrant workers, who, along with other foreigners, comprised the bulk of the country’s population.

A 48-page report by Amnesty, Reality Check 2021, highlighted practices such as withholding salaries and charging workers to change jobs, which were still prevalent despite labor reforms in 2014.

The government of Qatar had stated that its labor system was a work in progress but had denied the allegations in the report suggesting that thousands of migrant workers in the 2022 World Cup host nation were being trapped and exploited.

Amnesty and other rights groups had called on FIFA to compensate migrant workers in Qatar for human rights abuses by setting aside $440 million, matching the World Cup prize money.

The Football Associations of 10 European nations, including England and Germany, had urged FIFA to take action to improve the rights of migrant workers in Qatar. FIFA had written to World Cup teams, urging them to focus on the football in Qatar and not let the sport be dragged into ideological or political battles.

LGBTQIA+ rights

Basеd on Islamic Law Sharia, homosexuality was illegal, and samе-sеx marriage or advocating for LGBTQIA+ rights was prohibited.  ‘Sodomy’ bеtwееn men could lеad to imprisonment for up to thrее yеars or еvеn thе possibility of thе dеath penalty, although thеrе was no recorded instance of thе maximum penalty being еxеcutеd.

Dеspitе warnings against public displays of affection, the organizеrs of the World Cup had еmphasizеd that еvеryonе, irrеspеctivе of their sexual oriеntation or origin was welcome.  FIFA had announcеd that flags would be allowed insidе thе stadiums and at official parties, known as “FIFA Fun Fest.”

Climate

The 2022 World Cup was the first in history to have taken place in a different period of the year. Its schedule has been changed to November and December due to the intense heat in Qatar.

During June and July, when the event usually takes place, the temperatures used to exceed 50ºC, making playing football almost impossible. However, even with the date change, the stadiums were air-conditioned.

Women’s right

In Qatar, women’s rights are a delicate subject.  Woman could facе thе penalty of flagеllation and a sеvеn-yеar sеntеncе if convicted of having sеx outside of marriagе.  Human Rights Watch highlighted that womеn in Qatar nееdеd permission from thеir ‘malе guardians’ to marry,  study abroad on govеrnmеnt scholarships,  work in many government jobs,  or travеl abroad until a cеrtain agе.  This discriminatory systеm denied womеn thе authority to act as primary guardians of thеir children, еvеn aftеr divorce and having lеgal custody.  There existed a growing wage gap affecting both Qatari and non-Qatari women, where they were paid 25% to 50% less than men despite comparable working hours. This disparity was partly due to social allotments granted by the government to men as heads of households, such as housing and travel allotments, which female workers were less likely to receive.

However, despite these challenges, Qatar was considered a safe place for foreign women, and booking tickets and hotels and renting a car in the country during the competition were expected to be relatively easy.

Drinking

In Qatar, the sale and consumption of alcohol in public places were prohibited. Being visibly intoxicated while walking down the street could lead to intervention by the police, and driving under the influence of alcohol was considered unacceptable. These rules were based on “sharia,” the law enforced in many countries with a predominantly Muslim population.

Bars and nightclubs inside large hotels in the Qatari capital were typically licensed to sell alcohol. The regular patrons were mostly foreign residents – constituting over 85% of the country’s population – or tourists. The country had only one licensed liquor distributor and allowed controlled access for those interested in purchasing and consuming alcohol at home. Fans traveling to the World Cup had been prohibited from carrying alcoholic beverages in their suitcases and were also restricted from purchasing from the country’s sole liquor store.