The World Cup is the king of soccer competitions. Every four years, the Fédération Internationale de Football Association Executive Committee elects one lucky nation (or sometimes two) by secret ballot to host the competition. Hundreds of millions of people watch the action of the contest, which consists of thirty-two teams playing through both group and knockout stages to be crowned world champions.
In 2010, FIFA convened to elect the host country for the 2022 competition (the huge amount of infrastructure requires many years for the host to prepare). After the votes were cast, FIFA granted the honor to Qatar, which beat out the United States, Australia, Japan, and South Korea. Qatar, a small Arab state located on the Persian Gulf with a population of only 1.5 million, should never have been awarded the 2022 World Cup bid.
The most obvious red flag with this decision is that there have been accusations of foul play in the Executive Committee’s decision. Specifically, concerns have been raised that a number of officials were bribed over one million dollars to vote for Qatar. If substantiated, these reports could result in an unprecedented re-vote for the bid, presumably with the U.S., Japan, South Korea, and Australia vying for the honor. The fate of the 2022 World Cup is now potentially completely up in the air. This time, however, FIFA should handle the decision with far greater care.
First of all, the World Cup is a summer competition. Qatar is, frankly, a desert, with summer temperatures easily reaching 104 degrees Fahrenheit. The average 90-minute soccer game is physically very taxing—it is not uncommon for players to run about seven miles over the duration of a game, including quite a bit of sprinting. Not only would such heat be uncomfortable for the players, but it would also be downright dangerous. The professional soccer world has seen its fair share of health incidents recently, notably the death of Italian Serie B midfielder Piermario Morosini, who collapsed and ultimately died during a league match in April.
To Qatar’s credit, it has released grand plans for new stadiums. But while the proposed venues are certainly advanced and eye-catching, the four other countries that Qatar beat all have better resources to host an event on this scale. The U.S. in particular, as it already has enough stadiums, would be well prepared to host the event. Qatar, contrarily, may find itself facing the problem of simply accomodating all of the soccer fans over the course of the tournament, which lasts an entire month.
The culture of the country could also prove to be very problematic. Qatar is a conservative Muslim country, and the sale of alcohol is limited to five-star hotels. The World Cup Finals, on the other hand, is normally a raucous and party-oriented event. Alcohol consumption is an integral part and, despite the danger invariably associated with drunk fans at stadiums supporting different teams, it is unlikely that fans traveling thousands of miles to have fun and cheer on their home country will forsake the consumption of alcohol under any circumstances. While alcohol is only one example, the culture in Qatar and the Arabian Gulf is certainly far more foreign to many soccer-lovers worldwide than other host countries, the most recent being South Africa and Germany, where the predominant Western culture was already well-known to many who came.
FIFA would thus do well to reconsider the 2022 World Cup location when the executive committee convenes to cast its new vote. Qatar, despite making a strong presentation for itself with its state-of-the-art stadiums, nevertheless lacks important qualities necessary to host a global event on such a grand scale.
Paul C. Castrigano ’14 is a Linguistics concentrator in Dunster House.