FIFA President Sepp Blatter announcing the winner.
FIFA President Sepp Blatter announcing the winner.

The fiasco surrounding FIFA’s executive members to nominate Qatar as host of the 2022 World Cup exposes political errors, both within FIFA and internationally which does not sit well with the need of transparent dialogue in football.

The nation’s “unexpected” win, has been widely celebrated by supporters and football audiences alike, at least in the region. The notion was realized by FIFA based on several factors; two of the important being that this would be the first time an Arab country would be hosting the tournament, and secondly, its ability to act as a platform of opportunity to bridge the gap between the Arab world and the West. Clearly, Qatar was deserving of it.

Then came the allegations.

Initially, it had to do with ex-AFC president Mohammed Bin Hammam, who was a part of the bidding process. He along with Jack Warner, were accused by Chuck Blazer, a FIFA executive committee member and General Secretary of CONCACAF, of bribery based on initial investigations. FIFA ethics committee took over the enquiry and temporarily relieved both from all “football-related” activities eventually banning him for life from football.

Not pleading guilty, Bin Hammam appealed the judgment at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) which negated FIFA’s original decision. Furthermore in December 2012, its recently hired, chief ethics investigator Michael J Garcia, had shut down the case after failing to find any new evidence against the Qatari administrator. 

Then came the allegations that Jack Warner along with a few others were given financial incentives in return for their vote in the natural-gas rich country’s World Cup bidding process. It only got worse when the whistleblower at the center of the allegations, retracted her statements in favor of the Qatari World Cup Committee. As it stands now, FIFA is yet to conclude an investigation on this.image

And most recently, French publisher France Football, revealed a 16 page investigation on the Arab nation’s win. The bases of the various allegations in the report are yet to be thoroughly investigated by FIFA, however, a comment from UEFA president – Michel Platini while being probed about his involvement in the process, was not truly convincing.

“I don’t rule out taking anyone to court who questions my integrity in this vote,”

The tone surrounding the above is not something that the fans would want to hear, considering the situation. Yet, there is a level of strong agreement to the vague but a key statement he had made. The possibility of new countries hosting the tournament.

“I made my choice with complete independence following a simple logic… opening up countries who have never organized major sporting events.”

To top the negative publicity off, a coinciding report publicized by the Human Rights Watch on the labor issues surrounding Qatar did not help either. It is true that many of these Middle Eastern countries provide less than humane conditions for laborers who have to work under shortened time frame and extreme weather conditions. But it is not forced. A look at the visa counters at the Dubai or Doha airports will give you an idea that it can never be forced. People from Sub continental Asia enter in huge numbers as they entertain the idea of a better livelihood in the Middle East than their homeland, even if it meant, working like a modern-day slave. But then again, this does not justify the need to take advantage of their desperacy.

Qatar’s opponents seem to be presenting the facts based on ambiguity — those that have not been effectively validated by FIFA. Not yet, at least.

But for those in the political world, any portrayal of wrongdoing must be in black and white. Bribing and labor issues are immoral and must be explicitly condemned. And yet, in the decade of consistent and growing racist incidents, it is clear that authorities are tied up in “advanced self-benefiting blame games” to accomplish the sport’s goal of fighting corruption before fighting racism.

So what does Qatar winning the bid to host the 2022 World Cup says about both football and politics?

First, it demonstrates that football is indeed subject to the dogmatic pressure of the political realm that is brought to light in any World Cup bidding process. Second, it indicates that the entire process is essentially a self-promotional instrument for a nation, where nations with innovative ideas and a strong case is generally ignored.

Finally, it reveals once again how quickly and negatively the authorities retort to claims without any strong evidence to back them (referring to banning of Bin Hammam, who was later vindicated of any wrongdoing).

For now, it would only do well for Qatar to listen up to the frequent uncomfortable truths underlying hosting a tournament of such magnitude. The country’s vision is that of becoming a greater and a more incremental contributor to the world of football. And hence as expected, a more thoughtful Qatari response to these allegations has come through. The future will only decide if that vision was, supported by the right response.

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