Zachary Antoyan is a political science senior and Mustang News liberal columnist. These views do not necessarily reflect the opinion or editorial coverage of Mustang News.
Soccer is a popular sport. I feel pretty safe in that assumption. I did not, however, feel safe eating at the same table as my friend who had the balls to wear his Portugal flag as a cape during the USA vs. Portugal World Cup game. But a great game it was, even if the last 30 seconds of it were as heartbreaking as seeing the sunrise from the 24-hour lounge at the Robert E. Kennedy Library.
Soccer is finally finding its way into the hearts of Americans, serving purpose to more than just moms with vans. But it also has its share of problems, just as baseball does with steroids and lying to grand juries, football (the other kind) does with traumatic life-long brain injuries and domestic violence, and curling does with a shortage of stones (not that kind) and popularity in general. More interestingly, but also unfortunately, these problems include but are not limited to: corruption, slavery, murder and faking injuries. And these are issues that cannot be fixed with simple “education systems” and “training programs.”
So let’s go back as far as we can to start out this tale o’ woe. The year is 2010, and there are five countries vying for the ability to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup: South Korea, the U.S. (because duh), Japan, Australia and Qatar. The soccer version of the Olympic Committee puts its votes together and whiz bang boom, Qatar is awarded the honor of spending billions to build structures to use for a few months to then abandon and forget. So Qatar is stoked, and instead of deciding to just build a few stadiums it wants to build a whole city. It even gets the famous architect Zaha Hadid to design some stadiums.
As of right now, construction continues on schedule and things are going as planned — exactly as planned. Muahahaha!
You may be asking yourself: “Why did he decide to put that menacing laugh in there à la Monte Burns?” Well, here is the short version: Qatari officials bribed members of the FIFA committee to get bids for Qatar during the voting process and then lured thousands of migrant workers to build the needed infrastructure, promising good pay and accommodations.
Instead, contractors took the visas of the workers once they arrived—which prevented them from leaving—and paid them little to nothing. Unsafe, unhealthy and dangerous living and working conditions have, as of May, killed more than 1,000 workers and are on pace to take the lives of 4,000 total by 2022.
And finally, the No. 1 reason why the location of the 2022 World Cup should be changed: It’s just too damn hot in Qatar for safe soccer-playing conditions. But don’t worry, they’ve got machines that make man-made clouds to fix the problem, which are no doubt fueled by the tears of endangered animals.
According to emails obtained by the Sunday Times, Qatari soccer official Mohamed Bin Hammam bribed other soccer officials, worth a total of $5 million, in order to ensure support for Qatar’s bid in 2010. Specifically, former Vice President of FIFA Jack Warner was identified to have received some of these bribes, and in 2011, he resigned from every official soccer affiliation he was part of. And his benefactor, Hammam, was banned from all FIFA dealings in that same year, reinstated because of a lack of evidence and banned again in 2012 for more bribery charges. Hell, they probably paid off Hadid to design one of the stadiums to look like a vagina. (Seriously, look it up, it looks like a giant vagina.)
These circumstances, however, have not warranted a revote for a 2022 World Cup location. Despite the bribery accusations staunchly challenged by the Qatari government, construction continued. But in 2013, an investigation by The Guardian revealed workers were dying at a rate of one person per day, and that workers “face exploitation and abuses that amount to modern-day slavery.” Workers complain of lacking access to clean drinking water, pay being withheld, not being able to leave the country, sleeping in rooms with 12 other people and work days lasting 24 hours, in addition to a host of other abuses.
Then, in early 2014, Qatar did its own report, claiming that fewer than 1,000 people had died in construction efforts. Based on the report’s numbers in the report, the International Trade Union Confederation believes that by 2022, nearly 4,000 people will have lost their lives in the process.
More recently, two men who were researching the working conditions have gone missing without a trace. All in all, the driving force behind a change in venue for the 2022 World Cup has nothing to do with these issues. Instead, FIFA officials are more worried about the heat during the summer in Qatar, and what effect it will have on players and fans. In true avoiding-the-issue fashion, we will at some point enjoy our soccer at the expense of the lives of thousands. But it’s just a game, right?
For more information on this situation, you can watch this short documentary and read this report prepared by Amnesty International. And if you’re reading this in print, don’t put a finger through the paper trying to click it; that won’t work. I tried. Go to the Internet instead.
This is Zachary Antoyan, wondering if the endangered animals tears joke was going a bit too far…nahhhh. Have a good week, everyone.