It’s the moment we’ve all been waiting for, the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia is on and the eyes of the world are glued to the action, athleticism, and skill on their TV screens.
As we watch and await a winner for this year’s epic tournament of champions, we also look ahead to the next one. The 2022 World Cup tournament will take place in Qatar, and as amazing and unusual as that sounds, it’s also a pick that is shrouded in controversy…
Featured photo credit: www.fifa.com
All the world loves Soccer, or Football, depending on where you’re from. People who most years show little or no interest in nationalism, show up to their local pub painted in their national colors with a flag draped over their shoulders. And if it’s your country that’s hosting the biggest of the big games, then the national pride is even better.
Yet amidst all this camaraderie and pride, the FIFA world cup is not the simple world-merging series of games it appears to be. Underneath all that good feeling, corruption and greed rule the games, and scheming politicians work to take something innocent and turn it into something tainted…
Cities will pay a great deal to act as host for the World Cup. They’ll pay millions to do so and though this is rarely considered legal, it is considered commonplace. That’s not even counting the millions of dollars in “inducements” they use to secure contracts to televise the matches themselves.
FIFA eventually caught wind of the bribes that many of their executives were taking in order to determine where future events would be held and who would host. Unfortunately for the investigators, the process of looking into these alleged bribes was to be a fairly dangerous one. Some of them even received death threats…
Eventually, the U.S. Department of Justice decided to intervene and help suss out where the rampant corruption was coming from. Years of bribery and embezzlement were investigated, and within a few short years the sprawling investigation revealed that more than 40 executives had been involved in the process.
A wave of arrests soon shook all of soccer to its core. Three executives in particular were now on trial for having abused their roles in the global soccer governing body in order to live a life of leisure and untold affluence. But who were these fellows and were they the only ones?
The three executives on trial at the time were Jose Maria Marin, the former president of the Brazilian soccer federation who was arrested in a raid on a hotel in Zurich. Then, there was Juan Angel Napout of Paraguay. The president of the South American Soccer confederation was also arrested in the same Zurich hotel in 2015. Finally there was former Peruvian soccer federation president Manuel Burga, who they caught the same time as Napout.
Trial of Ambition
In addition to those three ne’er do wells, more than 40 other officials and business executives were also charged in conjunction with the crimes. Many of those individuals have pleaded guilty in order to receive reduced sentences. This was something that Marin, Napout, and Burga also tried to do, unsuccessfully…
The three plead guilty to what amounted to a 24-year-scheme and $150 million in bribes, possibly even more. That’s right, these men and their accomplices had been receiving bribes for over two decades from broadcasting companies and host countries. They were going away for a very long time, but the problems brought about by these three men were far from resolved…
This all falls back to the upcoming 2022 World Cup in Qatar. On the surface, the golden sands of the region makes it seem like a unique place to hold one of the world’s biggest tournaments, especially considering the geopolitical issues in the region. But the problems brought about by the location were less about the sand and more about the gold…
The people of Qatar have of course been fairly silent about the whole sordid affair. There is evidence that three South Americans were among 22 FIFA executive voters who took million-dollar bribes to support Qatar. They beat out the United States in the final round of voting, but, refused to speak on the claims of vote-buying divulged in the previous court cases.
FIFA’s decision to have the the 2022 World Cup in Qatar is one of the most toxic ones it could have made, especially considering the corruption uncovered by the U.S. Department of Justice. The bid itself is stained by whispers of continued corruption. Even after the Middle East was selected, further humanitarian issues surfaced…
There are rumors that a pact exists between Qatar and Spain-Portugal. It was investigated by FIFA’s ethics committee twice prior to the 2018 bidding but went nowhere. However, it was recently proven to be at least partly true when a trusted associate to the late former FIFA senior vice president Julio Grondona, admitted he helped channel millions in bribes on their behalf.
The man claimed that he witnessed an altercation between VP Grondona and Qatari officials at a FIFA event. Apparently Grondona was furious that his name kept coming up in the news. He was implicated in corruption and told the representatives from Qatar that either they would pay him $80 million or write a letter saying they never paid. It was a pretty overt threat…
The controversies that surround the Qatari games are mainly focused on the labor currently being retained to build the infrastructure needed for such an immense series of games. Men and women have been brought into the country to help build stadiums and housing, but many of them have become trapped by their supposed “temporary contract.”
These desperate workers arrive in the country thinking they’ll be paid well and leave when they’re done, but what they find when they arrive is much worse than they ever expected. Many have their passports taken away by their would-be bosses, who promise only to return them once the hard work is done. Obviously working conditions aren’t much better than the contracts…
Rally the Righteous
Labor rights and more importantly human rights are being pushed to the limit as Qatar gears up for the games. The people who paid the bribes are basically using slave labor to build the stadiums and there seems to be no end in sight. Many human rights activists are stepping in, however, and their aim is to help improve conditions, at least somewhat.
Brave the Sands
At this point, we don’t know what teams will qualify for the desert tournament. Yet, nothing seems to be slowing down Qatar’s ever-expanding infrastructure. There have been talks about players staying in Abu Dhabi or Dubai and being flown 200 miles across the desert for the games in Qatar, but it seems a strange prospect..
Secure the Wastes
Currently, the current geopolitical fighting that is happening in the Gulf is making any transport to and from the Qatar World Cup problematic. Qatar is currently trying to settle differences with the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and some other Middle East countries to allow for safer passage, but peace in that region would be tenuous at best.
Corruption has always been a part of organized sports, and even with the efforts of FIFA and the Dept. of Justice, that doesn’t seem to be abating much. The hope is that things improve in Qatar and that in 2022 the world will once again come together to celebrate competition, national pride, skill, and positivity.