World Cup Fever

A partial list of reasons to worry about the 2022 World Cup in Qatar
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Nice logo, though.

The Guardian reports that Qatar’s FIFA World Cup construction is averaging about a dead worker a day. Qatar will need one million more laborers by 2022. One estimate holds that at this rate, 4,000 workers will die before the first kickoff. But let us remember the many other reasons Qatar’s World Cup promises to be an epic clusterfuck.

● It will be hard to get beer.

Qatar has muttered vague assurances about permitting alcohol in “Fan Zones.” This could mean packed bars in which the thirsty collapse from sunstroke and a cold pint costs its weight in virgin rhino blood. And that only applies to these special areas. If you smuggle an off-sponsor IPA into Fenway, maybe security ejects you. If a misguided England supporter smuggles in a flask of Smirnoff to Al-Wakrah Stadium, who knows? Current law provides for deportation and imprisonment, or in special cases, lashings.

● Qatar has no other use for those stadiums.

When fans leave, these stadiums will have twice as many seats as Qatar has citizens. Ramses III was right: to achieve immortality, one must compel an enormous pool of exploitable labor to build a briefly ceremonial, functionally useless monument in the middle of the desert. No one will even bother to raze it for parking spots.

● FIFA’s delegates were (probably, allegedly, don’t sue us) bribed as fuck.

A handful of representatives choose the location of world cups—this means only a few people need to be…influenced. The going rate for a FIFA delegate’s vote seems to be about 1.5 million alleged dollars, although an alleger alleged that Trinidad and Tobago’s delegate requested a 4 million dollar education center, and the son of an African delegate was offered a million dollars to host a dinner. They all undercharged. Nicholas Sarkozy pressured a French delegate to vote for the Qatari bid, according to a French magazine. Coincidentally the Qatar Investment Authority dropped $67 million into Sarkozy’s near-bankrupt favorite soccer team. FIFA President Sepp Blatter declared the Qatar World Cup bid tainted by “direct political influence.” Those are multi-billion dollar syllables: the accusation could give FIFA legal wiggle room to void Qatar’s contract.

● The games are probably going to be played in winter.

Instead of relocating the games to a country that kills fewer slaves, FIFA will likely just reschedule. Qatar can reach 120 Fahrenheit in July, which is hot enough to kill manual laborers and, if they remain delicate, soccer players. FIFA may use the “direct political influence” leverage to move the games to winter.

● So now Fox is pissed.

Fox paid a record $425 million for the rights to televise summer World Cups in 2014 and 2022, not for conflicts with NFL schedules.

● Pro soccer clubs are pissed too.

The schedule change muddies a six-week chunk of the lucrative club soccer season. Coaches at Arsenal, Bayern, and the like will lose their stars for key games.

● Gay fans could be imprisoned.

Homosexuality is illegal in Qatar, which is a shame considering the country’s male/female ratio of 3:1. FIFA seems to be counting on lax enforcement. Blatter suggested gay visitors “refrain from sexual activities.” Fans should just risk it. Qatar haven’t flogged a US citizen for anal since 1995.

● We’re going to have to watch Qatar's soccer team play.

World Cup rules award the host country a berth. Qatar is currently ranked 106th in the world, between Latvia and New Caledonia.

● Seriously, though: Slavery.

Workers are earning a dollar an hour and apparently being charged for drinking water. ITUC investigators are certain 404 laborers have died this year already. It’s also basically illegal to quit. Qatar’s Kafala system essentially gives workers a choice: obey your boss, flee, or rot in prison. None of these free laborers’ families from debt. Workers who can convince their boss to let them leave realize they can’t afford to quit. What boss wouldn’t abuse that kind of authority?

Aidan McQuade, director of Anti-Slavery International, told the Guardian, “There is no longer a risk that the World Cup might be built on forced labor. It is already happening.” Promises from Qatar’s contractors mean nothing. While Kafala laws remain, any employee who travels to Qatar surrenders to their employer’s mercy.


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