With Brazil’s World Cup Over Focus Now Shifts to Russia and Qatar

I want to start by saying that I am in no way a soccer fanatic or expert. I did not watch much during the tournament except for bits and pieces when the US team had a match. However, my expertise of the game, or lack thereof, will not be needed for my analysis. I will not discuss the scores of matches, how many times red cards were handed out, or how many games were won in extra time. What I kept thinking about was the controversy surrounding not only this year’s World Cup in Brazil, but the World Cups in Russia in 2018 and Qatar in 2022.

Brazil’s World Cup

One of the best pieces of coverage about the controversy surrounding the World Cup in Brazil, and FIFA itself as organization, aired on Last Week Tonight with Jon Oliver[1]. In the segment Oliver details not only the rumors dealing with the history of bribery, but also the hypocrisy around FIFA calling itself a non-profit organization. He also highlights how FIFA uses its power to strong arm countries into writing new laws or changing current laws to benefit them. Some of the highlights from the segment are:

  • The government of Brazil spent more than 11 BILLON dollars getting ready for the World Cup.
  • The new stadium in the city of Manaus, which cost 270 MILLION dollars to build, only hosted 4 World Cup games. (If you do the math that came out to 67.5 MILLION dollars a game. Keep in mind Manaus does not have a soccer team).
  • When it comes to World Cups FIFA, not the hosting country, is usually the one getting most of the money.
  • FIFA and their subsidiaries are exempt from the hosting country’s tax codes. That’s 250 MILLION dollars in taxes in the country of Brazil.
  • Due to a high death rate concerning alcohol and fans, in 2003 the Brazilin government banned alcohol in stadiums. However, the government later passed, thanks to pressure from FIFA, the ‘Budweiser Bill’ (Budweiser is a FIFA sponsor) that gave permission to sell beer in stadiums during World Cup matches.
  • FIFA spent 27 MILLION dollars creating the movie ‘United Passions’ to let the world know, according to them, how ‘great’ FIFA is.
  • In 2022 the country of Qatar will be hosting the World Cup. In the summers there the temperatures can reach up to 122 degrees.
  • Former vice president of FIFA Jack Warner resigned after bribery accusations (reportedly received 2 million dollars for his vote giving the World Cup to Qatar).

For those of you who may want to watch the segment in its entirety: 

Did Russia and Qatar Help Each Other Win World Cup Bids?

Now that the 2014 World Cup has ended the focus has shifted to the 2018 World Cup in Russia and the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. In an article written by BBC Sports[2] it discusses what it says are several leaked e-mails in which former FIFA vice-president Mohamed bin Hammam:

  • Visited Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin to discuss “bilateral relations” between Russia and Qatar a month before the votes for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.
  • Brokered government level talks for Thailand’s Fifa executive Worawi Makudi to push a deal on importing gas from Qatar to Thailand. Makudi told the paper he did not receive a concession for his part in any gas deal.
  • Invited Germany’s former Fifa executive Franz Beckenbauer to Doha just five months after the vote with bosses from an oil and gas shipping firm which was employing him as a consultant. The firm involved says it was exploring possible Qatari investments in the shipping and maritime sector but that no deal ever came from the talks. When approached by the Sunday Times, former German international Beckenbauer declined to comment.
  • Fixed meetings between nine Fifa executive committee members, including Blatter, with members of the Qatari royal family.
  • Arranged a meeting between the Qatar bid team and Uefa boss Michel Platini at European football’s headquarters in Nyon. Platini, who has openly admitted voting for Qatar, says Bin Hammam did not attend the meeting and insists he has nothing to hide.

 

A Bribery Scandal Is Not The Only Thing Plaguing The 2022 World Cup.

In an article written on MotherJones.com by Sam Brodey titled “A Guide to the Scandals Plaguing the World Cup”[3] he points out terrible treatment of the workers responsible for creating the new stadiums and buildings that will be host to the World Cup matches and ceremonies. According to the article 1,200 workers have died since it was announced that Qatar won the bid to hold the World Cup. Most of the workers come from South and Southeast Asia and they cannot leave Qatar without the written permission of their employer.  Kafala[4] is a system in which a worker is contracted to his employer for a period of time. The problem arises when the employer will not pay the money the worker was promised, and in many cases not pay them at all. They are not able to look for better jobs because the employer has their passport. They cannot leave the country and could be there working for an indefinite period of time.

ESPN’s investigative program E:60 did an a piece documenting worker abuse, high rate of worker death and the slavery-like system in which the workers and their employers operate. In the video Jeremy Schaap spoke to Sharan Burrow, the General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation[5] (ITUC). The organization’s mission is to defend workers rights around the world.  Burrow has visited Qatar 12 times since 2010 and refers to it as a “slave- state in the 21 century.”[6] Workers are not to be around Qatari citizens and are placed in workers camps. These camps are crowded and have horrible sanitary conditions where the air is permeated with smell of fecal matter. Burrow states that more than 4,000 workers will die before a game is even played in 2022.

 In Qatar and Russia Homosexuality Is Illegal

Qatar’s multiple human rights violations of its workers are not the only thing tarnishing the 2022 World Cup. The country’s antigay laws are also drawing criticism. In Qatar homosexuality is illegal and there have been documented cases for foreigners being deported or imprisoned. In a 2010 article in The Guardian the president of FIFA, Sepp Blatter, when asked about the concern about the way LGBT fans may be treated when they attend the games he was quoted as saying that they “should refrain” from homosexual activity[7].

Russia has had its own documented history of mistreatment and discrimination associated with their antigay laws. If you watched even a small portion of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi you may have come across news segments where Russia’s enforcement of their antigay laws came under fire. In an article that appeared on MotheJones.com in August of 2013 titled “How Russia’s Anti-Gay Law Could Affect the 2014 Olympics, Explained” the writers detail what the law entails and the consequences one faces if they break that law. The law, Article 6.21 of the Code of the Russian Federation on Administrative Offenses, states that a person can be fined if they are “accused of spreading ‘propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations amongst minors’ between 4,000 and 1 million rubles ($120 to $30,000). It passed by a vote of 436-0. A law passed in 2012 also bans gay-pride events in Moscow for the next 100 years.”[8] There have also been cases of beatings and torture of persons within the LGBT community, both by other citizens, who feel that being a homosexual is wrong, and by the police.

What Does the Future Hold?

Will Russia and Qatar fix the issues plaguing them before their respective World Cup’s? The thing is no one really knows. If they do not, one can expect loud protests in the streets and a real chance of violence. If FIFA and the host countries don’t find a resolution then we, as a whole, could wind up talking about politics and laws instead of the games themselves.

 

Works Cited

 

[1] “FIFA and the World Cup .” Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. HBO. 8 June 2014. Web. 17 July 2014. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DlJEt2KU33I&feature=kp&gt;.

[2] “Qatar 2022: Fifa sponsors back corruption investigation.” British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) . N.p., 9 June 2014. Web. 17 July 2014. <http://www.bbc.com/sport/0/football/27751265&gt;.

[3] Brodey, Sam. “A Guide to the Scandals Plaguing the World Cup.” Mother Jones. N.p., 12 June 2014. Web. 17 July 2014. <http://www.motherjones.com/media/2014/06/fifa-world-cup-scandals-brazil-qatar&gt;.

[4] Khan, Azfar. “Why it’s time to end kafala.” The Guardian. N.p., 26 Feb. 2014. Web. 17 July 2014. <http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2014/feb/26/time-to-end-kafala&gt;.

[5] International Trade Union Confederation. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 July 2014. <http://www.ituc-csi.org/&gt;.

[6] “Qatar’s World Cup.” Host Jeremy Schaap. E:60. ESPN. 1 June 2014. Web. 17 July 2014. <http://www.espnfc.com/video/latest-videos/600/video/1857246&gt;.

[7] Gibson, Owen. “Fifa boss tells gay fans: ‘Don’t have sex at Qatar World Cup’.” The Guardian. N.p., 14 Dec. 2010. Web. 17 July 2014. <http://www.theguardian.com/football/2010/dec/14/fifa-boss-gay-fans-no-sex&gt;.

[8] Levintova, Hannah, and Ian Gordon. “How Russia’s Anti-Gay Law Could Affect the 2014 Olympics, Explained.” Mother Jones. N.p., 16 Aug. 2013. Web. 17 July 2014. <http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2013/08/sochi-olympics-putin-anti-gay-law-explained&gt;.