The World Cup kicked off its first game on Sunday, Nov. 20 in Qatar. This country is located in the Middle East with a population of over 2.9 million citizens. As I watched the first game, I wondered how the International Federation of Association Football, or FIFA, arrived in Qatar. FIFA has hosted a world cup every four years, starting with the first World Cup in 1930, and they plan each competition over a decade in advance. The location of the 2022 World Cup was decided on Dec. 2, 2010. On FIFA Uncovered, a Netflix documentary, I saw how each World Cup came to be. Each country makes a bid to FIFA which is then potentially voted upon by the FIFA Congress. The country with the most votes secures the location for the next World Cup.
Now that I’ve given some background on how locations are decided, I would like to discuss why Qatar is not the best location to host the World Cup. Qatar is against gender equality and has laws restricting personal freedoms. Women in Qatar have the right to work, but only with the approval of their family. Abortion is technically legal in Qatar, but to obtain one, a woman would need to meet rigorous criteria and get an approval from three medical specialists. In order for women to get a divorce, they must appeal to the court, while a man can seek a divorce instantly. Based only on these few examples, I hope the picture is clear. Holding the World Cup in Qatar dismisses the problems occurring in the country. When everyone is so focused on the game, the human rights issues get pushed out of sight.
I understand the argument that such a widely televised game could actually increase public awareness of these issues. However, the 1978 World Cup refutes this argument. According to FIFA Uncovered, in 1978, the World Cup hosted in Argentina, was governed by a dictator named Lieutenant General Jorge Rafael Videla. During the soccer tournament, there were whispers within the country that General Videla was responsible for the disappearances of over 30,000 children. The headlines emphasized that this was the first time a World Cup was being held in Argentina while there was very little coverage about the children.
On Nov. 29 during a match of this year’s World Cup between Portugal and Uruguay, a man named Mario Ferri ran onto the field carrying a rainbow flag behind him. Ferri was also wearing a shirt that said “SAVE UKRAINE” and “RESPECT FOR IRANIAN WOMEN.” He was very quickly taken by security. Ferri will not face legal charges, but he was barred from attending any other matches, and had the paperwork allowing him into Qatar revoked. This country is a constitutional monarchy that criminalizes homosexuality, gay marriage and gay adoption.
I ask myself, “What image is Qatar currently presenting to the public?” I think all of Qatar’s human rights issues are not currently being prioritized. As of Nov. 29, the city of Doha is trending based on its beautiful appearance and its eight World Cup stadiums. Qatar is a very rich country, so its appearance is beautiful. However, the trending searches obscure the human rights issues occurring in the country.
I believe hosting a World Cup in a country that discriminates against certain groups of people contradicts the reason for the games. I hope the outcome of this World Cup will be different from what happened in Argentina. But as of right now, hosting the World Cup in Qatar is not sensible.
Nicole Giao is a sophomore majoring in international relations and minoring in French.