Voices: 100 days to go – and we’re no closer to justifying the Qatar World Cup

·3-min read

We are now just 100 days from the kick-off of the 2022 Qatar World Cup. It is usually around this time that fans cast an eye forward to who might make it onto the plane, group stage fixture predictions and tactical breakdowns. For fans, like myself, it’s a time of nervous anticipation – could this finally be our year?

This time however, I find myself in a different place entirely. No amount of build up can help me look past the fact that this World Cup is so utterly wrong, in so many ways.

Not only was this grand idea born, kicking and screaming, in controversy, surrounded by rumblings of corruption and rumours of bribery, but it has grown up ignorant of the gaping holes that make up its tattered human rights record.

Despite its ugly beginnings, World Cups should be exactly what they say they are – worldwide. Every continent should have the chance to host the most prestigious festival of sport in the world. Therefore, once it became clear that the decision to allow Qatar to host was not going to be reversed, I was keen for the Gulf State to be given the opportunity to right the wrongs in preparation for this incredible event. I was left disappointed in every possible aspect.

It has become blatantly obvious that Qatar is nowhere near fit to be hosting this tournament, given reports that they have stood by and allowed as many as 6,500 migrant workers to die since being awarded the World Cup in 2010. Capital punishment still exists there, although it is rarely implemented, although not as rare as evidence of women’s rights.

Not only this, but laws that oppress the LGBT+ community in the state have not been remotely modified, changed or even addressed.

I recently produced a piece looking at LGBT+ fan access (or lack of) to the World Cup, in which I interviewed Joe White, co-chair of Three Lions Pride fan group. They revealed a lack of communication from both Fifa and the Qatari supreme committee, which has overseen the organisation of the tournament. There seems to have been plenty of rhetoric coming from all sides that “everyone is welcome”, yet, as Joe put it, that pledge is completely “hollow” for LGBT+ people.

Same-sex relationships are illegal and potentially punishable by death in Qatar, and no detail has been provided that explains how exactly the state can make good on their promise and guarantee the safety and enjoyment of LGBT+ fans. There will be no suspension of law for the duration of the tournament, and we’ve seen no explanation to fan groups on what safety provisions are in place – just empty assurances and recycled propagandic spiel about inclusivity.

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One high-ranking Qatari security official even indicated that fans carrying Pride flags could expect to be met with violence outside stadiums from the general public, before very kindly offering to “take” those flags away from those deemed at risk. That, in itself, sums it up rather well: a security official advising fans to not be themselves instead of addressing the issues himself, which is literally his job.

So here we are, over 10 years in, 100 days out, and still the questions around how Qatar can possibly justify its position as host remain as prevalent as they ever have. They could have made the best of an already bad PR situation by putting on a truly inclusive festival of football after claims of shady deals, corruption and deceit.

Instead, they chose near-slave labour costing thousands of lives and continue to ignore the world’s cries for actual guarantees on the safety of fans travelling from across the globe.

Nobody should fear for their safety for attending a World Cup. Nobody should have to build stadiums under poor work safety conditions. Nobody should have died in the process. Nobody can justify the World Cup in Qatar.