FIFA’s World Cup extravaganza rocks up on the shores of Qatar in 2022 along with the 32 qualifying nations and their hundreds of thousands of fans.
It will be the first time since Japan & South Korea hosted the 2002 finals that the largest global sports event will call Asia its home. However, it has been shrouded in controversy ever since Qatar was announced as the host country for 2022.
Wrapped in a mystery of controversial votes and payments, Qatar was awarded the honour of hosting the 2022 tournament leading to a logistical planning nightmare that would play out over the following years.
Qatar will be the first Arab state to host the World Cup finals. The country, which is home to over 2.5 million people, will have to cope with a population increase of between 20-35% for the duration of the competition. This is including the potential gain if, as FIFA seem to be considering, the competition is increased from a 32-team tournament to a 48-team one.
In December, FIFA president Gianni Infantino confirmed that most of the global football federations were leaning towards expanding the current 32-team format to a 48-team World Cup finals. A final decision on the matter is expected to take place ahead of the qualifying draw which is this March.
Initially, FIFA voted to move to a 48-team tournament from the 2026 World Cup. However, Infantino feels that a good idea then is surely a good idea now and that he would be all for bringing the change forward in time for Qatar 2022.
Infantino also mentioned the possibility of some of Qatar’s neighbouring states hosting matches if the tournament is expanded. It is also, likely that some of the competing nations might be based in one or two of those countries for the group stages at least.
There has been a lot of political furore between Qatar and Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt with those countries all starting a trade boycott of Qatar in June 2017. Their reason? They are accusing the Qatari state of supporting terrorism, an accusation Qatar is denying.
Clearly, if this is still the case come 2022, those nations will not be lining up to assist Qatar with the hosting of matches, teams, fans etc. Yet, Infantino believes it is still possible.
“If we can accommodate some of the neighbouring countries in the Gulf region which are very close by to host a few games in the World Cup this could be very beneficial for the region and the entire world,” the FIFA president said.
“There are tensions in this particular region and it’s up to their respective leaders to deal with that but maybe it’s easier to talk about a joint football project than more complicated things.
“If it can help all the people in the Gulf and all the countries in the world develop football and bring a positive message to the world about football, then you should give it a try.”
The other huge change that has already been confirmed for the World Cup in Qatar is the scheduling of the tournament. Unlike all previous World Cups, Qatar 2022 will not take place in the summer months. The competition will start in late November. This is due to the sweltering heat conditions in Qatar during the summer. The venues which will be hosting the games are supposed to reduce the on-the-field temperatures by 20℃ via ultra air-conditioning setups.
FIFA will be fitting the whole tournament into a reduced timeframe of 28 days with the final match itself taking place on December 18th, 2022. Various publications have also predicted that due to global warming and climate change we might just have to get used to watching the World Cup in the Autumn/Winter months in the latter half of this century.
Unfortunately, the biggest concern surrounding Qatar 2022 is undoubtedly the human factor. Several hundred Nepalese and Indian workers have died during construction since 2010 in Qatar due to lax safety conditions and poor healthcare for the workers. There have also been published reports comparing some of the work conditions to modern-day slavery as the labourers are pushed beyond their limits in many cases.
Along with the allegations of corruption surrounding the initial Qatari World Cup bid, the purported human rights violations, which have been consistent throughout the construction process, call for a whole separate investigation altogether.
Whether the Qatar 2022 tournament goes ahead without further incident, it will already be fighting to make its way out from under a shadow of shame. Yet, shame is something FIFA seems to deal with quite comfortably.