Critics must clean their stables first before singling out Qatar’s failings

The month-long FIFA 2022 ended with a spectacular closing ceremony and the unprecedented controversies and criticisms notwithstanding, Qatar deserves credit for successfully hosting the biggest sporting event on the planet.

I hold no brief for Qatar. The intent of this piece is to put in perspective some facts and while the criticisms from various quarters’ holds water, it is unfair to single out Qatar alone.

It was in 2010 that Qatar was awarded the rights to stage the World Cup, a first for an Arab country. The disapprobation that began since then has not stopped.

No sooner Qatar won the rights, corruption and bribery allegations relating to the voting process surfaced. The allegations were not only against Qatar but also Russia which won the rights at the same time to host the 2018 World Cup.

FIFA was compelled to conduct an independent enquiry into the allegations and in 2017 published the full investigation report exonerating both countries. However, that didn’t silence the critics who attributed Qatar’s victory to various nefarious influences beyond the bid itself.

After Russia successfully hosted the 2018 World Cup and the run-up to the 2022 event began, the spotlight fell again on Qatar. This time the controversy swirled around the harsh summer conditions in the Gulf that players would have to endure.

FIFA found a solution, moving the event to the winter months thus disrupting the renowned football schedules in the northern hemisphere. The gripe? Players will have less time to recover between the World Cup and the regular club season.

Qatar’s pain didn’t end just there as more was to come. Human Rights groups including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch continued to condemn Qatar both for its abuse of migrant workers and its religious extremism. Allegations were levelled against Qatar for the many deaths and abuses of migrant workers who built the stadiums and related infrastructure for the tournament.

Also, human rights groups criticized Qatar for its treatment of women and LGBTQ+ people as well as for the limits on the freedom of expression and the consequences resulting from criticizing the state.

Two days before the opening match Qatar came in for more criticism when it was announced that alcohol will not be served at the stadiums where matches are played.

All that’s a lot of flak indeed and much of it needs serious attention and remedial action.

To some extent, the criticisms against Qatar are true but that is true of the other Gulf states and some beyond. Human rights organisations have accused most of the Gulf states of the abuse of migrant workers and their religious extremism. While homosexuality is criminalized in most of the Gulf states, the sale and consumption of alcohol is heavily restricted in most Gulf countries.

Talking of human rights, is there any country in the world that has a completely clean record? The world is aware of Russia’s human rights record and yes it hosted the 2018 World Cup successfully. China, which hosted the 2008 summer Olympics is no better. A few days before the World Cup kick off, Qatar summoned Germany’s ambassador to Doha to protest remarks made by a German minister on human rights and sustainability relating to Qatar. Despite that, Germany’s players covered their mouths with their hands as they posed for a team photo ahead of their match against Japan in a united response to FIFA banning players from wearing ‘OneLove’ arm bands.

What about the U.S., India, some of our neighboring countries and so many others? One has to only read reports of various human rights organisations to learn about the dismal state of affairs in these countries. Those giving moral lessons must first clean their Augean stables.

The unfair and unprecedented criticism of the tiny desert country points to how politics, time and again, rears its ugly head to stain or mar sporting events. Big money, power, fame, one-upmanship, sportswashing are all intricately intertwined and everything is politicized in our deeply polarized world.

Sports and sporting events must remain apolitical, neutral and inspire peace and unity. What matters is the way the game is played in the true spirit of sportsmanship and enjoyed by both players and spectators.

Being largely unknown in the world of sports as a performer and given the heightened global scrutiny it was subjected to, it was not easy for Qatar to play hosts amid a three-year boycott of it from 2017 by four other Gulf/Arab states. Yet, despite the hostilities, it pulled out all stops, spending a whopping $200 billion plus on hosting the event.

So for now, let’s give it up for Qatar for pulling off the World Cup successfully, bringing the joy and excitement of world class football to fans in their ultra-modern stadiums as well as inside homes worldwide.




Journalist and author/editor based in Bangalore, India. Interests vary from books, music, travel, cycling, walking, news & nostalgia and phone photography.

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Stanley Carvalho

Journalist and author/editor based in Bangalore, India. Interests vary from books, music, travel, cycling, walking, news & nostalgia and phone photography.