The fate of FIFA 2022 has been under discussion since 2010. Everything was undecided, and no one knew that the World Cup 2022 would become a history-altering event. Now that the World Cup has kicked off, it is the best time to revisit how it all came to this point from the starting point.
How it all came to Qatar
Michel Platini arrived on a cold November day in 2010 to privately meet the French President. Platini, the legendary French player and a powerful soccer personality, entered the lavish salon of the President’s official residence, only to find that Nicolas Sarkozy, the French President was not there. Instead, a small group was engaged in a discussion that would change everything in the future. At that time, no one knew that it would change his career, reputation, and the sports itself.
Qatar’s Prime Minister, Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani, was invited as the guest of honor at the luncheon that day. It was soon revealed that the Qataris had flown to Paris to discuss a plan. Their tiny yet outrageously wealthy Gulf state desired to host the World Cup.
Platini, FIFA’s Vice President, was always averted to this idea, voicing his opinion about the various factors that made Qatar an unsuitable place to home the world cup. He deemed Qatar a country lacking any significant soccer tradition and necessary infrastructure like football stadiums. He even talked to the United States bid two months back, confiding that the 2022 tournament can go “anywhere but Qatar.”
But eventually, that afternoon, Platini’s reservations vanished. More than ten years later, it is still utterly unclear and hotly argued what exactly happened to cause him to alter his mind during lunch with a tardy Sarkozy and the two Qataris. Platini has provided at least two different accounts of what happened; in each, he insisted that his vote was his own decision and was unaffected by other forces. In 2019, he was detained but not charged by French investigators who were reportedly looking into the meeting.
But at that time, the agreement had already been reached: Qatar was officially announced as the host nation for the 2022 FIFA World Cup one week after lunch in a vast conference room in Zurich. Since then, the most watched sport in the world has been dealing with the fallout from that choice.
Since then, American authorities and FIFA itself have claimed that several FIFA board members took bribes to tilt the vote in Qatar’s favor. (Platini was absent from the group.) Numerous arrests were made due to an extensive corruption probe of FIFA’s operations. These incidents and others contributed to the fall of FIFA’s executive committee and the institution.
However, the judgment also permanently changed soccer’s top division’s economy. After winning the World Cup, Qatar quickly pushed to position itself as a legitimate sporting force. The French team Paris St.-Germain was purchased by Qatari investors within a year of the luncheon at the Élysée Palace. A Qatari-owned sports network started investing heavily in European soccer by acquiring broadcasting rights.
At the same time, it sparked a construction frenzy as a tiny Gulf nation was effectively rebuilt in a remarkable nation-building project, which Qatar disputes claims that it cost many migrant workers their lives.
It has now reached a previously unthinkable point with the resolution of long-feared cultural conflicts: hundreds of the best soccer players in the world are assembling in a thumb-shaped peninsula in preparation for the tournament that will transform the game.
The development of sand
Hours were spent in media practice sessions with public-relations experts flown in from Europe as the country finessed its candidacy for the World Cup, all in an effort to prepare for potentially embarrassing questions about the country’s handling of migrant workers and its stance toward homosexual rights.
Homosexuality is banned in Qatar, making this topic uncomfortable for even the highest-ranking officials. The youngest son of the kingdom’s ruler, Sheikh Mohammed, responded to a simulated question on the matter during a media training session seen by The New York Times, and he insisted that all guests to the country would be welcomed.
All of our efforts proved fruitless in the end. Nobody asked any questions. Instead, the media spent the bidding process wondering whether or not beer would be accessible in the predominantly Muslim country due to its vastness and scorching summer heat.
Qatar’s plan for the World Cup involved more than just constructing seven new stadiums and renovating an eighth. Everything from redrawing the country from the ground up in a $220 billion state project to building a transportation system to ferry supporters between stadiums and hundreds of hotels was necessary.
Qatar hired tens of thousands of migrant workers from some of the world’s poorest areas to accomplish this goal, increasing the country’s population by 13.2 percent in the past year and drawing widespread attention to the working conditions, rights, and treatment of these migrants.
Despite FIFA’s demand that Qatar suspends all World Cup-related development and repatriate its workforce, Qatar’s dependence on foreign workers is still significant. Law enforcement officials from nations like as Turkey, Pakistan, Egypt, and France have been sent in to help boost an understaffed local force. Meanwhile, a fresh influx of migrant labor has been brought to operate the venues and restaurants.
Despite its diminutive size, the country has shown no lack of desire. For instance, this summer, Qatar announced that it would host a dance music festival at Ras Abu Fontas, just south of Doha, as part of the World Cup. The festival would feature a fire-breathing, laser-shooting spider from the English Glastonbury music festival.
The organizers said they want to give the fans an experience they’ve never had. Definitely not the same: On Friday, just days before the World Cup opening match, Qatar startled FIFA and fans by reversing its position on allowing the sale of beer at its eight World Cup stadiums. There is no doubt that the hosts have, belatedly, reset the tournament’s traditions to fit local restrictions; alcohol will still be available in some World Cup places, including for many dedicated hours a day in fan zones.
This U-turn has renewed concerns about whether all fans, specifically LGBTQ+ supporters, would receive the same warm reception that the Qatari organizing committee and FIFA have often promised.
This month, former Qatari national team player and current World Cup ambassador Khalid Salman appeared oblivious to the organizers’ message. He told a German documentary, “Homosexuality is haram here,” using an Arabic phrase that means “forbidden” in English. “It is forbidden because it causes mental harm.”
It infuriated Javier Tebas. The outspoken President of Spain’s top league was in Doha to meet with leaders from soccer’s governing bodies, including FIFA, the other major leagues, and the European Club Association.
Their mission was to provide a definitive response to a subject that had never been asked before: When should the World Cup actually take place?
There was no reason the tournament couldn’t be hosted in its customary window in the European summer, as Qatar had insisted for years leading up to the vote in Zurich. The organizers assured Mayne-Nicholls and his staff that the blistering heat of the Gulf would not be an issue because each stadium would be equipped with the same air conditioning system.
Europe’s unpleasant pause is the least of FIFA’s World Cup implications. A one-season hiatus is less significant than a years-long alteration in the game’s landscape. Qatar wanted to launch a sports channel for its competitions and French soccer. Later, it did.
P.S.G. asserted its financial might in 2017 by signing Neymar from Barcelona for $222 million, shattering the past world transfer record, and then Kylian Mbappé for $180 million. Two deals changed the worldwide transfer market forever.
Qatar didn’t stop. beIN Sports became the world’s ravenous collector of sports broadcast rights, part of an expansion to Europe agreed upon during the Élysée conference.
The Show Must Go On
Blatter’s successor as FIFA president, Gianni Infantino, sent letters to all 32 qualifying teams in the weeks leading up to the World Cup. A current resident of Qatar, Infantino urged them all “not to let football be dragged into every ideological or political battle that exists.”
He further said it was time for the sport to “take the stage.”
However, That opportunity may have passed. The criticism of FIFA’s choice to hold the event in Qatar only intensified as the tournament date drew closer. More and more people in the sports community, including players, coaches, apparel companies, and, most importantly, fans, have spoken out against the policy. The English and Welsh captains have decided to wear an armband to support the homosexual community. As recently as last month, Blatter acknowledged that selecting Qatar was an “error.”
In turn, Qatar has grown increasingly belligerent. The country’s emir, who was present as crown prince at Platini’s meeting in the Elysée, struck out last month over what he called an “unprecedented” criticism campaign from the West. The foreign minister of Qatar called the concerns raised about his country’s ability to host the event “extremely racist” two weeks ago.
FIFA has not always been so opposed to using soccer for ideological purposes. Even after all the investigations, warrants, and arrests, FIFA has always justified its Qatar decision. FIFA, as an institution, insists that the sport can be an agent for progress.
However, as the tournament that the host country was willing to pay nearly any price to obtain kicks off and the eyes of the world turn to a tiny corner of the Gulf, it is hard not to believe the vice versa. Whether soccer has changed Qatar or not, Qatar has definitely changed soccer for a lifetime.