Qatar hosts unconventional winter 2022 FIFA world cup

Students Celebrate the World cup during school time

If soccer is the international equivalent of American football, then the World Cup would be the equivalent of the Super Bowl. In many countries, the World Cup is an institution and the most watched and followed sport globally. For Gunn students, it is a way to follow their favorite players and cheer on their country’s team. Junior Raffi Barbier has waited a long time for the World Cup and the opportunity to support France—his home country—one more time. “I’m for sure going to watch the French games and possibly wear the French jersey,” he said.

Like Barbier, many students who follow the World Cup are from other countries, and have watched the World Cup with their families. Gunn has a diverse student body, leading to many students supporting different teams and players. Since the World Cup has historically taken place in summer, it is a way to connect and bond over a shared interest over the break. This year the World Cup is being held in winter because in Qatar, summer temperatures can be scorching, making it potentially harmful for both players and spectators. Freshman Matteo Carbone usually watches the World Cup every four years with his cousins in Italy. This year, however, Carbone will not be taking the trip to Italy. “Since this one is during the winter, we’re not going over to Italy,” he said. “Instead, I think we will Skype or FaceTime.” While those with international families might have a hard time watching games together, others have turned to alternate viewing options, such as sophomore Mateas Fitzwilliam. “I’m going to watch the matches with some friends,” he said.

As many star athletes announce this year’s cup as their last time playing, the World Cup is a bittersweet event for fans. Iconic players such as Ronaldo, Messi and Neymar are representing their country for the last time in this tournament. For Carbone, these players have played since he started watching soccer, making it hard to see them play for the last time. His love for these players also plays in his hope of who the winning team will be. “When I was younger, I really liked Messi, so I will always have just a little part of me that wants Argentina to win, and to have [Messi] win a World Cup,” Carbone said. He is not alone in this sentiment, as sophomore Gracie Missett also wants to see Messi and his team triumphant. “It would be memorable as it would be his first and last,” she said. However, she also points out the importance of new talent participating in the tournament. “We’re going to be able to [see] who the new people are, who are going to replace the old players [in the future],” Missett said.

Controversy behind Qatar hosting

While the World Cup has historically brought people together, this year, it has been met with backlash. This year’s competition is held in Qatar, making it the first World Cup held in the Middle East. Qatar was chosen in 2010 after outbidding the U.S., Japan, Australia and South Korea. At that time, they planned on building seven new stadiums, more than 100 hotels, a metro and new roads.

Since Qatar is a small country, it lacks a significant workforce. As such, they had to find workers from outside the country. With the lack of time and the amount of infrastructure to be built, Qatar turned to illegal hiring practices. An estimated 300,000 workers from the Philippines, Nepal, India, Bangladesh and other countries have been brought to Qatar to build the World Cup facilities. The International Labor Organization found that in 2021 alone, 50 foreign laborers in Qatar died of work-related reasons, and more than 500 others were seriously injured.

There were a high number of worker injuries due to a severe lack of building site security measures and medical care provided to workers working 12 hours everyday, according to security guards on the site. Barbier brings up the point that these conditions violate multiple human rights. “A lot of people say to keep politics out of sports, but in this case, it’s not about politics; it’s about human rights,” Barbier said.

Human rights have also been brought up when discussing other controversies regarding Qatar. Qatar has laws that treat being LGBTQ as a crime. According to Human Rights Watch, the punishment for being part of that community is prison time, as well as verbal and physical abuse from security officers.

Women’s rights are also an issue that is long standing. Qatar holds a guardianship system in which women are tied to their male guardian. They need their guardian’s approval for life decisions such as marriage, studying abroad and reproductive healthcare. Barbier’s thoughts are reciprocated by a big part of the soccer fanbase. Fans, national team organizations and players have called for a boycott of the event, but this movement has not caught global attention. Many are also calling for the international soccer governing body, FIFA, to take action and change the World Cup’s location. “That’s a decision that they should have made 10 years ago,” Barbier said.

Carbone disagrees with FIFA’s decision to host the World Cup in Qatar this year. “Sports are a powerful thing that create a lot of money,” he said. “That [money] should go into the right hands, not the wrong ones.”