FIFA: Time to Change
As many soccer fans across the globe are aware, FIFA, soccer’s worldwide governing body, is no stranger to allegations of corruption. Many examples of FIFA’s questionable decision-making indicate an urgent need to revamp its leadership. Under a cloud of suspicion, FIFA awarded the hosting rights of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar, a small, Middle Eastern country that has almost no soccer background. FIFA’s awarding of the World Cup, the greatest competition in worldwide soccer, to a country whose national team is currently ranked 92nd in the world left a lot of people scratching their heads.
Many practical issues with Qatar’s hosting of the World Cup exist as well. For example, because of the brutal heat in Qatar, FIFA has considered moving the tournament from the traditional months of June and July to November and December. For those who aren’t familiar with the scheduling of worldwide soccer, a winter World Cup would essentially ruin the season for domestic soccer clubs in Europe, such as FC Barcelona, Manchester United, or Bayern Munich, because their players would be unavailable during their commitment to playing in the World Cup. Additionally, because of the brutal climate, special climate-controlled stadiums need to be built in Qatar, so the playing conditions remain safe. In addition to the practical issues with the Qatar World Cup, almost every aspect of its preparation has been under suspicion of corruption and dishonesty. In order to build the previously mentioned stadiums, the Qatari government has employed the services of migrant workers, many of whom have been denied food, water, and wages. Some have estimated that many migrants have actually died as a result of the conditions imposed on them by Qatar’s government, though Qatar denies that claim. To summarize, there is very little that actually makes sense about Qatar hosting the World Cup, which is why many people are under the impression that Qatari officials bought votes during the selection process. If these bribery allegations are proven true, the 2022 World Cup’s host country could be changed.
Controversy is nothing new to FIFA. Sepp Blatter, the recently-ousted president of FIFA, was arguably the most infamous sporting figure on the planet during his tenure, offending everyone from Real Madrid legend Cristiano Ronaldo, about whom he said “has more expenses for the hairdresser than Leo Messi” to homosexual soccer fans, whom he told to “refrain from any sexual activities” during the World Cup in Qatar, where homosexuality is banned. He insulted many South Americans when he claimed that one English player’s adultery with a teammate’s partner “would have been applauded” in Latin America, and female soccer players as well, whom he implored to create a more “feminine aesthetic” by wearing tighter and more revealing clothing during games. Even without considering his various derogatory comments, the numerous allegations of corruption against Blatter should have been enough to remove him from office a long time ago . Unfortunately, Blatter and the rest of FIFA wield an unprecedented amount of power compared to other figures in sports, because soccer is the world’s game. Soccer is the most popular sport in places as different as Brazil and England, Italy and Mexico. Even with the corruption allegations regarding the World Cup’s placement, the World Cup remains arguably the most important sporting event on the planet, with players vying their entire careers for the opportunity to play in a single one. Because of soccer’s unprecedented popularity, its governing body has a more powerful influence than any other sporting organization may have. Yet, unfortunately for soccer, FIFA has simply never given proper respect to the game, instead using soccer and its events as tools for bribery, corruption and other crimes when it could have been fostering collaboration between its international constituents.
FIFA’s latest crimes, however, transcend more than mere offensiveness. The next two World Cups are scheduled to take place in Russia and Qatar, in 2018 and 2022, respectively. Frankly, neither of these countries are appropriate to host an event that is meant to foster worldwide unity and international cooperation, which is what the World Cup should be. Russia, under Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, has become infamous for its recent invasion of Ukraine, and more recently by involving itself in the conflict in Syria on behalf of brutal dictator Bashar Al-Assad. Russia simply should not be hosting an international sporting event when its ruler is sending military to fight on behalf on one of the most violent dictators in the world. Meanwhile, Qatar’s hosting of the 2022 World Cup might be the most controversial choice of a venue for a sporting event in recent memory. Sharia law, the legal code of the Islamic religion, plays a strong role in Qatari government. Homosexuality is illegal, and punishable by the death penalty. That’s not exactly the best news for gays in soccer, about whom French legend Thierry Henry said that their coming out would be “ great for the game... great for anyone, for any human being.” In Qatar, punishments such as flogging and stoning are legal, and its government is an absolute monarchy. Simply put, Qatari society has a lot of policy changes to do before it’s ready to host a massive celebration of international unity like the World Cup.
Equally shocking as the decisions to give the World Cup to Russia and Qatar is the failure of FIFA to grant the World Cup to a country with a prominent soccer background. Countries such as England, Italy, Spain, or Argentina, all of whom have won World Cups in the past, would make excellent choices to host the tournament, because of their respective soccer prowess and their strong fan bases. FIFA’s decision to grant the World Cup to two countries that have soccer backgrounds that pale in comparison to the major footballing powers shows how far off FIFA is from acting in the best interests of the game. For the sake of both soccer and its fans, FIFA needs to be reformed with leaders who actually have the best interests of both the sport and the international community. Countries with questionable governments that deprive citizens of human rights cannot be handed control over the biggest sporting event in the world.