…and the winner is…Qatar? Huh? You mean that tiny country in the Middle East that has less people than the city of Chicago, IL (Qatar’s total population is under 1.5 million people)? I can understand Russia as a choice for the 2018 FIFA World Cup. It’s massive, they love soccer, and it’s a country that has never hosted the tournament. However, selecting Qatar over the United States for 2022 is absurd.
The United States hosted the World Cup in 1994. In fact it was one of the most successful tournaments ever held, and it generated the most money out of any of the previous World Cups. I can understand if FIFA felt that 2022 was too close to 1994, however, Germany hosted it in 1974 and 2006. Mexico hosted it in 1970 and 1986. Italy hosted it in 1934 and again in 1990. Many countries have hosted World Cups twice, and England screwed itself over when the BBC launched an investigation into potential FIFA corruption. Otherwise they might have been chosen over Russia.
Qatar (which some people pronounce Kuh-Tar like “guitar” while others say Kay-ter like “cater”) actually has the world’s second highest per-capita income, and most of its money comes from oil and gas reserves. The average summer heat reaches 106 degrees, and FIFA chose them to host the tournament despite knowing there are potential health risks involved. So with all of that out of the way, the question remains. Why?
Two reasons. #1 is money. The middle east has a lot of money, and obviously Qatar has a huge chunk of it. #2 is that FIFA likes to stress peace and equality through sport. That means bringing the tournament to new places, and the Middle East is a region that has not yet hosted a World Cup before. Qatar has offered to put $50 billion (no that wasn’t a typo, I said billion on purpose) into new infrastructure. They are also willing to put forth another $4 billion to upgrade their current soccer stadiums.
According to The New Republic, “Acknowledging that the stadiums will be of little use after the tournament ends, Qatar has pledged to dismantle those structures and use the materials to build stadia in other developing countries.” I’m pretty sure that is what finally won FIFA over. It’s using soccer to help others in need, and that’s been FIFA’s mantra for a long time.
Former U.S. national team forward Eric Wynalda said, “Basically, oil and natural gas won today. This was not about merit, this was about money.” It should be interesting to see what happens when the country’s population more than doubles due to event attendance.
I think what FIFA is trying to do is admirable, however, I’m skeptical over how this will all play out. I think FIFA is better off holding the World Cup in countries with obvious tourism interests. Countries like the United States, Russia, England, Germany, Brazil, etc. all are excellent travel destinations. People who are not necessarily into soccer might still go to check out the country as well as take in the event. I can’t imagine anyone on the other side of the world who is willing to travel to Qatar to watch the World Cup in 106 degree heat. You’d have to be an absolute soccer fanatic to spend that kind of money to watch soccer in those conditions. To top it off, Qatar has restrictive alcohol consumption laws. Well that just took all the fun out of it, didn’t it? As I write this I am 30 years old. The next potential World Cup hosting year for the United States would be 2026, when I will be 46 years old.
“I think it was the wrong decision,” said President Barack Obama. Funny. He actually said something that the American public actually agrees with.