The Federation Internationale de Football Association (or FIFA, as it is more commonly known) is no stranger to controversy. It has been accused of corruption and scandals for decades, and even became the subject of Andrew Jennings’ book ‘Foul! The Secret World of FIFE: Bribes, Vote-Rigging, and Ticket Scandals’. As recently as 2015, upper levels of the organization were purged in a corruption case that saw the indictment and arrest of 16 FIFA officials in the United States, alone.
You’d think that the organization would learn from their mistakes, but that doesn’t appear to be the case when you look at FIFA’s slate over the next few years. Both the 2018 and 2022 World Cup, which is the most important event in the world of international football, look to be full of scandal and controversy. Here are some of the controversies attached to the upcoming World Cups….
2018 World Cup in Russia
The 2018 World Cup is going to take place in Moscow, Russia at the Luzhniki Stadium. However, in typical Russian and FIFA fashion, this has led to an array of controversies that are causing many to demand boycotts of the event (this is similar to what happened to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Russia). What is definitely notable in these controversies is how much these controversies don’t only have to deal with Football, but also with the ideological rift that exists between Russia and the rest of Europe (and the West, at large).
Racism in Russian football
In the past, there has been criticism applied to the Russian Football Union that relate to how black football players are treated in the country. At several games in Russia, there has been racist chanting from fans towards black players of teams who play in the country. This has led to some activists calling for black players to boycott playing in the country, unless the Russian Football Union does more to address the issue.
The Crimea Annexation
In 2014, the Russian Federation led troops into eastern Ukraine and annexed the landmass of Crimea. This has led to a situation where many countries have demanded that FIFA withdraw the World Cup from Russia, in retaliation. Indeed, some American senators have also asked that Russia be banned from participating in the World Cup. Although this did not happen, and the event is still taking place there, it has created a geopolitical cloud that is surrounding the event.
2022 World Cup in Qatar
After the 2018 World Cup in Russia, the next World Cup will take place in 2022, in Qatar. This marks the first time that the World Cup is happening in a country that is predominantly Arab and Muslim. However, there have been claims of corruption in awarding the World Cup to Qatar. An internal report has suggested there was no wrongdoing, but there are still plenty of other controversies surrounding the event.
One major implication being leveled at Qatar is that their labor programs to build the infrastructure that is required to host the World Cup is highly questionable. A host of organizations, including Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and the International Trade Union Confederation, have suggested that Qatar’s system of managing laborers can be equated to slave labor. Workers in Qatar are kept in labor camps, where serious exploitations and human rights abuses frequently occur. Qatar, in 2014, made promises to address these issues, but no sign of substantial effort has been put forth.
Homosexuality in Qatar
The human rights issues in Qatar don’t stop at potential slave labor. There are also serious questions about the treatment of homosexual football fans who hope to attend the World Cup in 2022. Homosexuality is considered to be a crime in Qatar, and there have been suggestions within the country to ban homosexuals from entering the country. Although it is unclear how they would determine this (Kuwaiti officials have suggested using homosexual screening tests), it does bring to question what sort of treatment certain fans can expect during the popular event.
Another aspect of European social life that is mostly illegal in Qatar is alcohol consumption. In the country, it is illegal to drink alcohol in any sort of public space. However, a person can drink alcohol in their private residence (if they can get a permit to purchase it) or at a luxury hotel. This is an interesting crossroad, as football fans traditionally like to drink (especially European fans). On top of that, Budweiser is a major sponsor of the World Cup, and it would certainly be odd if they couldn’t sell their own product at the event. Suggestions have been made to open up the law, temporarily, but that remains to be seen. If you’d like to read more about this issue, check out this informative article.