Sunday, June 6, 2010

The World Cup is here...

Let the excitement for the World Cup begin! Sometimes I have to look around and laugh. Qatar and the rest of the Gulf Coast Countries do not have a team in the World Cup, so apparently the region has decided to support Spain. I have seen Spanish flags hanging from houses, being sold on the side of the road, and even in restaurant windows. There is not a large Spanish population in Qatar, it is actually really small, but for some reason Spain has been embraced by Qatar. You can even see a McDonald’s commercial with a guy in a thobe cheering for Spain as he orders his dinner.

With the 2010 World Cup starting in just a few days I have been thinking a lot more about Qatar’s bid to host the 2022 World Cup. While I admit to not knowing much about professional football or the business side of the World Cup, I can say with confidence that bringing the World Cup to Qatar in 2022 would be a bad idea. Admittedly, the bid is impressive – but not at all realistic. Lets look at some simple downfalls of the Qatar bid.

The infrastructure does not exist to host the number of fans that will attend the event. Yes there is a flood of five star hotels, but there is a drought when it comes to cheap or even reasonably priced hotels. Most fans would not be able to afford the trip and the stay. Additionally the highway system and the mass transit train system are in the planning stages with completion not set until after the 2022 World Cup. Many argue that these projects will be far enough along by the time of the World Cup to meet the needs of the event. Ok, lets think about construction in Qatar… not going to happen. I will use two examples for you: the residence halls that were scheduled to be complete in 2007 will not be done until 2012; the hospital set to be done in 2011 is now closer to 2013 (wait another year and it will be 2015).

Culturally Qatar is not ready for the World Cup. It is still considered inappropriate for men to wear shorts in the summer, the last set of pictures I looked at showed most World Cup fans in shorts (and several in much less). Alcohol is an unavoidable accessory to the World Cup. Right now you can only purchase alcohol in hotel bars and you cannot be intoxicated in public; I am not sure the culture of the World Cup can change that much.

Ok, this is a really serious point. Has anyone ever heard of the Qatar national football team? They have never even qualified for a World Cup. The citizen population in somewhere just above 200 thousand, to get a decent national team Qatar has to give citizenship to talented players. When you look at the roster of the national team, most of the players are from other countries (their bios say something like, Qatari National Football Player of Senegalese decent, Egyptian-Qatari National Football Player, or Qatari National Football Player - Brazilian. I know as an American I do not have much room to talk, my countries national myth is the dream of naturalized citizenship, but Qatar does not let individuals who were born in Qatar and have lived in Qatar for more than 40 years petition for citizenship. They only give citizenship if they need you (in this case to create a football team that occasionally wins).

Lastly, and what I think is the most important issue, bringing the World Cup to Qatar would perpetuate social injustices and send a negative message to the world. To build the magical stadiums Qatar promises to inspire the world with, thousands of laborers will be exploited. I am not going to go over my thoughts on labor laws again, but I do want to point out that by awarding Qatar the 2022 World Cup, FIFA will be at best turning a blind eye to labor issues and at worst promoting a system that underpays and mistreats workers.

If the World Cup does come to Qatar, we can all be happy we will not have to see these Dutch Fans. (well at least, we will not see these outfits)

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