Home / Opinion / Views /  Mint Explainer: All the controversies that spilled from Qatar's World Cup

Long before the first kickoff in the 2022 football World Cup, controversy has swirled around its host, Qatar. Numerous questions — from accusations of corruption to the use of slave labour — have dogged the small but fabulously rich Gulf state.

1. In 2010, FIFA, football's supreme governing authority, awarded the 2022 World Cup to Qatar. The choice was immediately controversial. Qatar, which is less than a third the size of the tiny state of Bhutan, had little of the infrastructure necessary to host the World Cup. Internal FIFA assessments also showed that there were serious doubts about Qatar's ability to host the world's biggest sporting event. Other countries in the fray to host were the United States, Japan and South Korea.

2. Former President of FIFA Sepp Blatter has made no secret of his opposition to Qatar being awarded the World Cup. “It was a bad choice. And I was responsible for that as president at the time," he said.

3. Qatar stands accused of having secured the mega event through a mix of bribery and political pressure. Numerous members of FIFA's top-most executive committee have allegedly accepted bribes or monetary inducements from Qatar. According to some, no less than President Nicolas Sarkozy of France is believed to have been pressured to thumb the scales in Qatar's favour.

4. Once the World Cup was awarded to Qatar, criticism focused on how the country was building the infrastructure it needed. Qatar built the stadiums and necessary infrastructure using the controversial kafala system. A number of Gulf States, including Qatar, recruit massive numbers of migrant labourers from developing nations. However, these workers were unable to switch jobs or exit the country without their employer's permission. Some experts have termed the kafala system a form of slave labour.

5. Abuses of worker contracts, poor living conditions and even migrant worker deaths have made Qatar's World Cup all the more controversial. While Qatar has undertaken reforms to the kafala system, some experts point out that much of the World Cup-related infrastructure had already been built by the time changes were introduced.

6. Qatar's conservative social makeup has also been a target for criticism. In particular, the country levies punishments, including prison time, on minority sexual communities. LGBTQ fans, some of whom hope to attend the event, have raised concerns about their safety.

7. In solidarity with these groups, some European football teams, most notably England, planned to wear "One Love" armbands. Given that this was meant as an expression of support for LGBTQ groups, and an indirect criticism of Qatar's conservative policies, FIFA stepped in and threatened disciplinary action.

8. For its part, Qatar has pushed back against attempts to castigate its social policy and human rights record. The country's authorities have complained of a systematic campaign to defame Qatar, orchestrated by Western human rights groups and media organization.

9. Journalistic freedom has also been in the spotlight after a Danish television presenter was stopped from filming in public by Qatari authorities despite having the necessary authorization. Foreign journalists have been detained in the past by the state in similar cases.

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