The World Cup of controversy

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Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Karim Jaafar/AFP via Getty Images.

The 2022 World Cup has been marred by controversy from the very start, and the stench of FIFA’s corruption and Qatar’s human rights abuses still lingers as the event gets underway.

How we got here: 100 years ago, Qatar was a sparsely populated British protectorate. Then, after discovering oil (1939) and one of Earth’s largest natural gas reserves (1960), it transformed into an incredibly wealthy nation.

  • By the turn of the century, Qatar was a major player in global politics. But a desire for more prestige and clout led the country, much like its Gulf neighbors, to a potent source: soccer.
  • Qataris acquired French club Paris Saint-Germain and launched beIN Sports, big moves that shook up Europe. But the crown jewel was the World Cup.
  • Qatar was named host in 2010, a stunning development that triggered bribery accusations.
  • 18 members of FIFA’s 24-person executive committee have since been implicated in or investigated for illicit activity, and the global governing body’s reputation has been irrevocably damaged.

State of play: This World Cup’s biggest controversy is the Gulf nation’s human rights record.

Plus: Other controversies include beer bans on stadiums, press freedom (Qatar ranks 119 out of 180 countries) and player workload (64 games in just 29 days, smack in the middle of the European club season).

  • Seven European teams announced this morning that their captains will no longer wear rainbow OneLove armbands after FIFA said players would be sanctioned.

What they’re saying: 54% of Americans say that FIFA shouldn’t have awarded the World Cup to Qatar, according to a new Seton Hall University poll.

The other side: In a speech last month, Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani said that Qatar “has been subjected to an unprecedented campaign that no host country has ever faced,” ESPN reported.

  • “The campaign tends to continue and expand to include fabrications and double standards that were so ferocious that it has unfortunately prompted many people to question the real reasons and motives,” he added.

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