Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
Qatar: Examining the talking points
Corruption, moral outrage, temperatures main issues
Let's talk about Qatar.
More specifically, let's talk about the FIFA World Cup that will be held in the Gulf state in 2022.
Assuming you are new to the discussion or have yet to form an opinion on the topic, consider the next few points as your guide to partaking in the debate in as nuanced and level-headed a manner as possible.
After all, you won't want to come off as some sort of angry protester or crusading ideologue. There are enough of both in Washington D.C. at the moment, and look where it's got them.
Instead, let's take a common-sense approach to the three main talking points of the 2022 dialogue:
It's quite likely, if not a sure thing, that the bidding processes for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups were corrupted in some fashion. But most of what we have are allegations, and while many of them may one day be proven true, at this point there is very little concrete evidence to work with.
This is mostly the result of FIFA's inherent secrecy, and until those secrets are spilled for international consumption it's impossible to separate Qatar's successful World Cup bid from any that came before it.
There is a massive problem with FIFA governance, and no one will dispute that.
But governance, as it relates to bidding processes, is merely used as a supplementary argument by those who can't come to terms with the next two talking-points.
There are three things people are angry about: lack of democracy, LGBT laws and migrant workers.
As far as democracy is concerned, if FIFA were to limit its World Cups to western-style republics and constitutional monarchies that operate exclusively and enthusiastically by due process and the rule of law it would be a tiny event indeed.
Regarding Qatar's shameful LGBT laws there is every reason for righteous anger. But that anger should be contextualized to keep in mind that until 2003 same-sex sexual activity was still illegal in 14 U.S. states, many of which have yet to repeal their state laws even though the Supreme Court struck them down a decade ago.
LGBT rights remain a global issue and a necessary cause.
Finally, a recent investigation conducted by The Guardian revealed migrant workers, many held in a kind of "modern slavery," were being tasked with building Qatar's World Cup infrastructure.
Naturally, the revelation ignited considerable moral outrage, and it has since seemed as though everyone is trying to outdo the other in venting their fury.
But where were they more than a year ago when Al Jazeera published an almost identical report?
There are more than 1.2 million migrant workers in Qatar, building everything from roads to bridges to condominiums.
The target here is not the World Cup. Rather, it's Qatar's migrant-sponsorship program, known as kafala, which does, indeed, enslave millions not only in Qatar but in several other Gulf petro-states as well.
Like LGBT rights, the plight of the migrant worker is a worthy, activist cause. But most of the anti-Qatar set didn't become activists overnight. No, theirs is an outrage that stems from our final talking point.
On Friday, FIFA president Sepp Blatter announced he was striking a task force to investigate the feasibility of a winter World Cup. Winter, of course, meaning winter in the global north. There have actually been five winter World Cups, although some people seem to have missed their geography lessons.
But switching the tournament from its traditional June-July slot to a time-frame between November and February has irked a lot of people, many of whom would like to think the club leagues of Europe are somehow more important than those in Argentina and Brazil and South Africa .
This is a remnant of western imperialist thinking, and the talking-points of process and moral outrage are used by many to smokescreen it.
Like it or not, the 2022 World Cup is going to be hosted by Qatar -- likely in our winter.
In fact, the question for the entire debate should be changed from "Should Qatar host the World Cup?" to "Qatar is hosting the World Cup. So what are we going to do about it?"
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Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 5, 2013 C6
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