Opinion: The Morality of This Year’s World Cup


Picture by The New Yorker.

You may have heard of the controversy surrounding this year’s host country of the FIFA World Cup – the Middle Eastern country of Qatar. Many claim that their concern stems mostly from the country’s policies on civil and human rights and their reported abuse of migrant workers, and frankly, I share these apprehensions. 

For a bit of background, I wanted to share some context as to how Qatar was selected as this year’s host country in the first place. Countries are chosen to host the World Cup through a vote by the FIFA Congress, and Qatar was actually voted to be the 2022 host 12 years ago in 2010. Interestingly, the country was chosen over bids by the United States, South Korea, Japan and Australia, with Qatar eventually receiving 14 votes to the United States’ eight. This led to suspicion of bribes to award Qatar host country, which go along with years of accusations and investigations into possible corruption in international soccer. And while the president of FIFA Sepp Blatter was initially in support of the chosen 2022 host country, he has since expressed regret over the decision, especially after witnessing the billions of dollars Qatar invested in construction of a stadium for the event and the claims of mistreatment of the workers who made such construction possible. Blatter’s concerns echo the rising outcries and worries surrounding the abilities of the small country to host such a large and costly event. Yet the games have begun. 

The Cup started Nov. 20 and will continue until Dec. 18, eventually culminating in a total of 64 matches that will crown the winner of the 2022 World Cup. As previously mentioned, Qatar did not have existing infrastructure suitable to be a host country of the World Cup, and ended up investing big-time to get themselves there (they built seven new stadiums, many new hotels, and improved their transportation systems in preparation). 

But at what moral expense? 

90% of Qatar’s workforce is made up of migrant workers, yet since World Cup preparations have begun in the country, reports of wages being withheld, poor working conditions, forced work in 100+ degree heat, and high worker death tolls. While Qatar has rejected such claims, even going as far as to claim that working conditions have improved because of the World Cup construction, some migrant families have spoken out about their experiences with family members killed during the work for the World Cup, and there is little doubt that violations of labor rights have occurred in the country during this time. 

I won’t claim to know much about the legality of the choice to appoint Qatar as host country for the 2022 World Cup, but from my own moral standpoint, the decision seems ill-informed and destructive to the country’s economy, citizens, and reputation. Qatar reportedly spent $200 billion to prepare to host the World Cup. That is more than its entire GDP in 2021 (which was $179.6 billion). Spending that much money not only could cause huge long-term financial problems for the country, but it also uses up funds that could otherwise be allocated to the welfare of the population, or the improvement of already existing infrastructure (where it should be going!), making Qatar’s economic investments in hosting the World Cup inexcusable. Additionally, as we have seen, the building of the infrastructure for the events has been problematic (to say the least), and with the result being anywhere from hundreds to thousands of migrant worker deaths, there can be no excuse for the sacrifices of the country’s people to the Cup either. And lastly, the horrible results of the construction has led to controversy and upset surrounding the country. The size of Qatar (a population of just 3 million and a mere 4,468 mi2 area) suggests that it would be in the country’s best interests to keep as many global allies as possible, yet the damage done to their reputation the past few months may make this much harder to do. 

And, as if all that wasn’t enough, Qatar was the first team to be eliminated from the World Cup – a real cherry on top.