The 2022 Qatar World Cup will be rubbish | Jack Marshall’s column
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It’s reasonable to call Qatar a pretty unpleasant place. Same-sex relationships carry seven-year jail sentences, women don’t have the same human rights as men, and freedom of expression is non-existent. Younger than Gareth Southgate, it’s a Yorkshire-sized slice of desert which just happens to sit on an ocean of oil.
The sole reason Qatar - a country where 95% of the population is migrant workers often forced into scandalously exploitative contracts - was awarded the World Cup in 2010 is money: since then, 6,500 labourers from sub-continental Asia alone have died in uninvestigated circumstances, but that’s not enough to stop David Beckham accepting a £10m deal to be a Qatar 2022 ambassador.
These facts should disqualify Qatar from hosting the World Cup, but even if you take the brainlessly myopic ‘focus on the football’ approach, it’s still on course to be the most uninspiring edition ever. Qatar has no footballing culture to speak of and a climate so extreme that Fifa has contravened its own bidding rules by switching to a winter tournament.
For 12 years, Qatar has been hastily building stadiums, one of which is situated in the plastic city of Lusail built especially for the World Cup. Fans foolish enough to attend will face ludicrous hotel prices (although 80% of rooms have been bagsied by Fifa themselves) and £15 pints. Take your shirt off when a goal is scored and you’ll be ejected from the stadium.
World Cups are supposed to be about fun and cultural exchange but the authoritarian state of Qatar effectively prohibits fun and has little appealing culture to share. Fans won’t even be able to watch games on TV at their hotel due to extortionate broadcast fees - players actually appearing at the World Cup won’t be able to watch the World Cup themselves.
If they want to broadcast the football, the BBC and ITV will be effectively prohibited from filming at locations like migrant workers’ accommodation sites as per new reporting restrictions. London-based human rights group FairSquare say this will have a ‘chilling effect on free expression,’ but Qatar’s supreme committee says it won’t, so that’s fine.