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FIFA 2022 World Cup Qatar: Why is the Event Still Mired in Controversy

SGAnalytics_Blog_FIFA 2022 World Cup Qatar Why is the Event Still Mired in Controversy
Published on Dec 06, 2022

The selection of Qatar as the host county for the 2022 FIFA World Cup brought many cheers to the streets of Doha in celebrating the first edition of the tournament to be held in an Arab country. 

The FIFA 2022 World Cup host Qatar is still facing heat from across the globe. A winter World Cup, right from its inception of winning the bid in 2010, was embroiled in allegations of worker exploitation and corruption on the part of the FIFA executive committee. 

The same choice has also sparked instant criticism from across the globe. Countries were voicing concerns over the logistics of hosting a sporting event in a country where temperatures regularly top 100 degrees. The other allegations involved bribery and corruption among FIFA officials who voted for Qatar to be the host for the 2022 edition. And major concerns regarding human rights abuses have also persisted ever since. 

Read more: 2022 FIFA World Cup Controversy: Should Migrant Workers be Given Compensation? 

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Highlighting the Controversies 

The news stunned the world when the federation was awarded the most prestigious global sporting event to the tiny desert state of Qatar. At the same time, Qatar - the host of the tournament, has continued to bear court controversies related to its impact on minority groups. 

These controversies have touched every segment of the diversity spectrum - from the deaths of 6,500 migrant workers from the Indian subcontinent appointed to construct the eight stadiums for the tournament on hazardous deadlines to the spotlight being on Qatar's policy for gender inequality. 

In addition to the lack of sufficient infrastructure, critics sounded the alarm over the country's policies on human rights, such as for migrant workers and the LGBTQ community. Qatar 2022 is being deemed the most scrutinized FIFA World Cup in history. Executives were faced with a dilemma due to rising concerns over the host country.  

The Human Rights Watch also criticized the Qatari authorities for their discriminatory male guardianship system, where women are denied the right to make key decisions that affect their lives, including matters connected to reproductive health, which they can marry, and whether they can travel abroad. They are bestowed with a diminished status as the main guardian of their children. 

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And in October, the Qatari ambassador, Fahad bin Mohammed Al-Attiyah, issued a warning to LGBTQ soccer fans that were keen on being a part of the tournament. They were cautioned against "public displays of affection (PDAs)." The statement highlighted that they could likely face arrest in the strictly Muslim Gulf state. 

Read more: 2022 FIFA World Cup: Who will Win the Golden Boot? 

Ongoing Disputes at the FIFA 2022 World Cup 

While we are in the initial weeks of the FIFA 2022 World Cup, the host, Qatar, is continuing to entangle in several controversies. The country's stance on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBTQ+) issues has been at the forefront of the world's attention. Due to this, journalists, football players, and even fans have been involved in incidents over their rainbow-colored clothing. 

The heart-shaped, rainbow-colored 'OneLove' logo has put the FIFA 2022 World Cup's host in a lot of hot water. A symbol of diversity, inclusivity, and anti-discrimination, the armbands feature the logo and have been viewed as a protest Qatar's homosexuality laws. European players decided to abandon the OneLove armbands due to FIFA's yellow card threat.  

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Amid the ongoing controversies, FIFA President Gianni Infantino jumped to the defense of Qatar and accused the west of hypocrisy. However, the FIFA President's statements received a lot of criticism from multiple quarters as they appeared to be "tone-deaf" to the viewers.  

Most Accessible FIFA World Cup Ever 

Though FIFA President Gianni Infantino's oratorical embellishment is considered misguided, when it comes to disability inclusion at the World Cup, it is true too as the least he may have been able to live up to the defined promise of making Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup the most accessible World Cup ever in the history of the tournament. 

The rights of persons with disabilities, unlike those of minority groups, are enshrined in Qatari law. 

For disabled soccer fans, the tournament offers a rich bounty of accessibility provisions, ranging from the audio-described commentary of games in both Arabic as well as English language. All eight tournament stadiums offer ample disabled parking, seating, and concession stands for the fans. 

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Facilities have been set up for wheelchair users to view the action and not just experience it from an isolated low-level seating area but from multiple vantage points that are set up at different heights throughout the stadiums. At the same time, Qatar had integrated widespread accessibility upgrades across all public transport infrastructure to ensure that the disability inclusion legacy in the tournament lasts for decades. 

Three of the newly constructed stadiums also feature "sensory rooms" for neurodiverse spectators. These facilities are particularly helpful for younger children on the autism spectrum, who may find large crowds and the raucous atmosphere during the match overwhelming. 

Read more: Offsides: How FIFA’s New Semi-Automated Technology Can Change Football 

Many believe that this global event in Qatar has provided people from across the globe an opportunity to come together. 

Yet a few questions still remain unanswered. 

  • What to do when we're together?  

  • Should we build systems and places that authorize to celebrate diversity and difference?  

  • Do these occasions offer everyone a platform to learn from each other?  

  • Does this help in creating a legacy that fosters and promotes best practices? 

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While Qatar has experienced a fair share of the heat due to controversies, Qatar's work concerning disability inclusion in recent years is a living and shining example of timeless accessibility principles at work. Overall, Qatar 2022 has the largest deployment of sensory rooms in the history of the tournament. And the codesigning undertaken for participants with disabilities, along with accessibility planning and goals from the beginning of the project, had put Qatar in the special limelight globally. 

Key Highlights 

  • Not everyone was in favor of FIFA's decision, which was perceived to be unprecedented. The European teams also expressed their support for inclusion by other means. 

  • FIFA has voiced Qatar's defense in the face of criticism. It even rejected the "OneLove" campaign and has promoted its own "No Discrimination" campaign. 

  • A tiny and religiously conservative gas-rich location in the Gulf, the hosting country Qatar has experienced a lot of heat in controversial form since it first won the bid in 2010. 

Read more: How FIFA+ Can Revolutionize Sports Streaming? 

A Word of Caution for All 

One of the greater concerns is the negative attitudes toward disabled fans. This has been a barrier for them to attend live sports events. Citing a lack of accessibility as a reason for not being a part of the live sporting events has risen from 30.5% to 36.5% in the last 12 months.  

While addressing the international, intersectional nature of the U.N. Convention on the People's Rights with Disabilities, Pineda explained that- 

People with and without disabilities are human beings with the same inalienable rights. They both deserve to live with justice, peace, and fundamental freedoms. Each part of disability rights is a universal convention on human rights. Human beings living with disabilities should not have to go through a pick-and-choose type of menu. 

By bringing some of the best practices to bear for the disability community, the FIFA 2022 World Cup tournament is the most accessible in sporting history. 

When the final whistle blows on the FIFA 2022 World Cup on December 18, the winner will be crowned, and in the following days, the streets of Doha will return back to being their little calmer self. However, those with the responsibility of bearing the tournament's legacy forward may have to justifiably question whether choosing certain minority segments over others aligns with the true principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion within the federation. 

With a presence in New York, San Francisco, Austin, Seattle, Toronto, London, Zurich, Pune, Bengaluru, and Hyderabad, SG Analytics, a pioneer in Research and Analytics, offers tailor-made services to enterprises worldwide.                        

A leader in Market Research services, SG Analytics enables organizations to achieve actionable insights into products, technology, customers, competition, and the marketplace to make insight-driven decisions. Contact us today if you are an enterprise looking to make critical data-driven decisions to prompt accelerated growth and breakthrough performance. 


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