WSPN’s Katya Luzarraga and Bella Schreiber discuss the societal and political impact of the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar. (Credit: Katya Luzarraga)
WSPN’s Katya Luzarraga and Bella Schreiber discuss the societal and political impact of the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.

Credit: Katya Luzarraga

Two-sided Opinion: The controversies of the 2022 World Cup

December 17, 2022

In this side-by-side opinion, opinion editor Katya Luzarraga and copy editor Bella Schreiber discuss the controversies surrounding the World Cup being held in Qatar and the legacy of this soccer tournament.

Opinion: The Ukrainian crisis should be more important than soccer

I wish that I didn’t have to choose between critical news coverage of a war that is still going on in my family’s home country and a soccer tournament that happens once every four years. Unfortunately, our world prioritizes soccer over a war that is inflicting unimaginable pain on innocent Ukrainian citizens.

When I search “Ukraine war,” the first thing that pops up is a CNN link with live updates. These live updates remind me that this war, incited by Vladimir Putin, is still ongoing, and seems like a never-ending nightmare to my mother, grandparents and the citizens of Ukraine and Russia. For a while, I forgot about the events unfolding in Ukraine, or I chose not to look at the updates given by many media outlets.

Currently, the Biden administration is authorizing sending a Patriot missile system to Ukraine, to aid their defensive methods against Russia. This is a beacon of hope for Ukraine, but the Russian government would view a Patriot missile as “provocative,” symbolizing rebellion against Putin’s regime and infuriating him more.

Everything is being destroyed in front of Ukrainian citizens’ eyes, but where is the social awareness of the Ukrainian war right now? It seems that every attempt given by outside nations to assist Ukraine will just result in another attack from Russia. I had no idea how awful the war was because it seems like the media doesn’t care anymore. They’ve moved onto more glamorous, exciting events like the 2022 World Cup.

I think people should take a second to reflect on the gravity of the Ukrainian crisis. Imagine what it would be like if the United States were under constant threat of fire. Would they still be turning on the FIFA World Cup, or would they be watching the news in fear of their lives?

The FIFA World Cup began on Nov. 20, 2022, and Russian military troops invaded the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, from the Belarus border on Feb. 24, 2022. This “full-scale invasion” occurred almost nine months prior to the start of the World Cup, but the war is still not over, and we should remember that.

I’ll admit that I’m a soccer enthusiast, and I love watching the team I’m rooting for progress throughout the World Cup. It’s an exciting time, and it’s a good distraction from schoolwork and projects. I do appreciate and recognize the amount of time the teams spent training for this moment. Yet, when I’m watching the World Cup, I feel guilty.

The 2022 World Cup is projected to be the most viewed sports event internationally, garnering almost five billion viewers throughout the span of the tournament, and even more for the final game between France and Argentina on Dec. 18. Five billion people is almost the entire world population. That is barbaric. Imagine fitting all five billion of those viewers into one room. Then imagine, instead of watching the World Cup finals, people could be watching bombs land in front of Ukrainian homes with terrified children inside of them. It’s a grueling thought, comparing such a lively, energized event with an ongoing war that leaves an unsettling feeling in your stomach.

This is the reality that crosses my mind all the time now. I’m stuck between my mother refusing to watch the news because her childhood home is being burned to the ground and my father turning on the World Cup in his free time to scream at players that cannot hear him.

Notice how Russia is front and center in a FIFA corruption scandal. I think that Russian officials’ involvement in the corruption scandal is reason enough to view them as a problematic country. And now, there is a war that has Vladimir Putin in the center of it as the catalyst.

It’s unfair that the World Cup is receiving so many viewers when there are so many compelling reasons not to watch the World Cup in Qatar. First of all, the corruption allegations that surfaced in 2015 regarding bribes that secured Russia and Qatar’s bid to host the 2018 and the 2022 World Cups. Not to mention the strict LGBTQ+ laws in place, which ban fans and players from wearing rainbow clothing and accessories. Also, it is believed that thousands of migrant workers died while building the multibillion dollar stadiums in Qatar.

There are moments when a small act of social defiance reminds the world that bad things are still happening while a smokescreen event like the World Cup is in progress. During the Portugal vs. Uruguay soccer match on Nov. 29, a man ran onto the field wearing a shirt that said, “Save Ukraine” on the front and “Respect for Iranian Women” on the back, while waving a rainbow flag. This action quickly reached every media platform, with the man, Mario Ferri, defending his actions saying, “breaking the rules for a good cause is never a crime.”

You cannot ignore the issues going on in the world because they make you uncomfortable. Watching the injustices occurring in Ukraine fuel my anger, and these injustices inflicted on innocent people should be more publicized.

Giving recognition to Ukrainian refugees who don’t have a place to live anymore is a small way I can use my journalistic platform. By writing this article, I’m refocusing even a small amount of attention to the Ukraine crisis.

I will be fighting for the end of the war. The World Cup will end on Dec. 18, 2022, but when will the Ukraine War end?

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Opinion: Qatar should not be hosting the 2022 World Cup

Negligence and discrimination take center stage in Qatar’s 2022 World Cup, as well as the country’s strict policies on basic human rights. These reasons further prove that Qatar simply should not be hosting the World Cup.

The Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), has a long history of being a corrupt company, with many of its high ranking members and officials being accused of accepting bribery. Not only are there suspicions of games being rigged by biased officials, it was confirmed by the United States Department of Justice in 2015 that many of their high ranking officers had been receiving bribes. Even worse, after those initial accusations, it was found that FIFA is still accepting bribes. It is believed that both Russia, in 2018, and Qatar in 2022, were only able to host the World Cup because they sent bribes to FIFA.

Based on their history of money laundering, bribery, fraud and many more accusations, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that FIFA would stoop low enough to allow Qatar to host this year’s World Cup. Still, I can’t help but be astonished that they would overlook so many issues with Qatar and its hosting capabilities.

Seeing as so many youth players look up to the people within FIFA and the FIFA organization itself, setting a good example for younger audiences should be the organization’s top priority. FIFA’s job is not only to provide entertainment, but to instill the belief in young players that if they work hard enough, one day they could have the honor of playing within a FIFA World Cup. Rather than getting caught in scandals, FIFA should be spending more time working to help youth players.

Putting aside all human rights issues and bribes, Qatar is simply not a good location for the World Cup to take place.

Qatar is only 4,483 square miles, coming in just a little bit smaller than the state of Connecticut. Solely based on its size and the probable 1.2 million international visitors entering the country, it isn’t a comfortable location for the World Cup to take place. Imagine all of the fans entering the stadiums and the country. They are filled with a false excitement as they get ready to watch an incredible game, only to find that there is absolutely no space for them to sleep, and the stadium is overcrowded. Their view is probably obstructed by thousands of people layering on top of each other, and no one is given the room they need to breathe.

“Qatar is a mistake,” former FIFA president Sepp Blatter said in an interview with Swiss newspaper Tages Anzeiger on Nov. 8. “It was a bad choice and I was responsible for it as president at the time.”

In 2015, amidst a bribery scandal, Blatter was forced to step down from his presidential position, and he was soon investigated by both the Swedish government and FIFA itself. Blatter will remain banned until 2027. Moving forward, my hope is that as the company makes new decisions and moves forward without Blatter at the head, they will be less corrupted and less bribery driven.

When it won the vote in 2010 to host the 2022 World Cup, Qatar was lacking many of the stadiums, highways and hotels needed to entertain and accommodate all of their visitors. To compensate for the many things they would need to build, the Qatari government enlisted their massive migrant worker population for help.

The massive migrant worker population is the result of the kafala system or sponsorship system. The system works by allowing businesses and citizens to “sponsor” a migrant worker and be their employer. The sponsor is responsible for covering travel expenses and providing workers with housing, usually in dorm-like styles, or having the workers stay in the sponsor’s home.

The workers are vulnerable because their employment and residency visas are linked to each other, meaning only the sponsors can renew or terminate them. This imbalance of power creates a potentially dangerous situation for the workers. It’s absolutely appalling that one person could be allowed to hold that much power over another adult. As legal adults, the workers should at least be in control of where they work, yet they’re not.

The workers were forced to stay in overcrowded areas that are unsanitary and unsafe. As if all of that isn’t bad enough, there have also been accusations of salaries being below what was originally promised and countless deaths due to accidents in construction, as well as unhealthy living conditions.

“[Qatar] built their stadiums using slave labor, which obviously is horrible,” a WHS student said in an anonymous poll sent out to students. “There have been many reports of people dying as a result of building the stadiums.”

Since 2010, when FIFA announced that Qatar would host the 2022 World Cup, there have been around 6,500 migrant worker deaths. 37 of the deaths were confirmed to be directly related to people working on the World Cup stadium.

“While I think that every country should technically be allowed to participate, Qatar was a particularly bad choice to host this year’s cup,” another anonymous WHS student said. “Not only were FIFA members bribed to pick it, but there were many human rights abuses (bad working conditions, unbelievably low pay, etc.) in the production of the stadiums. Plus, Qatar does not have a history of being a very welcoming place, as it is illegal to be LGBTQ+, and women do not have as many rights as they do elsewhere.”

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