As controversy around whether the 2022 World Cup will take place in the winter or summer, the head of international soccer’s governing body admitted this week that awarding the Cup to Qatar was a mistake. The World Cup traditionally takes place in June and July, when temperatures in Qatar reach well into the triple digits. FIFA ignored that when it gave the games to Qatar in 2010, but it is now seeking to move the event to winter, above the objections of European club leagues and international leaders.
In a ridiculous attempt to justify awarding the World Cup to Qatar and his recent efforts to move the event to winter, FIFA president Sepp Blatter said this week that the opposition to a winter World Cup from European leaders is a result of ethnocentrism and forced imperialism and a lack of understanding that Europe does not “rule the world anymore.” Via Deadspin, Insideworldfootball.com reports:
IWF: …but Mr Blatter, your ExCo knew full well, already on December 10, 2010, that a summer World Cup would be impossible to be hosted in Qatar’s scorching summer…
BLATTER:… that may well be so, and it may well be that we made a mistake at the time. On the other hand, you must also consider political and geo-political realities. The World Cup is FIFA’s biggest if not only global event. Who are we, the Europeans, to demand that this event has to cater to the needs of 800 million Europeans above all, when there are over 7 billion people who populate this planet and of who 6.2 billion are not European, but who must at all times succumb to our diktat?
I think it is high time that Europe starts to understand that we do not rule the world anymore, and that some former European imperial powers can no longer impress their will on to others in far away places, and we must accept that football has moved away from being a European and South American sport: it has become the World Sport that billions of fans are excitedly following every week, everywhere in the world.
Blatter’s argument, geopolitical word salad that it is, would be noble if that were actually the primary motive behind putting the World Cup in countries like Brazil and Qatar. But it isn’t. FIFA may be expanding its games and the borders of sports, but that’s just a by-product of its attempts to expand its reach and influence to new frontiers. And it’s biggest strength is its ability to impress its will “on to others in far away places” to help build its legacy.
That impression of will is how FIFA gets countries to build new stadiums and infrastructure that is necessary to little else but the World Cup so that it can then claim credit for the mythical economic benefits that come alongside. In doing so, FIFA helps itself — it will make $4 billion in revenue from the 2014 World Cup alone — and also enriches elites both inside and outside host countries. In Brazil, foreign contractors and investors are already reaping huge profits from the coming 2014 Cup; Qatar is planning to outspend Brazil by 10 times, so similar investors will turn even larger profits. Meanwhile, in places like Rio and Sochi, families are displaced to make way for stadiums and workers are mistreated and underpaid as the pressure to finish facilities increases. The majority of Qatar’s residents aren’t even Qatari — they are migrant workers who suffer unconscionable conditions. Like Brazilians, the majority of them won’t share in the prosperity of the Cup, since tickets will be too expensive for them to attend games and the promised economic benefits almost surely won’t materialize — at least for them.
This isn’t a turn away from imperialism. It’s just a new form of it. If Blatter actually cared about ending discrimination and expanding the reach and impact of international sports, he’d promote tolerance for all of the citizens in countries that host and put on events that lead not just to the creation of unnecessarily lavish stadiums but also much-needed development, like schools, hospitals, and water treatment. He’d use sports to promote the general good, not the good of FIFA and its investors.