After 12 years of preparations and controversy, the 2022 Football World Cup opens this Sunday in Qatar

After twelve years of work and unprecedented controversy, the 2022 World Cup opens this Sunday, November 20 in Qatar, with the inaugural match between the small emirate and the selection of Ecuador.

More than towards the poster of this match, which opposes two modest selections, without any chance of final victory, it is towards the organizing country that all eyes will be turned. Because if Qatar hopes that ” his “ World will not get bogged down in extra-sporting controversies, since its designation as host country in 2010, criticism, doubts and controversies have marked the organization of this 22nd edition of the World Cup – the first organized in an Arab country.

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Accusations of corruption, the rights of migrant workers, the question of discrimination against women or LGBTQ+ people, reception capacity in such a small country with a weak footballing tradition, or even the environmental impact of the competition for which seven new stadiums have been built…. The 2022 World Cup has aroused rare protest, especially in Western countries.

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Suspicions of corruption

Since its surprise attribution on December 2, 2010 in Zurich, the Qatari World Cup has caused a lot of ink to flow. At the time, only one of the eight stadiums planned for the World Cup existed and the arrival of more than a million supporters raised questions about the reception capacity, in particular hotels, of the small emirate.

Then, a little less than two years after this surprise attribution, the first suspicions of corruption appeared. In August 2012, the Investigative Chamber of the FIFA Ethics Committee initiated an investigation into the awarding of the 2018 Worlds to Russia and the 2022 Worlds to Qatar, led by former US prosecutor Michael Garcia.

Hans-Joachim Eckert, president of the adjudicatory chamber of the FIFA ethics committee, notes in the Garcia report “questionable behavior” but not enough to call into question the allocation process. Garcia denounces a presentation “erroneous and incomplete” of its investigation and announces to appeal.

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On June 27, 2017, the Garcia report, without its main instigator, was published by Fifa, after leaks in the press. He notes a series of potentially suspicious financial transactions but not enough evidence to withdraw the organization of the World Cup from Qatar.

World Cup 2022: did Qatar gag France?

A disrupted schedule

In France, justice has been investigating since 2019 for “active and passive corruption” on a lunch held on November 23, 2010 between Nicolas Sarkozy, then President of the Republic, two senior Qatari leaders and Michel Platini, at the time boss of UEFA, who brought the four European voices to the emirate.

On October 13, 2022, a joint investigation by France Télévisions and Radio France revealed a note from the diplomatic cell of the Élysée, in view of this lunch, planning to address, in addition to the World Cup, the subjects “combat planes” and “global missile defense”.

In 2014, another controversy emerged: this time it concerned the competition calendar. On January 8, Jérôme Valcke, then secretary general of Fifa, declared that the World Cup would not take place “not in June-July” but “between November 15 and January 15 at the latest”. The reason ? The heat. In the middle of summer in Qatar, temperatures can soar up to 50 degrees Celsius.

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World Cup in Qatar: a journey behind the scenes

For the first time, it is therefore decided that a Football World Cup will be organized at the end of the calendar year, interrupting the European club championships, which makes some people cringe among the latter, employers of football stars.

Exploited workers

During these years of preparation, many voices have also criticized the small gas emirate on the subject of human rights. The total of 6,500 dead put forward at the start of 2021 by the British newspaper “The Guardian” is questionable. It corresponds to all the deaths recorded in the population coming from South Asia between 2010 and 2020, all causes combined.

Officially, there have been three deaths in the eight World Cup stadiums. A report by the International Labor Organization (ILO), which has an office in Doha, concluded that 50 workers died in workplace accidents in 2020 and another 500 were seriously injured. However, the ILO notes shortcomings in the system of investigation and registration of deaths and indicates that their number could be higher.

The World Cup in Qatar, how many deaths?

The reception of members of the LGBT + community will also be scrutinized in this conservative Muslim state where the legislation criminalizes sexual relations between people of the same sex. The organizers promise to host ” all “ visitors without discrimination.

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A disastrous ecological impact

Finally, the ecological impact of the tournament has cause for concern. According to a report published by Fifa in June 2021, more than 3.6 million tonnes of CO2 will be emitted due to the World Cup, compared to 2.1 million tonnes during the previous edition in Russia in 2018.

But this assessment is incomplete, judges the NGO Carbon Market Watch, which estimates that the carbon footprint of the construction of stadiums could have been underestimated by a factor of eight: it would be necessary to count 1.6 million tonnes of CO2 and no 0.2 million.

On the side of the organizers, it is argued that the proximity of the eight stadiums, within a radius of 75 km, will reduce air traffic in favor of the metro and electric buses. But voices evoke the risk of an increase in emissions due to the many air shuttles intended for the transport of supporters from neighboring countries to limit the pressure on the hotel offer in Qatar. Without forgetting the air conditioning of the stadiums, symbol of the energy and environmental waste that constitutes this competition of excess.

A plane will transport supporters every 10 minutes between Qatar and its neighboring countries during the World Cup

A huge image issue

Faced with mounting criticism, the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, went so far as to castigate a campaign ” unprecedented “ of “slanders” against the wealthy Gulf state, which according to some sources has invested around 200 billion euros for the tournament.

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As for Gianni Infantino, the boss of world football, he castigated Saturday, during a press conference, ” hypocrisy “ Western criticism of the Qatari World Cup, praising the ” progress “ obtained in this area by Fifa. “Giving moral lessons -always in the same direction- is simply hypocrisy”launched the president of the body, very offensive on the eve of the opening match, after months of silence on the multiple controversies which surround the tournament.

“Here, our words are worth nothing”: domestic slaves, the other hell of Qatar

In a peninsula as large as Cyprus or the greater Paris region, the stakes are immense for the image of the small emirate (nearly three million inhabitants), which expects more than a million fans until the final scheduled for December 18 at the Lusail stadium. However, the challenges to be met are numerous: security, management of the flow of supporters from one stadium to another, restrictions on alcohol consumption… The organizers also did an about-face at 48 hours of the sudden sending off, by prohibiting the sale of alcohol near the eight stadiums, arousing the incomprehension of the groups of supporters.

Monday, with the first game of England and its fiery supporters against Iran, will be a test for the organizers, on the eve of Tuesday’s entry into the running of the French team, champion of the world title, against Australia.

The Blues in doubt

On the sporting level, the Blues, defending champions, arrive in Qatar shrouded in doubts after a hecatomb of injuries: Pogba, Kanté and Benzema, injured during training on the eve of the opening of the competition…

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Especially since the competition looks threatening. There is of course Neymar’s Brazil, world No.1 in the Fifa rankings, and Argentina, who chained Wednesday in a friendly against the United Arab Emirates a 36th match without defeat, a length of the invincibility record established by Italy in 2021. After twenty years of European domination (Italy 2006, Spain 2010, Germany 2014 and France 2018), has South America come back?

Business, packages, boycott: the blues of the Blues before the World Cup

In the absence of Italy, European champions but not qualified, a caravan of other contenders looms in the desert sands, from Germany to Spain, rejuvenated, via the Netherlands or Belgium. But without prior physical preparation, or a series of friendly matches to break in before the tournament, certainties are fragile.

This could benefit outsiders like Croatia, vice-world champion 2018, Portugal of the irremovable Cristiano Ronaldo, Uruguay of stainless Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani or Senegal champion of Africa, despite the withdrawal of its star Sadio Mane.

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