When it was thought on social media last week that it was an image of a promotional poster for the World Cup, there was one particular element that caught the eye.
“Qatar welcomes you!” it reads. But dating, “immodesty” and, er, homosexuality are forbidden.
An interesting definition of ‘welcoming’, many argued.
FIFA president Gianni Infantino has maintained that the photo is fake. Fine. But the problem is, no one has argued it. No one blinked an eyelid that it couldn’t possibly be real. That is the impact Qatar has had on those who have followed this World Cup.
When a tournament rolls around, everyone usually loves a host country. The country turns into one big party for a month, the culture is on display to the world and, with automatic qualification awarded, the team is likely to be some sort of lovable underdog. Think of the United States in 1994, Japan in 2002 and South Africa in 2010.
But with Qatar it is different. Completely different.
Captain Harry Kane is the poster boy for England for Qatar’s World Cup this winter
FIFA President Gianni Infantino has defended Qatar a number of times as host
What everyone thought was a promotional poster for the tournament would be fake
The ceremony of the tournament
Qatar was awarded the 2022 World Cup in 2010. This is a scandal that has been going on for more than ten years.
There have been several corruption allegations surrounding the decision to give the country the tournament. Not just one or two – there are far too many to list.
In 2011, former CONCAF chairman Jack Warner said an email was published alleging that Mohammed bin Hammam, then president of the Asian Football Federation, had “bought” the World Cup.
Warner was then accused of being paid nearly £2 million by a company linked to the Qatar campaign, before several senior officials were arrested in 2015 on alleged information about a corruption and bribery scandal.
Of the 22 FIFA executives who voted back to host Qatar in 2010, at least 16 have been banned, charged or charged with criminal corruption, involved in FBI cases or charged with ethical violations but not convicted.
Qatar was controversially and reportedly wrongly awarded the World Cup more than a decade ago
It’s no secret that homosexuality is illegal in Qatar.
Therefore, no one initially doubted that the fake poster was real. Homosexuality is literally not welcome in the country. The penalty is a fine or up to seven years in prison.
Infantino, who is involved again, has said everyone is welcome at the World Cup. But how can a homosexual feel welcome in a country where he knows it is illegal to be himself?
European captains have pledged to wear rainbow bracelets during the tournament in support of LGBT rights. That could be interesting.
European captains – including Kane – will wear rainbow bracelets during the tournament
Disrupt the season
For the first time, the World Cup will be over in the winter. The first time in its 92-year history.
Slap bang in the middle of a Premier League season. The European season actually. Yes.
Legal action was threatened for five years after the nation awarded the tournament, and it was later decided that it would be played in December to avoid ridiculously high summer temperatures.
It’s just not the same as a summer tournament and it didn’t go down well with most football fans.
Competitions across Europe must be halted due to the nature of the World Cup in winter
Soulless metal buildings are advertised as portakabins for fans who will stay in Qatar
This is another long one, so buckle up.
Suggestions that people working to make the World Cup in Qatar possible have been mistreated date back to 2013 when concerns were raised that workers would reportedly be denied food, water and pay.
A Wall Street Journal report in 2015 noted that more than 1,200 workers involved in the World Cup had died. Although it was later suggested that the number was incorrect, no one blinked again.
Much has been said about the poor living conditions of workers in Qatar, perhaps most recently by Gary Neville, who took a trip to the Middle East and highlighted the poor condition of the houses they lived in. Workers were reportedly paid 99 pence an hour before a minimum wage was finally introduced in 2020.
No one knows the true number of worker deaths, but one is one too many, and there have certainly been quite a few more.
Much of the area that will be used for the World Cup in Qatar is still under construction
Do they have to be there too?
In the 32 team tournament, Qatar is in third place among all teams – 50th, ahead of only Saudi Arabia (51) and Ghana (61).
The host country doesn’t need to qualify, of course, but what made things a little more interesting was that the Qatar national team decided to participate in the qualifying process anyway, joining the European Qualifier Group A and using the matches as friendlies with the results not that affect their participation in the tournament.
The Qatar team is ready to play in their first-ever World Cup after automatic qualification
They recorded a few wins against Luxembourg and Azerbaijan and a draw against Ireland, but otherwise there was nothing to write home about.
To give them their credit, Qatar is the reigning Asian champion. They defeated Japan 3-1 in the final of the 2019 AFC Asian Cup and there will be six Asian teams in the country for the World Cup next month, so that’s certainly an achievement.
We will never know if the squad would have qualified naturally or could have qualified. But this will be their first ever World Cup, and they’re not there on merit. They never have been and may never be.
This is how we come full circle. Everyone likes to cheer on a lovable underdog. This underdog is anything but that.