The World Cup in Qatar will be a great football match, but an ugly game
By Martin Ivens/ When the World Cup kicks off this weekend, a Western sense of fair play will be outraged that a country without any sporting tradition has won the right to host the tournament through 'financial muscle'. Adding insult to injury – due to Qatar's extreme temperatures, the World Cup is not being staged during the usual summer break, but in November, interrupting football competition in the northern hemisphere for six weeks. The coming weeks will be a reminder of how the clash of values of the liberal West and rich Arab states can play out in the international arena to the displeasure of all.
The list of accusations leveled against the oil state is long: that the ruling family (Al Thani) is using the World Cup to strengthen its power; that 6,500 people have died building Qatar's glittering tournament infrastructure including highways, hotels and eight stadiums; and that the country is hostile to homosexuals and other minorities.
Even Sepp Blatter, the former president of FIFA, soccer's highest international authority, now describes his decision to award the World Cup to Qatar in 2010 as 'a bad choice'. Blatter recently told Swiss newspaper Tages-Anzeiger: 'It's a very small country. Football and the World Cup are too big for that.'
The decision was mired in controversy and allegations of corruption. Blatter himself was acquitted of fraud charges by a Swiss court in July. The US Department of Justice also believes FIFA members were bribed to vote for Qatar, although the country has repeatedly denied it.
The Al Thanis have billions to spend, and the West wants their money and liquefied natural gas. Qatar already owns several major league European football clubs; why shouldn't the 'kingdom' get the prize? It's just business.
Besides, tour bureaucrats know that autocracies deliver success. Their grand construction projects avoid all the messy compromises and tortuous delays involved in democratic planning. Just think how long it takes to build a single railway line in the UK or an airport in Germany.
Western greed and hypocrisy go hand in hand. Many of the celebrities, models and sports figures who appear for photographs at Gay Pride events and support liberal causes at home are happy to take money from Qatar to promote the World Cup. Al Thanis may find that everything and everyone in the West is for sale / Bloomberg