Sport

Soccer: The Qatarstrophe continues

By Antoinette Muller 10 October 2013

A former FIFA official has revealed that he found Qatar to be the only “high risk” option out of the bidders for the 2022 World Cup. Kuwait wants to introduce “gay testing” for Gulf states, which would see gay fans and footballers barred from attending the World Cup, despite this being contradictory to FIFA’s “tolerance policies”. The shamefulness of it all is staggering, while FIFA continues to pussyfoot around the big issues. By ANTOINETTE MULLER.

It’s still nine years to go, but the Qatar 2022 Soccer World Cup has already generated more publicity of the wrong kind than any World Cup hosted in South Africa could dream of.

From brown envelopes to the violation of human rights, everything that can be bad has been bad for the Gulf nation, and the troubles continue to rage on. A senior FIFA official has said that deciding to hold the tournament in the summer months was a “mistake”. Why it took said officials three years to notice, though, nobody knows.

Harold Mayne-Nicholls, a former FIFA official, has added his voice to the growing echo of concerns over the temperatures, and has called for a new voting process in order to stop influence and deals. Mayne-Nicholls served as a technical inspector who ranked all nine bidders for both the 2018 and 2022 World Cup before they were awarded. During the profiling and inspections, Qatar was ranked as a high-risk option overall, but it still managed to win 14 of the 22 executive committee votes.

The decision surrounding when exactly the tournament will take place has been debated and delayed, and while it now looks almost certain Qatar will be hosting the World Cup in the country’s winter time, it never should have taken this long to take action.

In his executive summary, Mayne-Nicholls wrote: “The fact that the competition is planned in June-July, the two hottest months of the year in this region, has to be considered as a potential health risk for players, officials, the FIFA family and spectators, and requires precautions to be taken.”

The weather should be the least of the tournament’s worries, though.

The world’s governing body is bordering on shambolic, and that it is still considered credible is laughable. The concerns around the World Cup in Qatar are about far more than the weather. The vote for the tournament to be hosted there was never credible in the first place.

FIFA should have rerun the vote, and taken the financial knock which would have come in the form of a firestorm of law suits from Qatar, in order to prove that they are actually competent at being custodians of the world’s most popular sport.

Prior to voting in 2010, it was revealed that three of FIFA’s Exco members had taken bribes from ISL in order to bag FIFA contracts. Those allegations have been proven true, and FIFA has confirmed them. But that’s not all. FIFA has for so long been bedevilled by corruption and ulterior motives that it’s hard to believe the organisation is still allowed to be in charge of the game.

Mohamed bin Hammam, from Qatar, who was once upon a time a challenger to Sepp Blatter’s presidency, was found by the court of arbitration for sport last year to “more likely than not” have brought cash to two meetings in May 2011, which was then handed to FIFA delegates.

Of course, Qatar themselves have denied any wrongdoing in their bids. But there is evidence, and Blatter has admitted there was “political influence” in the bid which took place three years ago.

Since 2010, and after the massive corruption scandal, a process of reform has slowly started to creep in. However, when the votes were done for the 2022 World Cup, FIFA was a mess and Blatter was aware of it. When a fish is rotting at its head, it is thrown out, and this should have been the case for the 2022 World Cup vote.

It doesn’t stop there, though. In what reads like a parody, Kuwait has now said they will be medically screening people to “detect homosexuality” and prevent them entering the country. Yousouf Mindkar, the director of public health at the Kuwaiti health ministry, revealed that these tests will be carried out and gay people will be barred from entering the Gulf states.

“Health centres conduct the routine medical check to assess the health of the expatriates when they come into the GCC countries,” he told local daily Al Rai. “However, we will take stricter measures that will help us detect gays, who will be then barred from entering Kuwait or any of the GCC member states.”

If the reports are true and this actually happens, it means gay players and spectators will be banned from attending the World Cup. Such blatant discrimination is in direct contradiction to FIFA’s tolerance policy, which states: “Discrimination of any kind against a country, private person or group of people on account of ethnic origin, gender, language, religion, politics or any other reason is strictly prohibited and punishable by suspension or expulsion.”

That FIFA would ever have the guts to expel a nation set to host their World Cup is unlikely. But LGBT activist Peter Tatchell has called for a boycott of the country and for the World Cup to be cancelled.

“This contradicts previous assurances given to FIFA by the Qatar government that everyone will be welcome and that there will be no discrimination,” Tatchell said.

“FIFA now has no option but to cancel the world cup in Qatar. Allowing it to go head in these circumstances would involve FIFA colluding with homophobic discrimination.”

FIFA’s response was the usual jibber-jabber, though. A spokesperson said that they were “not aware about the specific matter” of the proposed legislation and then reiterated FIFA’s “zero tolerance” policy which applies to “all FIFA World Cup and to all other FIFA events and activities.”

There’s a lot of talk coming from the world’s governing body, but it seems to remain just that: talk. Cash obviously speaks far louder than doing the right thing, eh? DM

Photo: Journalists are reflected in a logo at the FIFA headquarters after a meeting of the executive committee in Zurich October 4, 2013. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

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