Qatar 2022: this World Cup took place at the scene of a crime | world cup 2022
youwo days out of the World Cup In the end, Qatar has just hosted its tournament after being declared a very short time ago “at the forefront of labor rights”. “Today,” the statement in question continues, “the World Cup in Qatar is proof of how sports diplomacy can achieve a historic transformation of a country.”
It is just a bit unfortunate that the member of the European Parliament who spoke these words three weeks ago is currently in custody by the Belgian police. after the discovery of almost 1 million euros in bills at his marital home and in a hotel room used by his father. After all, this has been a successful World Cup. Qatar has catapulted onto the world stage and has won much applause. This moment is just a strange coincidence.
In his closing speech, I hope that FIFA President Gianni Infantino will once again a familiar rhetorical groove, and riffs: “Today I feel like I’m in police custody in Brussels. Today I feel like an MEP with a suitcase full of cash at her house. Today, I feel that I am that MEP who denies any involvement in an alleged bribery and corruption scheme that also involves the Moroccan intelligence services. Today, I feel like I am the husband of the MEP who reportedly confessed to the role of her working for the Qatari government.”
Before I go any further, I must of course say that no incontrovertible evidence linking Qatar to corruption in the way it secured its World Cup has ever been uncovered. The arrests in Brussels last week are alleged to be linked to Qatar’s attempts to strike a deal on aviation and visa-free travel to the bloc. There is no definitive evidence on Qatar’s successful bid, and FIFA’s undoubted ethics committee found nothing in its investigations. The desert state would rather you focus solely on their jubilation in that 2010 video of Sepp Blatter opening the envelope and revealing the word “Qatar” as cameras caught representatives of England’s failed bid, including David Beckham, with sad face and shrug. Beckham himself has since found a reported £150 million from Qatar to cheer him up. So, you know, every cloud.
It seems strange now to think back to the 2015 FIFA arrests. At the time, it was the biggest story out there, so big you could hardly believe what you were seeing. It ran and ran, until the massive political upheavals of 2016 completely overshadowed it, and suddenly it seemed like a quaint old cops-and-robbers story from a different era.
But back then we were stuck. Time and time again I come back to that image of the staff at the five-star hotel Baur au Lac in Zurich, where fifa the executives stayed on the eve of their annual conference, diligently holding down the sheets to protect the suspects after they were arrested in the dawn raid by Swiss authorities at the behest of the FBI. It’s not so much that the FIFA executives were literally being carried under their own dirty clothes, although that is definitely the case. It is the continuous level of respect.
I have stayed in the occasional fancy hotel over the years. However, if I was arrested in one of them, I simply cannot understand the process that would lead to me continuing to be treated as a valued customer even as they took me to the police van. I mean, what do you do to get that service? Call the concierge and say: “Good morning. A couple things. One, the hollandaise sauce on my eggs benedict was a bit lukewarm this morning. Not happy. And two, I’ve just been arrested on behalf of the FBI. Can you send someone in a tailcoat to hold some white clothes for me while they take me out? You’d think, speaking of guest services, that he was alone at that point. And yet, sheets arrived brought by footmen. It feels like a testament to the fact that there really was no better client than FIFA. And there still isn’t.
As for the arrests from last week, they allege Qatar’s continued attempts to gain global influence. Some of these are on view. Various British MPs have accepted gifts of travel and hospitality of the Doha regime, with £260,000 spilled over 36 MPs last year alone. Faced with renewed interest in these unfortunate declarations of interest after the Belgian raids, some grantees are holding their ground. Conservative MP Jackie Doyle-Price, who took £7,374 in travel and hospitality, insists: “It is precisely to challenge them on their human rights record that we make these trips.”
In a way, I love this idea: that an autocratic regime that has repeatedly demonstrated its total disregard for human rights makes lavish all-expenses-paid trips for unbranded foreign politicians and then when some irrelevant member of West Bollockshire raises the issue of migrant workers dying between bites of the Arabian oryx steak he paid for, he decides he must change his ways. As the remorseful Chris Bryant of the Labor Party, who accepted the hospitality, said: “They didn’t want to listen and it felt all wrong.” Okay, yes.
So, if it feels ridiculously in your nose that this foray into Brussels should take place in the final stages of the World Cup in Qatar, that’s the game. You expect sensational surprises, but the winning eyes remain on the prize. After the Belgian arrests, a Strasbourg member of parliament intoned: “We are standing in the middle of the crime scene”. What a thing. For the past month, we’ve been seeing the world’s biggest sporting event in the middle of one.
There has not been a single conviction despite reportedly thousands of worker deaths. Nothing has changed, because the system works. There will always be people like Beckham willing to hold up the metaphorical sheets and the caravan will always keep going. Whoever wins from Argentina and France, the final winner has been Qatar. She got away with it.