Dear FIFA President Sepp Blatter,
Ever since you announced on December 2, 2010 that Qatar won the bid for the 2022 World Cup over Australia, Japan, South Korea, and the United States, controversies have run rampant over you and your fellow voters. One of the reasons that you provided for Russia, the first Eastern European country to host a World Cup, winning the 2018 World Cup and Qatar, the first Middle Eastern country to host a World Cup, winning the 2022 World Cup bids was “going to new lands” and “development of football,” or, as I like to call it, “where the money is.” The number of different problems with hosting a World Cup in Qatar is almost endless.
Possibly the most troubling problem is the temperature and date issues. Qatar’s triple-digit temperatures have raised the question: should the World Cup be moved to the winter? In 2022, it will be the 22nd World Cup. Through 2014, none of the previous 19 World Cups have occurred outside of the months of May, June, or July. There’s a reason that most of the world’s professional soccer leagues are scheduled to end in May. The World Cup is one of those reasons, Sepp. Also, have you ever looked at a map? The countries that surround Qatar are United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Saudi Arabia, otherwise known as “countries too hot and dry to play soccer in July.”
Another major issue is worker safety and living conditions. Recent reports have suggested that the construction leading up to the 2022 World Cup may kill more people than 9/11. The report states that 9-12 stadiums will be either refurbished or built by 2022. Qatar is moderately relying on Indian migrant workers to perform the construction. In 2013, an average of 20 Indian migrant workers died per month in Qatar. That’s not including the Nepalese workers and workers of other descents. Since Qatar was awarded the World Cup in 2022, 1200 workers have died. Over 4000 works could die before a ball is even kicked in 2022 . Are all of these deaths related specifically to the construction of the facilities necessary for hosting a World Cup? No, but the root cause is the same in all of the deaths: working conditions. To put this in to perspective, as of March 2014, only 7 workers have died in Brazil in the construction leading up to this year’s World Cup. One Indian migrant worker explained a situation where he arrived at a construction site, and there was blood everywhere. He had no idea what happened, and there was no report filed. When he reported it, he was basically told to stop complaining or he would be dismissed. Let’s be real here, Mr. Blatter: you could not care less about the health and safety of these workers, because money talks. That leads me to my next point…
When is enough money going to be enough? At what point do you say: “You know what, my board members and I should be happy with the money we are making. Let’s do the World Cup vote fairly.” No, that is not enough. In mid-March, reports surfaced stating that two weeks after Qatar received the 2022 World Cup, former VP of FIFA Jack Warner was personally paid $1.2 million from a company controlled by a former Qatari football official. It doesn’t stop there – his sons were paid a total of $750,000. Haven’t had enough? One of his employees was also paid $400,000. Conflicting statements say that payments are for “offsetting legal and other expenses” or “professional services provided over the period 2005-2010.” The scandals are not just limited to Qatar. In the bidding process of the 2018 World Cup, England received only two votes and was eliminated in the first round. Six weeks before the 2018 World Cup vote was even made, a World Cup official was caught in an underground investigation where he agreed to sell his vote to one of England’s rivals. Meanwhile, a second member was recorded asking for £1.5 million for a sports academy. Both officials were suspended, but not relieved of their duties. One may wonder, where is the checks and balances that could prevent something like this from happening? Trust me, it gets better.
Former FBI investigator Michael Garcia, who is in charge of the investigatory chamber of your ethics committee, almost fell victim to a plot by your executives to have him removed from the ethics committee. Garcia was given the task of examining the bidding for the 2018 and 2022 World Cup tournaments. Garcia showed up to the meetings in Zurich (where voting took place) unannounced, and some of your members were unsettled by his presence, which launched internal talks amongst unnamed executives to un-seat Garcia. Some members of the executive committee intervened, stating that blocking Garcia in any way would cast an even darker shadow on the organization – as if the shadow could not be any darker. This situation is like cheating on your girlfriend, then being mad at her for going through your phone and catching you. Just admit defeat, FIFA.
Qatar defeated the United States in the decisive round by a vote count of 14-8. Sure, you want to expand soccer in the Middle East, but have you asked Qatar what they plan on doing with all of the facilities being built to accommodate a World Cup? One of your reasons for expanding the World Cup to the Middle East is to expand the game in countries such as Qatar. You are aware that soccer is the number one sport in Qatar, right? Certainly you are aware of that, Sepp.You know who would benefit greatly from hosting a World Cup? The 50 stars and 13 bars. In a recent article by Nate Silver, a recent-hire by ESPN, he made a fascinating chart ranking the big seven sports leagues in North America (NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL, MLS, Liga MX, and CFL) and their Google search popularity. The caboose in the chart is – yup, you guessed it – Major League Soccer. The most popular MLS team was the LA Galaxy. It out-ranked one MLB team (Oakland Athletics), 16 NHL teams (over half of the league), and nine NBA teams. Perhaps this is just me wearing my red, white, and blue American Outlaws bandana, but soccer is at a point where it could boil over the top of the pot in many American households. The U.S. Men’s National Team is slowly beginning to bring in promising prospects, and MLS is on the verge of exploding. All of the hype surrounding being the host of a World Cup 12 years from the announcement date would have sent American soccer fans through the roof. Was it ever about anything other than money, Sepp? That’s a rhetorical question, in case you don’t sense my sarcasm.
So, how do we come to a resolution to this situation? Some people have called for a vote rerun. However, reports suggest that the compensation costs would reach beyond FIFA’s reserves, which are around $1.43 billion – yes, that’s “billion,” with a “b.” Should they make Michael Garcia’s investigatory chamber more powerful? The fact that these grown men have to be watched like elementary school students is beyond ridiculous. Should teams just pull out of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and not even show up? At this point, it is too late in the race to do that – plus, that really is not a viable option, for the sake of the game. My favorite option, which I recently tweeted, is that FIFA needs an Edward Snowden. Give me a whistleblower – someone that will risk his reputation amongst your group of “men” in order to provide the public with the honest truth. Will soccer fans around the globe really be surprised to hear that FIFA was bribed by Qatar (if it is indeed true)? Probably not, but anyone within the organization that will spill the beans will be much more beneficial to the game. This whole situation has mixed together two things that go together like oil and water – soccer and politics. Running against you in the voting for FIFA Presidency will result in nothing less than corruption and controversy. So it looks like the responsibility lies on you, Mr. Blatter. You and your men in suits are ruining the beautiful game.
With my sincerest regards (not really),
Kyle F. Bennett