Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - World Cup moves on to Qatar and a whole lot of problems



World Cup moves on to Qatar and a whole lot of problems

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
France players celebrate with the trophy during the presentation ceremony after beating Croatia in the final of the Russia 2018 World Cup at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow on July 15. AFP

World Cup moves on to Qatar and a whole lot of problems

As one of the best World Cups ever ends in Russia, football’s biggest tournament must now prepare for its most controversial, in Qatar in 2022.

Since the tournament was handed to the supremely wealthy Gulf state, whose team has never appeared in a World Cup, FIFA’s decision has been roundly questioned and resulted in severe consequences for football and its governing body.

The four-year run-up to the Middle East’s first ever World Cup is unlikely to prove any different.

With a host rocked by a diplomatic crisis, accused of supporting terrorism, facing allegations of corruption and human rights abuse, a tournament shifted to November and December for the first time and uncertainty over how many teams will take part in 2022, it is fair to say there has never been a World Cup like Qatar’s.

The emirate sold its bid in part by claiming Qatar’s World Cup would be one for the Middle East but that claim has been severely undermined by political events.

Since June 2017, a group of neighbouring countries including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have frozen relations with Qatar, accusing it of backing extremism and being too close to Iran.

The crisis has lasted 13 months and shows little sign of abating, instead deepening with Qatar taking the UAE to the International Court of Justice in June. It has unsettled the most stable part of the Middle East and placed 2022 in its crosshairs.

Officials in Saudi Arabia and the UAE have openly called for Qatar to be stripped of the World Cup and promised fresh revelations later this year.

As part of the crisis, Saudis and UAE citizens are prevented by their own countries from travelling to Qatar; prior to the dispute Doha tournament organisers predicted up to 1.5 million fans arriving for the tournament, many from football-mad Saudi.

FIFA has desperately tried to stay out of the bitter and bizarre conflict, but that appears unlikely to last.

On July 11 it announced it was preparing to take legal action in Saudi Arabia against pirate broadcasters, transmitting stolen live World Cup games from Qatar’s beIN Sports.

And behind all the drama politics continue as FIFA president Gianni Infantino seeks to balance relations with Qatar and his increasingly warm links with the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman.

List of issues

The myriad of issues surrounding Qatar 2022 are almost unfathomable.

Corruption investigations continue with the Swiss Attorney General’s office examining the awarding of the 2022 tournament as well as an American court case hearing graft claims last year.

Qatar denies all allegations, as it does with terror-funding claim by its former allies.

The thorny issue of compensation for Europe’s top leagues including Spain, England and Germany because they will suspend their leagues during a “Winter World Cup” remains unresolved, with a payout as high as €1 billion suggested in some quarters.

Despite mooted labour reforms affecting some two million migrant workers helping build World Cup venues and related projects, human rights groups remain anxious about the pace of reform promised by Qatar.

And the enthusiasm among some FIFA members, including apparently Infantino, for a 48-team World Cup in 2022 rumbles on.

Set to be discussed at FIFA’s Moscow Congress, it was taken off the agenda, only for senior Qatari World Cup official Nasser Al-Khater to say in Russia on July 7 that a 48-team tournament was doable “if the format is done right”.

As if all that is not enough, Qatar now has to follow one of the greatest World Cups, with expectations vastly raised ahead of 2022. And beyond global issues, it will have to deal with more commonplace ones, such as how much to limit alcohol sales during 2022.

Qatari organisers reportedly sent a team of some 30 officials to Russia and will have noted the the street party atmosphere in bars, something alien to Doha.

Qatar’s World Cup preparations have so far been like none before it – and the next four years promise to be no different.

MOST VIEWED

  • Phnom Penh unveils rules for post-lockdown transition

    The Phnom Penh Municipal Administration issued a set of detailed guidelines for the seven days to May 12 after the capital emerges from lockdown at the onset of May 6. In the 14-page document signed by municipal governor Khuong Sreng released on the evening of May 5, the

  • SBI LY HOUR Bank Launches Cross Border Money Transfer Service between Cambodia and Vietnam on RippleNet, utilizing DLT

    SBI LY HOUR Bank Plc and Hanoi-based Tien Phong Commercial Joint Stock Bank (TPBank) on Friday launched the first Cambodia-Vietnam money transfer service in real currency via RippleNet, provided by SBI Ripple Asia Co Ltd to provide safe, fast and convenient services. SBI LY HOUR

  • Gov’t issues guidelines as lockdown nears end

    The government has issued a five-page set of instructions to be enforced when the three-week lockdown of Phnom Penh and adjacent Takmao town in Kandal province ends on May 6. According to an announcement signed by Prime Minister Hun Sen on May 4, the instructions cover a

  • Cambodia ready to exit LDC status

    Cambodia is well-prepared to minimise economic risks when it graduates from its Least Developed Countries status, according to a senior official at the Ministry of Commerce on May 7. Four LDCs – Cambodia, Laos, Bangladesh and Nepal – met at a virtual workshop last week to explore potential

  • Nine US franchises eye Cambodia debut

    Nine famous US franchising companies are looking for business opportunities and expansion into Cambodia to build a footstep for a strong foundation in Southeast Asia. The US embassy in Phnom Penh, in partnership with the US Foreign Commercial Service and with support from the American

  • Lost in translation: ‘Starvation’ in capital’s designated red zones

    “DACH bay” is a Khmer slang meaning a “loss of income”, that could also be literally translated to «deprived of rice”, which alludes to starvation. However, civil society organisation (CSO) officials have independently confirmed the government’s prior assertions that there are no cases of