POV: FIFA World Cup

Xiang Zhang, Copy

Four years ago, over 3.5 billion people tuned in to watch the greatest sporting event in human history: the World Cup. And four years later, the eyes of the world have turned again to watch the World Cup, this time in the desert sands of Qatar. However, since Qatar was first awarded to host the World Cup in 2010, the small Middle Eastern nation has been embroiled in scandals and critiques. From allegations of human rights violations over migrant workers hired to build the stadiums, to the criminalization of homosexuality in the country, to the dangerously high temperatues during the summer, when the World Cup would otherwise normally occur, there seems to be an almost endless stream of controversy.

“Qatar is the worst . . . country,” says junior Cole Shumaker. “I’ve seen so many posts about hating Qatar. I hate Qatar. They don’t even allow alcohol in Qatar, they don’t support gay marriage or anything, they’re also in the worst timezone for a US citizen to watch the World Cup, all of the games are at 4 AM, what else?”

“When you try to judge a country based on its views, that can get xenophobic and eurocentric really quickly, but I think it’s defnitive that Qatar is not good so we should definitely get mad at them for doing these horrible things,” says Freshman Xavier Carrasco-Cooper, who was more neutral on the topic. “I think it shows that FIFA only cares about the money if they’re willing to host it in a country so entangled with these issues. Not to say that there’s a perfect country to host the World Cup, but they definitely should have some self-consciousness about where they host it.”

On the other hand, sophomore Sebastian Borjas also had concerns about the timing of the 

World Cup, in the winter instead of the summer. “In Qatar it’s almost damned if you do, damned if you don’t, because in the summer, you’d be passing out on the field because of heat exhaustion. If it’s in the winter, people will get injured from otherwise preventable injuries,” he says.

“With the [World Cup] being something that only happens once every four years, these players are missing out on something because of a small injury, because of a crammed schedule of games prior,” says Dean of Students Will Whipple, who was also particularly concerned about injury. “Richarlison having struggles for Brazil, or Sadio Mane now being out for Senegal is a huge loss for them…It does negatively affect the players and put them at risk of not being able to play for their country, which would really make me sad.”

Beyond injury concerns, Shumaker was also concerned about the atmosphere. “They have fake fans. They’re actually paying people to support teams they don’t even care about,” he says. “That is the stupidest [stuff] I’ve ever heard. It’s so [flipping] dumb. It makes it worse; it’s not real, it’s just acting at that point. Maybe not even acting, they probably don’t even know that much about the teams,” he says.

“[In previous World Cups], all these fans were coming together, meeting, drinking alcohol––almost running out of alcohol––and it felt like this melting pot, but with Qatar, less fans are coming and they’re having to pay people to pretend to support teams,” says Borjas. “It feels more plastic and less natural…It just feels like a spectacle that Qatar wants to put on to boost the ego of the rulers, really.”

However, despite the bevy of concerns regarding this World Cup, the prestige of the tournament still shines through. “Since the World Cup itself is such a spectacle, a world spectacle, no matter where it is, it’s always going to have the power it does to draw in crowds… it’s an opportunity for everyone to come together,” says Whipple. 

This attitude is also reflected in our very own student body, where Shumaker says, “I do not care if it’s during or after class, [I’ll watch] as much as I can.”