Op-Ed: Put an asterisk on the Qatar World Cup
By Robert Stevens, The Sports Guru | Posted – April 17th – 2012
In March, FIFA, the international governing body of soccer, announced that the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil would be the last World Cup hosted in South America until Qatar 2022. Given the long-standing and widespread criticism on the lack of equal standards and opportunities in the region, coupled with the obvious corruption and human rights abuse of the ruling Al-Thani family, the last part of this statement is surprising to say the least.
At one point, when the ruling Qataris were still in power through their father and son Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, the Gulf nation was one of the most open and accepting places on the planet, and soccer was a huge draw for not just tourists but the local population as well. That was until a very controversial decision was handed down regarding the “independence” of the Qatar national sports federation.
It seems that Qatari authorities realized that if their country was to have any chance of hosting an event like the FIFA World Cup, the people of Qatar would need to be involved. So, they established the Qatari Olympic Committee, which, in turn, put forward new criteria for both the FIFA World Cup and the AFC Asian Cup.
According to the guidelines, the AFC Asian Cup will no longer be considered a regional competition, with each nation only hosting one tournament per year. Instead, the competition will go to a country every three years. To be eligible, teams will need to have the best available stadiums and all of the infrastructure available. Also, only teams from countries which have qualified in the FIFA World Cup and has a minimum of four teams can participate in the competition.
The new system may have been a major factor in the decision to make the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil the last World Cup to be hosted in South America unless they were willing to take advantage of the Qatar World Cup.
Qatar received the hosting rights from FIFA when it hosted the Asian Cup in 1990, and it has not hosted any sort of major international event since. Despite the criticism and criticism from other nations, especially the U.S. and Canada, who have been trying to play a role in the ongoing political and human rights issues in the Gulf nation, the country has yet to receive any major backlash.
When Qatar’s World Cup was announced in May, the reaction