The Middle East is a split region of commotion and conflict. However, it seems that the population of the region has a common interest: soccer. Recent polls have shown that 58% of respondents say that they regularly follow soccer. Even with this high following of the game, the region has not performed well in the game’s biggest stage, the World Cup. Over the past summer, at the 2014 World Cup, the Middle East had only one team qualify for the event, Iran. Iran finished last in their group with zero wins, one tie and two loses. Despite the poor showing, the region has not lost interest in the sport.
Controversially, the World Cup is set to take stage in Qatar in 2022. Many people are in uproar over this because of multiple reasons. One, they believe that billionaire, Mohammad bin Hammam, paid millions in bribes for Qatar to get the bid. FIFA is investigating this but has not yet found crucial evidence for this matter. Two, the summer temperatures in Qatar are up to near 110 degrees. Many trainers have showed concern for the health of the players playing in this high heat. To battle this Qatar has proposed building air-conditioned soccer stadiums that could regulate the heat and ensure the safety of the players. Three, they believe that Qatar does not have a big enough population to facilitate the tournament being held there. And four, people are concerned for the well being of the 1.7 million “guest workers” in Qatar that would be building the stadiums. Qatar has a bad reputation of how they treat these guest workers and it is believed that this would only worsen since they have to build all these stadiums from scratch.
I believe that holding the World Cup in the Middle East would be in the best interest of FIFA and the Middle East. For FIFA, this would give the soccer-crazed people of the region, where there are only a few professional soccer leagues, a chance to spectate the “world’s sport.” For the Middle East, it will bring money into the economy, bring positive attention to the region and just maybe bring the people of the Middle East together.
But Is Qatar the right place?
I do not think that it is looking very good for Qatar in 2022. With FIFA heavily investigating foul play in the bid process, the chances of Qatar losing the World Cup bid seem very likely. However, stripping the whole region from holding soccer’s biggest tournament would not be fair. I think FIFA, if they were to withdraw from Qatar in 2022 should find a different location in the very deserving region of the Middle East.