There’s an old Simpsons episode where a supervillain is attempting to take over the world, and after he blows up a bridge near the United Nations, the following conversation ensues inside the UN.
“Maybe the bridge collapsed on its own.”
“We can’t take that chance.”
“You always say that. I want to take a chance.”
Well, folks, as you know (and have probably read about at length already), FIFA (see: Sepp Blatter and company) have taken that chance.
They’ve given the 2022 World Cup to Qatar, a sentence that on the surface doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Hell, somewhere deep beneath the surface is doesn’t make much sense, either, does it?
But beyond the corruption and greed and the fact that Qatar’s average July high temperature is 115 degrees is a chance here.
There are probably more holes in the Qatar bid then there are actual citizens, and most of the stuff they’re planning to do seems like it’s straight from Leonardo DeCaprio in “Inception”. I’m not blind to those quite plain-to-see facts.
But to say that the United States has a better infrastructure? Thanks, Captain Obvious. We know the good old USA and its ginormous cookie-cutter football (de americano) stadiums are more than suited for a World Cup. Of course, they – or their ridiculously large newer equivalents – will be ready for 2026 or 2030 or 2130, too.
You can say soccer is just a game, and it is, but the World Cup – and everything that comes with it has turned into much, much more.
And after the relative success of the 2010 version in South Africa – which was full of questions and worries in the years prior – the coast was clear for FIFA to move further out on their limb.
Make no mistake, they’re pretty far out on that branch. Just look at these Qatar stadiums.
But there is more at stake than 21st century engineering the world has not seen before. There’s a chance here to make the world one.
Yea, yea, it’s ridiculously sentimental and a little hopeful. Sue me.
Incorporating the Middle East into the rest of the world won’t happen with a single soccer tournament. However, it may force the process to speed up a little faster than it might have otherwise.
By now, you’ve probably heard plenty about the country of Qatar (population 1.7 million, good for 148th biggest country in the world), and some of it is true.
For instance, Qatar does have an archaic emirate-type government. Like many countries in the region, women are not exactly equal citizens. In fact, if you have a second, Google “Qatar women’s football” and see what you come up with (the ruling Emir, Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani has three wives, by the way). Quite eye-opening.
A good part of the population of Qatar just works in the country, having come over from other parts of Asia, some of them toiling in conditions that have the attention of human rights activists all over the world, condemning Qatar’s lack of prosecution of things like forced labor.
It’s hard to defend Qatar on this front, except to say that maybe, just maybe this may be the catalyst to fix these things. Qatar did become the first Arab country in the Persian Gulf to give women the right to vote in ‘99 (yes, 1999, not 1899). Al-Thani – who heads the monarchy – has tried to move Qatar into the modern world, and this audacious World Cup bid shows how far he is willing to go.
It’s important to remember that this Qatar World Cup is not for another 12 years. Lots of things can happen in 12 years.
But we hope the buildup will allow things to change things on both sides. There is so much ignorance in the West – particularly the United States – about Islam and what it represents, that it sickens me. In fact, some of the ignorance I see every day on TV in this country sickens me.
It’s probably wise to point out at this point that the US (and its coalition) ran almost their entire Iraq War out of Doha. In Qatar. Where we still have a fairly sizable force located, because they have been very good to our military, and they have the second highest per capita Gross Domestic Product in the world.
On the other side, we have the Middle East, a mishmash of countries stuck in millenia past (particularly socially), trying desperately to find a way out without completely collapsing the fabric that they came from.
But some of that fabric has to go. I’m all for keeping your culture and religious freedom, however basic human rights are not something to be negotiated.
Hopefully, with the eyes of the world now on them, Qatar may become an example for not only the Middle East, but the rest of the developing world to follow.
If there is a place in the Middle East that can pull this off, it’s Qatar. They have the money, they have the power, they have everything they need.
Plenty could go wrong both in the actual coordination of everything in Qatar and the world surrounding it.
But it’s time to take a chance.
Let’s hope for the world’s sake, it works.