The Dark Side of the World Cup

courtesy image / Qatar world cup

Mollie Shiflett ’26 is an undecided major who will probably end up majoring in History. She plays on the Gold Women’s Club Soccer team for the College of William and Mary and is an avid fan of most sports, except golf. Email Mollie at

The views expressed in the article are the author’s own.

Football, or soccer, depending on how much of a traditionalist you are, is referred to as “the beautiful game.” However, the beautiful game is, at this moment in time, showing its ugly side. In one month, FIFA will hold the World Cup, normally a summer activity, in Qatar. Normally, that would create some form of buzz with sports fans in parts of both the Williamsburg area and the US in general, especially since the US has actually qualified for this edition of the World Cup. Instead, it has created a large amount of backlash.

The decision to allow Qatar to host the World Cup has been problematic since the very beginning. When the bid was awarded, the Qatari representatives were accused of bribing FIFA officials; however, this is not the main problem. There are two fundamental issues with the hosting of the World Cup in Qatar which makes the decision extremely objectionable, and puts a greater spotlight on the questionable reputation of football’s governing body. Both of these issues are so horrible, and on such a scale, that no citizen of any participating country (or indeed any democratic country that prides itself on freedom and equality) can turn a blind eye or pretend not to care, especially not college students like those at the College of William and Mary.

Firstly, Qatar has been guilty of a multitude of human rights violations. According to Amnesty International, many of the migrant workers in Qatar work under conditions put in place by their employers which qualify as “forced labor.” In addition, in the decade since Qatar was awarded the World Cup, thousands of workers have died and no explanation has been given. 

Secondly, Qatar is one of many countries that have categorized homosexuality as a criminal offense, and is one of the few for which it is punishable by death under Sharia law. This is a problem for several reasons, but in the context of the FIFA and the World Cup, it comes from the fact that FIFA has stated that any discrimination by a member of FIFA/participatory nation is prohibited and grounds for suspension or expulsion. This is a very interesting claim to make, since FIFA seems to have absolutely no interest in upholding it. When the decision to host the World Cup in Qatar first came out, questions were raised regarding these issues, and Sepp Blatter — who was president of FIFA at the time — was asked about protections for LGBTQ people who would attend the World Cup. His statement was, “I would say they should refrain from any sexual activities.”

This speaks to the more important part of this article. Yes, the fact that Qatar was allowed to host a World Cup is extremely immoral and disgusting, but what is more upsetting is the two-faced way that FIFA continues to address the world at large. It is a body that drapes itself in the veil of spreading love and inclusion through sport, but it doesn’t do that at all. It has been claimed that awarding the World Cup to Qatar was done to spread and grow the game outside of its traditional stomping grounds, but it is impossible to ignore the general corruption that surrounds the World Cup bid process. It is far more likely that some money has been paid under the table for every World Cup that has been awarded in recent memory. 

The blatant hypocrisy of FIFA is something that should concern everyone. This organization is a world class example of a dangerous hypocrisy that exists in this money driven society we live in. The fact that this organization, which is ostensibly one with no global interests beyond the ability for countries to play soccer, is willing to put money above human lives and freedom. This is a concerning theme that has begun to appear more and more over the past decades.

As a country where soccer is growing in popularity, many of us will probably watch the World Cup this November. However, we must keep in mind that we live in a country that is supposed to be a leader for democracy and human rights, and it seems fairly ridiculous that we or any other nation that has the power to check FIFA’s hypocrisy won’t take steps to do that. Whether it be at a national level or at a grassroots level with a boycott of this upcoming World Cup, we as a society have a duty to make sure that international organizations cannot be allowed to support a country that violates, uses and alienates a large portion of the world . It may appear to be something that doesn’t affect us at the college student level, something that we can so easily say, “isn’t our problem.” But it is something that we must address, so that the buck stops getting passed along, because it’s hard to tell who, if anyone, will pick it up and do something with it. 


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