Overtime: The Qatar Dilemma


It’s hard to turn away from watching a USMNT potential World Cup run. (Courtesy of Twitter)

On Sunday, the 2022 FIFA World Cup will kick off in Qatar. The 22nd edition of the quadrennial tournament will be the first to be held in the Middle East and the first to not take place in May, June or July. While this World Cup is historic for many reasons, it is controversial for just as many, if not more.
Qatar’s World Cup has been shrouded in controversy since the moment they were awarded the tournament 12 years ago. Allegations of corruption and bribery during the bidding process led to a U.S. federal investigation that resulted in the arrests of several top-ranking FIFA officials.
Beyond that, the rights of migrant workers have been central to the lead up to the tournament. According to a 2021 article from The Guardian, 6,500 migrant workers have died in Qatar since they were named as hosts in 2010.

And now, as we approach kickoff in Qatar, questions still remain about the safety of LGBTQ+ fans. Homosexuality is illegal in Qatar, leading to concerns about how LGBTQ+ fans will be treated if they choose to attend the tournament.
The official Qatari stance on this matter remains vague. In an interview with Sky Sports, World Cup Chief Nasser Al Khater was asked about LGBTQ+ fans traveling to Qatar, saying, “Everybody is welcome here and everybody will feel safe when they come to Qatar… all we ask is for people to be respectful of the culture.”

No one knows where Qatar will decide to draw this line of “respect,” causing some fans to make the difficult decision of staying home entirely. Even if Qatari spokespeople say all fans are welcome, how can they know for sure, especially considering the laws that are in place?
That’s where we sit, less than a week from the opening ceremony. So how can I, an American college student, justify being excited for this tournament? The answer is fairly simple: I can’t. But I’m going to watch anyway.

I’m aware of how out-of-touch and privileged that may sound. But it isn’t that easy to just look away. I’ve been waiting for this tournament for eight years. The United States Men’s National Team (USMNT) missed the World Cup in 2018, meaning I was just 12 years old the last time I got to see them compete on the world’s biggest stage. This is my thing, and I was robbed of it four years ago.
Maybe if I were a better person, I would boycott the tournament. But in a selfish way, I need this World Cup.

I need to know that all the time and effort I’ve put into following our national team for most of my life has led somewhere. That’s a lame excuse, I know. But it’s hard when something you love rubs up against your moral fiber. This time, my morals lose.
I care deeply about the growth of soccer in the United States. It’s a sport that unites the world and one that we are still a few steps behind in on the men’s side of the game. A positive performance from the USMNT at this tournament could prove incredibly valuable towards the future of the sport in this country.

Of course, none of that excuses Qatar’s behavior in preparation for this tournament, or the laws they have that prohibit people from being themselves. No one should have to fear governmental consequences for being who they are, and no one should have to face the inhumane conditions that migrant workers experienced while building the infrastructure for this tournament.
Sure, you could say I’m just one person whose contribution to the profits of this World Cup are miniscule on the grand scheme of things. But I don’t think that’s a sound defense either. If everyone thinks that way, injustice will continue to run rampant.

In fact, I don’t really think there’s a sound defense at all that isn’t inherently selfish or problematic. There is no way to justify my participation in the 2022 World Cup. It is sad to admit it but it is true.
I think this is all just a way for me to cope with my excitement for the World Cup tournament. There’s no excusing the inexcusable. But I can’t look away. Not after waiting eight years.
I know I should, but I just can’t. I’m not sure what that makes me, but it probably isn’t good.