Qatar's unsportsmanlike behaviour is a source of concern

If Qatar was playing in an active game, it would very likely be issued a red card.
Tuesday 14/08/2018
Against all odds. People watch the Russia World Cup 2018 matches at Khalifa International Stadium in Doha, on July 14. (Reuters) 
Against all odds. People watch the Russia World Cup 2018 matches at Khalifa International Stadium in Doha, on July 14. (Reuters) 

"Fair play” has been the motto of FIFA, the world governing body that organises World Cup football tournament -- the world’s most popular sporting event.

However, the controversy surrounding Qatar, the host country for the 2022 World Cup, has proven to be anything but fair play. British media reports indicate that Qatari government has bribed FIFA officials and potential host countries' representatives to swing the vote to host the tournament in Qatar’s favour.

The report published by the Sunday Times in London mentions that Qatar retained the services of top public relations firms as well as former CIA operatives to discredit other contenders, which included the United States, to host the 2022 World Cup.

If Qatar was playing in an active game, it would very likely be issued a red card. Its behaviour towards ensuring it got the 2022 World Cup is bad sportsmanship.

Qatar went through some quite extraordinary hoops to get what it wanted. One of the toughest challenges Qatar faced was the weather in Doha. The World Cup is traditionally played in June and July, summer months. However, in June and July in the Gulf, the temperature averages 45-50 degrees Celsius.

Conditions for the players, constantly running up and down the pitch for the good part of 90 minutes, were unacceptable. Qatari officials convinced FIFA to change the schedule to have the matches take place in November and December, the coolest time of the year in the Gulf.

That presented two immediate problems. First, the weather, while significantly milder in Doha in December than in July, the humidity remains quite high, so the Qataris said they would install air conditioning in all stadiums. Imagine the electric bill on that one.

Second, shifting the tournament to late in the calendar year caused concern for European clubs that will be forced to shift their league schedules to factor in the World Cup. That raises fears that this could affect some of the top league players. However, with the resources allocated to the project, it appears the Qataris can find any solution that money can buy. But for how long? There is mounting pressure for FIFA to revisit the 2022 bid from Qatar.

Football is huge around the world. In many countries it is more than a sport and akin to a religion.

There is much at stake here. FIFA is big business. It is big money and big prestige for the country that wins the nomination to host the most-watched sporting event in the world. The World Cup finals commands an audience that reaches into the billions of viewers.

Figures compiled by FIFA state:

-- 5,154,386 people attended FIFA Fan Fests in Brazil during the World Cup 2014, with Rio de Janeiro's spectacular Copacabana site attracting 937,330 -- the highest number in any individual city.

-- $7.2 billion in tax revenue shall be received by Brazil through investments in the 2014 World Cup.

-- 3,429,873 was the total attendance for the 64 matches, the highest recorded at any World Cup since 1994. The average crowd of 53,592 at one match was the highest in two decades.

-- 3,240 footballs, including training and match balls, were used during the tournament.

-- 3,127,674 food and beverage transactions took place at the stadiums over the course of the competition.

-- 90 countries were visited during the 267-day FIFA World Cup Trophy Tour, with 45 heads of state and 33 previous World Cup winners among those to get their hands on the trophy.

-- 1 billion-plus was the attendance on FIFA's Global Stadium, FIFA.com's social, online and mobile hub throughout Brazil in 2014.

For the players, playing for their national team is very prestigious notch in their profession belt. For individual countries making it to the World Cup is equally prestigious, as only 32 countries make the final selection, although the World Cup will expand to 48 teams, perhaps as soon as 2022.

For those selected, aside from the prestige, making it to the finals revives a sort of primal sense of tribal loyalty. For the host country, there is the financial reward from the tens of thousands of fans who travel to the host country to watch the matches.

One Peru fan sold his apartment, his car and all his belongings to get enough money to go watch his team play in Moscow.

Making it to the World Cup has important repercussions on the country’s internal politics as has been seen with the multi-ethnic French team.

With all that in mind, it becomes a little clearer as to what might drive the tiny emirate of Qatar. What it may lack size, Qatar makes up in ego.

The ball appears to still be in Qatar’s court, though there is time left on the clock. The sad tales of Qatari unsportsmanlike behaviour are a legitimate source of concern.