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Home » Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup known for sportswashing, workers deaths – USA TODAY

Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup known for sportswashing, workers deaths – USA TODAY

AL KHOR, Qatar – The stadiums are spectacular, stunning displays of both architecture and art. The Doha waterfront is beautiful, and the skyline in Lusail is breathtaking. The fans – the real ones, anyway – are a festive delight.
If only it wasn’t all so gross.
The World Cup finally kicked off Sunday, 12 years after Qatar bought, err won, the right to host. Contrary to what FIFA president Gianni Infantino would have you believe, the criticism of the Qataris is not hypocrisy nor is it unjust. The stadiums, the skyscrapers, this whole event has been paid for in blood.
“We invested for the good of all humanity,” Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, Qatar’s emir, said during the opening ceremony.
That’s as big a farce as that VAR call on what should have been Ecuador’s first goal in what ended up being a 2-0 win over Qatar. The emir and his family want to be a power, both in the region and beyond, and they saw the World Cup as their entrée.
Fortunately for them, Infantino and his fellow FIFA members are feckless grifters who are unbothered by human rights abuses so long as the money is good. I’d say they sold their souls, but no one is naïve enough to think they ever had them.
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So here we are. Thousands of migrant workers were exploited and abused to build the gleaming palaces for the World Cup, and an untold number died. Despite the emir promising that everyone is welcome in Qatar, homosexuality is still illegal and, after Friday’s reversal on the sale of alcoholic beer at stadiums, the LGBTQ community is petrified at what other promises will be broken. Women remain second-class citizens.
And FIFA has gone along with all these horrors without a second thought, giving Qatar an assist as it sportswashes its sins away.
“Welcome to celebrate football, because football unites the world!” Infantino said at the opening ceremony.
That’s the biggest disappointment of all.
Sports is society’s great equalizer, a common ground that bridges language barriers, politics and religion, and no sport is more egalitarian than soccer. It’s played in every corner of the world, by men and women, young and old, rich and poor.
It isn’t right that the World Cup, the crown jewel of this global game, has been held almost exclusively in Europe and the Americas. The Middle East deserved to host a World Cup, just as Africa did 12 years ago, and it could have been transformative.
Imagine if the Qataris – who, last I checked, have money to burn – had used their construction projects as an exemplar for worker’s rights. Imagine if they’d used these last 12 years to encourage tolerance and respect. What a message that would have sent not just to the rest of the region, but the rest of the world.
Instead, Qatar’s World Cup has further marginalized some of the poorest and most vulnerable people in the world. It has sanctioned bigotry and hate. It has sullied the beautiful game.
Now that the tournament has started, Qatar and FIFA are no doubt hoping that attention will shift to the games. That we’ll be so entranced by Brazil’s poetic style, France’s flow and Lionel Messi’s last chance to lift the Jules Rimet Trophy that we’ll forget how morally bankrupt and inauthentic everything about this World Cup is.
But you cannot sit in these majestic stadiums and not think about their human cost. You cannot see crowds of fans and not wonder who among them would be subject to persecution simply for being who they are. You cannot see the close-ups of the Qatari fan section, with nary a woman in sight, and not feel desperate for the women and girls who live here.
This will be the enduring legacy of the World Cup in Qatar, and nothing that happens over the next four weeks can change that. 
Follow USA TODAY Sports columnist Nancy Armour on Twitter @nrarmour. 

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