2022’s FIFA World Cup just kicked off on November 20th, but the event, which takes place in Qatar this year, has been in the headlines for months and months. And that’s because there’s been so much controversy embroiled in this year’s cup, from how Qatar was selected as the host location, to allegations of human rights violations, as well as reported modern-day slavery and criminal activity by the host nation. It’s been hard to track it all down or make sense of what’s what in between watching the matches — but thankfully, John Oliver is here to explain it, so that you don’t have to.
For the season finale of Last Week Tonight, Oliver did a deep dive into all the controversy surrounding the 2022 FIFA World Cup. And in his signature style, he got brutally honest about the obvious and subtle reasons why he believes this was doomed and dangerous from the start.
“Qatar wasn’t just a surprising choice; it was logically inexplicable,” Oliver argued. “It would be like if the Westminster Dog Show awarded the Best in Show title to a tortoise. Nothing against that tortoise, but not only should it not have won, it should have been automatically disqualified.”
But, “underneath the fun pageantry and David Beckham doing bad Anthony Bourdain cosplay is a much darker story,” Oliver said, speaking to the country’s multimillion-dollar agreement with Beckham to promote the event. And the darker story points to serious human rights violations and the conditions migrant workers experienced while building up the infrastructure to host the tournament.
According to The Guardian, Qatar had to build everything from roads, metro systems, hundreds of hotels, an airport, and several stadiums to host the World Cup. This undertaking didn’t only cost $300 billion it also required people to build them.
“All the new stadiums and infrastructure were built through modern-day slavery,” said Oliver, explaining reporting that found the workers were mainly from India, Nepal, and Bangladesh, under a system of forced labor. Not only were these workers forced to work long hours in that scorching desert heat, but many reportedly died, Oliver said, citing a 2021 Guardian investigation.
“When FIFA awarded Qatar the World Cup, there was only one way those stadiums were getting built, and there was only one group who were going to do it, and they gave them the tournament anyway,” Oliver said.
“The Qatari government is engaging in some truly horrendous behavior, and we can’t just gloss over that and uncritically put it in the spotlight,” Oliver continued, sharing statistics and first-hand accounts of the mistreatment, harassment, and threat of violence LGBTQ people face in the country.
Oliver admits he’s conflicted since he’s an avid watcher of the World Cup event, and he will be cheering England on this year. However, he didn’t encourage his viewers to boycott the soccer tournament; instead, he urged people to “try and make sure a line is drawn here.”
“There is no reason to believe that FIFA will ever do the right thing,” he concluded. “But I would love it if it could, for just once in its shitty history, find a way to hold itself to the lofty ideals that it has the gall to profess.”
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