Among the most watched sporting events is the men’s football World Cup, which in 2022 will be held in the Arab nation of Qatar. Unlike the regular World Cups, this will be a tournament played in the winters. However, it isn’t the qualifying process or the fact that it could be the last World Cup for the likes of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, that have dominated conversations.
In fact, soon after Qatar were awarded the hosting rights, there have been continued calls to take the tournament away from them for a variety of reasons.
Qatar won the rights to host the 2022 men’s FIFA World Cup all the way back in 2010 when the storied Sepp Blatter was President of football’s governing body, and since the preparations began on ground there have been question marks about not only human rights issues but also about the bidding process involved.
Things have taken a turn for the worse for Qatar as investigations by the Associated Press have revealed that the country spied on football officials as they went all out to win the hosting rights.
What Are the Allegations?
World Cup host Qatar had reportedly employed a former CIA officer turned private contractor Kevin Chalker to spy on rivals in the bidding process and on officials who would decide the hosting rights.
The spying involved of having someone pose as a journalist to keep an eye out on the rivals and the usage of social media traps wherein a woman was used to get close to the targets. Chalker and his executives are also reported to have had access to call logs of at least one FIFA official as they marched on in their aim to help the nation dominate.
The report further noted that Chalker, who had a Qatari government email account, had promised his employers a fair amount as they mercilessly went ahead to acquire the tournament.
What’s Happened Before?
Allegations of corruption around the bid for the 2022 World Cup, and the 2018 tournament in Russia, have troubled FIFA since 2015 when some of their top brass were arrested in Zurich in matters of large scale corruption.
Before that, in May 2011, a whistleblower later revealed to be Phaedra Almajid who was a member of the Qatari bid team for the 2022 World Cup, claimed that money was paid to FIFA's executive committee in order to buy votes. However, she retracted these claims in July 2011, later claiming that she had been coerced into making these retractions.
Understandably, Qatar have always maintained that they have a clean slate while FIFA also promised to investigate any reports of wrongdoings, right from the allegations of bribery.
In the years gone by, Qatar has known to have provided favours to football officials with Karl-Heinz Rummenigge being one of those who paid a hefty fine for Rolex watches in 2013, a couple of years after he raised doubts about the 2022 edition of the tournament. FIFA’s former Secretary General is also being probed by Swiss prosecutors for receiving expensive gifts from Qatar.
In 2020, it was reported that Qatar had bribed officials to vote for them in the bidding process too with at least three South American officials being indicted.
(With Inputs from AP and Al Jazeera)