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The problems of this edition of the World Cup in Qatar

The World Cup of controversy

The problems of this edition of the World Cup in Qatar The World Cup of controversy

The World Cup has been underway for eight days now, and the most consistent part of the tournament, the group stage, is being played, where there has been no shortage of surprises. From Saudi Arabia, which won an incredible victory over Messi and his teammates, one of the favourite selections, to Japan, which crushed the German battleship, which has still not managed to show its true worth. But that is not all, the surprises do not end here, from the near exclusion of Mexico to the exploits of Morocco and Iran, everything still seems to be open and it is difficult to speculate who will manage to get ahead, even France, given by all as the main favourite, does not seem to have that lucidity that distinguished it in the last World Cup played and won in Russia. And if on the field the surprises are not lacking even off it has not been any less, the World Cup in fact since its assignment has been accompanied by controversy that does not stop now, especially for the logistical aspects. 

Putting aside the gross human rights violations against workers that made this World Cup possible and all the FIFA-related corruption scandals, where even Joseph Blatter admitted that awarding this competition to a nation like Qatar was a mistake, there were many other issues. The main issue in the news these days has undoubtedly been the ban on wearing 'One Love' captain's armbands to show support for the LGBTQ+ community. In a radical Muslim country such actions are not possible and FIFA was forced first to threaten the national teams involved and then to change the rules of the game within hours of the official start, stating that anyone wearing it was liable to a yellow card. And Germany in fact, one of the most active nations in this field, did not remain silent, or rather, during the customary group photo before the match all the players brought their hand in front of their mouth in protest. A photo that will surely go down in history and be remembered.

If all this were not enough, there is also the controversy surrounding the attendance in the stadiums and the fans' outfits. According to official data from the organisers of the World Cup in Qatar, there were 41,721 spectators at the Al Thumama stadium in Doha to watch Holland-Senegal. This was one of the most talked about matches because through social media people were seen entering the stadium without a ticket and from the TV the stadium looked largely empty. All in the norm or almost, maybe from a screen the stadium may appear more or less empty or maybe many spectators left the stadium halfway through the match. What casts doubt on FIFA's creative accounting, however, is the official capacity, which is set at 40,000. The same situation prevailed at the debut match, where 67,372 were announced in a stadium that can hold around 60,000. These figures suggest that the turnout is evidently not what was declared and above all expected. Another mention is for the outfits. There are many complaints of fans not being allowed inside the stadium because of their outfits, from Englishmen dressed up as Crusaders to those wearing rainbow-coloured banners, as reported by several newspapers. 

The other absurd issues concern the problem with beer and the sponsor Budweiser and the fan accommodation. The organisers have moved the stands and areas dedicated to the sale and consumption of beer out of the stadia. The decision in fact came, according to credible sources, directly from the Qatari royal family and took Budweiser, the official FIFA sponsor, by surprise. Budweiser expressed its disbelief at the situation through its social channels. Not only will the ban on consuming (alcoholic) beer inside the stadiums result in incalculable image damage for the US company, but the manner in which the organisation is doing so will not even allow for a simple logistical solution. Budweiser stated that it only became aware of the new plan on Saturday, eight days before the opening match of the tournament. But apart from the beer, the accommodations also caused discussion. The small rooms set up inside a container often with shared bathrooms were long disputed, not only because of their functionality but also because of their price, around €200 per night. In fact, the Asian country could not accommodate so many people and the hotels made available were not enough, which is why the accommodation previously allocated to workers was reallocated. 

In short, in spite of the beauty of a competition like the World Cup, an event that has always been able to bring people together from all over the world, it seems very difficult that this edition will be labelled a happy one. The problems are many and in some cases very serious and well thought out, and the scandals of recent years related to FIFA have only fuelled this, casting more and more shadows on the world football body. As we wait to see who will come out on top, let us hope that FIFA and Infatino will learn from their mistakes and get off on the right foot as early as 2026.