The 2022 FIFA World Cup kicked off in Qatar this afternoon, and while the tournament is normally a celebration of football, it is difficult to discuss this particular edition without speaking about the elephant in the room.
It is a tournament built on the back of corruption, with Qatar having allegedly bought their way to the hosting rights. When it comes to problems in the country itself, you have very troubling issues such as the treatment of the LGBTQ+ community and the lack of rights afforded to migrant workers, many of whom have died building the stadiums that will be used over the next month.
Even taking the fact that it will be held in the winter for the first time, there is no doubt that this will be a World Cup unlike any other.
Richie Sadlier discusses issues around Qatar World Cup
Discussions surrounding issues away from football are likely to be a regular occurrence during television coverage of games for the next few weeks, something that started on RTÉ this afternoon.
Ahead of Qatar's meeting with Ecuador, Richie Sadlier spoke brilliantly on why we should not just be concentrating on the football during this tournament.
'FIFA want us to stick to football,' says @RichieSadlier, who believes that it is highly unlikely the debate will not include politics#FifaWorldCup #rtesoccer
📺Live now on @rte2 and @rteplayer https://t.co/aR8cFzATLN
📱Live updates https://t.co/tttFuTFwB2 pic.twitter.com/YZFov44xy1
— RTÉ Soccer (@RTEsoccer) November 20, 2022
The bidding process was corrupt, it has been discredited as this point. We know payments were sent to the table at FIFA, FIFA accepted them and swayed the vote.
The fact is that this tournament is taking place in Qatar off the back of corruption. Whatever benefits, whatever they may be, Qatar hopes to achieve from this, it is the proceeds of corruption.
Any statement that FIFA makes to try and claim that this World Cup is about anything else other than that, the exchange of corrupt payments, is just spoofing. It's just assuming we're all naive and don't know what's going on...
Migrant workers are forced to do jobs that may risk their health or lives, for a job they may or may not get paid to do. Wage theft is common place. If they speak up in anyway they risk being deported, from a country that thinks so little of them that even if they died on a job they don't investigate the circumstances of your death.
There is a dispute over the numbers and that's because the Qataris don't value those lives so much that they will even measure it. There's a dispute over the number by design. They have the data and access to the information, they just don't think these lives are worthy enough to literally even count.
There is a body count attached to this tournament, we just don't know what it is. It is large and it is entirely predictable...
I haven't heard statements from the Qataris to suggest that there is any appetite for meaningful change in the areas we are speaking about. I hear a lot of phrases like 'we should respect different cultures', that's what they've been saying.
That's a lovely sounding phrase that nobody can push back again, but I don't know how you can respect laws that can arrest and lock up people for their sexual orientation.
Thankfully, many broadcasters and journalists are not buying into the spin directed their way from FIFA and others.