Location map of Qatar Equirectangular projection, N/S stretching 110 %. Geographic limits of the map: N: 26.3° N S: 24.4° N W: 50.3° E E: 52.5° E (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Published 20 March 2014
Qatar bribed FIFA officials so they would vote to award it the 2022 Soccer World Cup. In addition to the likely corruption investigation, FIFA is also grappling with the question of the temperature in Qatar in the summer. Several state football associations, and many medical specialists, said that the summer heat in Qatar is such that it would be dangerous for players to play for ninety minutes, and risky for spectators to sit in the stands during games. Now news has emerged that leading figures inthe Qatar World Cup committee are supporters of terrorism, contributing millions of dollars to al Qaeda and its affiliates in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen.
Three years ago, when FIFA announced that the tiny desert sheikdom of Qatar, a place with no soccer history – and, observers note, with no soccer present or future — would host 2022 soccer World Cup, one thing was clear to students of FIFA – and, for that matter, for students of Qatar: The ruling family of oil-rich had bribed enough FIFA officers to secure their vote.
This is what we wrote in February 2011:
FIFA, the world’s soccer governing body, has awarded tiny Qatar — a country of 1.7 million people — the coveted prize of hosting the World Cup games in 2022.
There are few who doubt that Qatar managed this feat by bribing enough members of the readily “bribabale” FIFA board. Every couple of years, a few members of the board, typically from African states, are brought up on charges of taking bribes to vote this way or that, and are replaced by new members who do not wait too long to receive their own bribes.
This reminds us of a story told by Larry Scott, now the commissioner of the Pacific-10 collegiate conference, but twenty years ago a top tennis official.
At the first Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) tournament in Qatar in the early 1990s, the country’s head of state, known as the emir, met with the ATP’s president, Mark Miles, for a formal exchange of gifts.
The emir handed Miles a solid gold watch worth tens of thousands of dollars. Miles turned to Larry Scott, his right-hand man, to reciprocate. Scott sheepishly handed over a white T-shirt with an ATP logo.
“Let me put it this way — it didn’t surprise me when they won the FIFA World Cup bid,” Scott said of Qatar (Ben Frankel, “Reflections on a tumultuous week in Egypt,” HSNW, 4 February 2011).
What we wrote three years ago was a guess – since it was about FIFA and bribes, it was an educated guess – but now the Telegraph has come out with the facts about Qatar’s bribery campaign of FIFA officials (see Jim White, “Qatar World Cup 2022 investigation: Surprised that Jack Warner appears to have been paid $1.2m? Not a chance,” Telegraph, 17 March 2014; and Ben Rumsby, “Fifa must investigate Qatar payments to Jack Warner, insists former chief of failed England 2018 World Cup bid,” Telegraph, 18 March 2014)
In addition to the corrupt relationship between former FIFA vice-president Jack Warner and the Qatar FIFA committee, there were other controversies surrounding Qatar handling of the preparations for the event. For example, there have been many reports of how Qatari companies, who habitually mistreat migrant laborers, now mistreat those migrant workers who work on building the infrastructure for the 2022 event. In fact, more than 100 migrant workers have already died as a result of unsafe working conditions, leading for calls from many quarters for finding another venue for the games.
Then there is the question of the temperature in Qatar in the summer. Several state football associations, and many medical specialists, said that the summer heat in Qatar is such that it would be dangerous for players to play for ninety minutes, and risky for spectators to sit in the stands during games. There has been growing pressure on FIFA to move the games to January, but this would disrupt domestic leagues. The issue has not yet been resolved.
Now there are new revelations about the Qatari officials behind the 2022 World Cup. A news report in the Daily Mail links the Qatar World Cup committee to supporters of terrorism. According to the report, Abdul Rahman Omeir al-Naimi, the lead organizer of the 2022 football competition in Qatar and former president of the Qatari Football Association (QFA), has links to al-Qaeda and Hamas.
The U.S. Treasury Department has designated al-Naimi as a prominent financier of al-Qaeda and its affiliates in Iraq, Yemen, Syria, and Somalia. In 2013, al-Naimi ordered the transfer of nearly $600,000 to al-Qaeda via the organization’s representatives in Syria, then, for a period of time, al-Naimi reportedly oversaw the transfer of more than $2 million per month to al-Qaeda in Iraq.
Al-Naimi’s replacement at the QFA, Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa bin Ahmed al Thani, a member of the Qatari royal family, has also been accused of aiding terrorist organizations, possibly faciliatetd by his April 2013 meeting with Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniyeh to discuss Qatar-Hamas relations.
The United States, along with Canada and the European Union, have designated Hamas a terrorist organization, but in October 2012, the Emir of Qatar made an official visit to Hamas-controlled Gaza and pledged $400 million in support to Hamas. Later, in the April 2013, Sheik Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa al Thani, Minister of State for Internal Affairs and chairman of the Qatar 2022 World Cup Security Committee, met with Hamas interior minister Fathi Hamad, pledging to offer training and equipment to “strengthen the Hamas security apparatus.”
Hamas’s Interior Ministry is responsible for the organization’s terror squads which have attacked Israeli targets in the region and Egyptian targets in the Sinai Peninsula.
This latest information about the ties between the Qatari World Cup organizers and al Qaeda, and al Qaeda’s affiliates, is only going to increase the pressure on FIFA to consider moving the 2022 World Cup from Qatar. The unbearable summer heat, the appalling working conditions and mistreatment of migrant workers, Qatar’s contribution to the corruption of FIFA – and now the revelations about the organizers’ connections to terrorist groups. It will take some doing for FIFA to stick with its decision to hold the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.