The Rocky Road to Qatar

By Aliya Zuberi

KARACHI: The much awaited FIFA World Cup ceremony finally hit off on Sunday night and people were in absolute awe of the show. However, despite being called one of the best ceremonies of recent times, the road to Qatar’s World Cup hosting has not been without controversy. From alcohol bans and religious inclusion to human rights violations and boycotts, here is a run down of the rocky road to Qatar’s football World Cup.

Religious discourse

Qatar has become the first Muslim country to host a FIFA World Cup, much to the shock of many. And it did not hold back when it came to making sure that religion was a major part of the event. Prior to the kick off, Qatar began to strategically place verses from the Quran and sayings of the Prophet around tourist spots.

Authorities made it clear that they would not tolerate LGBTQ+ displays including rainbow colored flags being waved in the stadium. Authorities also were very strictly against revealing clothing and claimed inappropriate attire would be punished with heavy fines.

The most shocking of it all was the alcohol ban. Football fans are accustomed to be allowed to drink in stadiums during matches. However, two days before the FIFA World Cup ceremony and festivities kicked off, Qatar announced the ban despite previously stating they would allow alcohol sales.

Also a part of the FIFA World Cup Ceremony was the recitation of the Quran. The theme of the opening ceremony had been about unity of all cultures, races and religion and included in that theme was the recitation of the Quran with a verse that alludes to just that.

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The response to the religious inclusion was diverse. Many felt that religion had no place in sports.

FIFA officials weigh in

Before the FIFA World Cup ceremony kicked off, there was a bit of back and forth between the FIFA officials about the host country. Ex-FIFA president Sepp Blatter said he regretted allowing Qatar to be the host country, “It was a bad choice. And I was responsible for that as president at the time.” Alluding to Qatar trying to right their human rights violations, he called it a “publicity stunt.”

However, current FIFA president Gianni Infantino did not share the same sentiments. On the eve of the ceremony, Infantino called out the hypocrisy of the West in a scathing statement, “We have been taught many lessons from Europeans and the Western world. I am European. For what we have been doing for 3,000 years around the world, we should be apologizing for the next 3,000 years before giving moral lessons.”

Human rights violations

Before the World Cup even kicked off, there was an outcry over what was called gross human rights violations especially where migrant workers were concerned. It’s been 12 years in the making for Qatar to host the World Cup with islands literally being created in Qatar for the tournament. And employed to do just that were migrant workers.

In 2021, The Guardian claimed that 6,500 migrant workers from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka died in Qatar in the previous ten years. Causes of deaths ranged from workplace accidents, car crashes, suicides and deaths from other causes, including the heat as well as the exploitative conditions under which they were living.

FIFA and Qatar dispute that number. Qatar claimed that only three people died as a direct result of work on World Cup construction sites, and acknowledged the deaths of 37 workers that were “non-work-related.”


As Britons sat around their screens and turned into BBC with plans to watch the FIFA World Cup opening ceremony, they were shocked to learn that the channel had simply refused to stream the event.

Instead, they chose to call out Qatar for what they believed were wrongs being committed by the country and demanded that Qatar should, “Stick to football.” However, viewers were not convinced and instead went on to call BBC out for their selective outrage.

But BBC wasn’t the only one boycotting the FIFA World Cup opening ceremony. Singer Dua Lipa refused to perform during the opening ceremony in retaliation to the human rights violation claims.

Similarly, Rod Stewart and Shakira also backed out of performing at the ceremony.

Despite the all the bumps along the already rocky road to Qatar, after 12 long years, the World Cup has finally kicked off!

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