The former prime minister of Qatar has accused the west of racism, Islamophobia and bias against Arabs and the Gulf state, following allegations that the country only secured the rights to host the 2022 Football World Cup as it paid large bribes to do so.
Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber al-Thani, who served as both prime minister and foreign minister of Qatar until 2013 has hit out against allegations of corruption, saying that the claims are being made by nations which lost out “in a fair competition,” The Times has reported.
His comments are the first to be made by a member of Qatar’s ruling family since the US indicted Fifa officials on charges of corruption and racketeering. Since then, Swiss officials have also announced their intention to investigate the process which led to Russia and Qatar being named as host nations for the World Cups of 2018 and 2022.
“See how they don’t talk about Russia with Qatar,” Sheikh al-Thani told Fox News yesterday. “We support of course Russia, to have their turn in 2018. But we see the talk… is all about Qatar, because it comes to a small, Arab, Islamic country. That’s how people feel.”
He added: “We dealt with this in a fair competition and there was no corruption.”
The announcement in 2010 that Qatar was to host the World Cup was greeted with astonishment, and murmurings of corruption and bribery at the time. Qatar has neither a footballing tradition nor any of the necessary infrastructure, and temperatures in the desert nation can rise as high as 50 degrees centigrade in the summer, making it highly unsuitable as a venue for the beautiful game.
A year later, the Sunday Times passed evidence to a Parliamentary Select Committee suggesting that Qatar had offered some African members of Fifa’s executive committee up to $500,000 in exchange for their votes. However, this and other allegations, including the suggestion that a $5million slush fund was used to buy votes for Qatar, were dismissed by Fifa’s president Sepp Blatter as racism.
“Sadly there’s a great deal of discrimination and racism,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Washington Post has highlighted the human cost of awarding the bid to Qatar, as the death toll amongst workers on the new stadia mounts up. They admit that it’s difficult to know how many deaths are specifically thanks to the World Cup project, but cite a Guardian estimate putting the total Qatar death toll of workers from Nepal, India and Bangladesh at 964 in 2012 and 2013.
The International Trade Union Confederation puts the total even higher at 1,200, estimating it to reach 4,000 by 2022. In comparison, there was just one worker death in the run up to the 2010 London Olympics, ten during the construction phase of the 2014 Brazil World Cup, and 60 ahead of the 2014 Sochi Olympics.