FIFA Awards Yet Another Authoritarian Country
Updated: Oct 2
FIFA has shown once again that their allegiance lies with money at the expense of human rights. For the sixth straight major men's international soccer tournament, excluding regional and continental competitions, FIFA has granted the right to host the competition to an authoritarian regime who has far from a clear record when it comes to human rights. The 2018 World Cup was hosted by Russia, the 2018 Club World Cup was in the UAE, the 2019 and 2020 Club World Cups will be in Qatar, the 2022 World Cup is going to be hosted by Qatar, and this past week, FIFA officially announced that the 2021 Club World Championship will be held in China.
FIFA has a history of corruption and Ex-President, Sepp Blatter, has always been seen as a figurehead in these issues. Blatter is infamous for granting the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar respectively. You can read more about the Qatar World Cup in this semester's edition of the Magazine, as well as in a past blog post. Essentially, each of these decisions was clouded by under-the-table bribes and corruption within FIFA. Unfortunately, much to most fans' chagrin, FIFA's corruption cannot be simplified to just the actions of one man as it dates back prior to Blatter's reign as president, and has continued since his expulsion from office and ban from soccer in 2015.
The new, expanded Club World Cup is yet another example of this. The competition is an opportunity for FIFA to expand its product globally, and bring the beautiful game to new markets. It is set to have 24 of the world's best club teams competing for the championship. FIFA is always looking for ways to diversify its competitions and fanbase, and this competition is the perfect way to do so. While it is likely a good idea for soccer and FIFA, the decision to gift the competition to China is unpopular and incorrect, to say the least.
This new expanded version of the competition and its inaugural host have created political and ethical backlash as most FIFA decisions do. Less than a month after the NBA's problems with China, one would think FIFA would be cautious in working with the country. Even worse, China's Belt and Road Initiative and its economic policies, in general, have come under extreme scrutiny from the West in recent months as their treatment of predominantly Muslim groups continues to defy global standards. The mass-incarceration of Muslims, mainly the Uyghur population, in their economic initiative's hub, Xinjiang, has put China in the crosshairs of human rights organizations worldwide. An estimated one million Uyghur people have been detained in China to date.
FIFA took a step in the right direction after the backlash from their allegiance with Qatar for the 2022 World Cup by granting the 2026 World Cup to the United States, Mexico, and Canada. This move had soccer fans believing that FIFA had changed for the better. Nonetheless, FIFA has shot down any hopes of reform, staying true to its roots: following the money down the Silk Road, stepping over the bodies of the Uyghurs as they count their Yuans.