Ivey: Winter World Cup is a bad idea
Michael Ivey | Monday, February 23, 2015
Last summer, Americans united to cheer on the United States men’s national team as it competed in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. In thrilling games watched by millions of people (even non-soccer fans) here in America, the Yanks made it through to the Round of 16 where they were knocked out by Belgium.
Despite the early knockout stage exit, many people viewed the United States’s World Cup as a success and the popularity of the sport grew in America as hundreds of watch parties sprung up all across the country. Cities like Chicago, Kansas City, Los Angeles and Boston all had large watch parties attended by thousands of people that only grew and grew every single game. So many people were expected to go for the fourth game against Belgium in Chicago that city officials moved the watch party to Soldier Field, home of the Chicago Bears, to accommodate all the people. Half of the stadium was filled as the U.S. soccer fans watched the would-be final game.
All of this was able to happen because it took place in the summer months of June and July, so many people were out of school. The majority of people that went to these watch parties were young adults, in their late teens or early twenties. Combine that with the reasonable start times of the games (Brazil is only three hours ahead of us so most games took place mid-day) and the warm weather and you have the perfect combination for a really fun way to celebrate a special event that happens only once every four years.
It’s too bad none of this will be able to happen in 2022.
FIFA is expected to announce that the 2022 World Cup in Qatar will be held in the months of November and December instead of June and July due to the extremely hot weather in the host country during that part of the year. Moving the tournament to the cooler months of November and December will help the players and the fans, but it could lead to less people watching the event, especially here in the U.S. where there are other sports going on during that time, like the NFL or NBA or NHL.
But that is the least of the concerns around this particular World Cup. Ever since Qatar was selected as host of the 2022 World Cup, a great number of controversies have begun. Many have speculated that the Qatar government bribed FIFA to give them the tournament. FIFA conducted an investigation into the allegations and Qatar was cleared of any wrongdoing, but the chief investigator described FIFA’s report as “incomplete and erroneous.”
Another concern about the World Cup in Qatar is the building of the stadiums. Many of the migrant construction workers that are working on building the stadiums have been severely mistreated. Reports have surfaced that these workers are forced to work all day in the smoldering heat, denied food and water and are not paid in the time they are promised or not at all, which would basically make them slaves. Hundreds of workers have already died in construction accidents or heat stroke.
Not only are these workers building stadiums, but also entire cities. The proposed site of the 2022 World Cup Final game, the city of Lusail, doesn’t even exist right now.
FIFA president Sepp Blatter was quoted as saying that awarding the World Cup to Qatar was a “mistake” because of the extreme heat and said if an investigation proved corruption in the selection bid, they would look into moving it elsewhere. With all of the controversy and uncertainty around the 2022 World Cup, why not just move it here to the U.S.? The United States has been rumored to be getting the World Cup sometime in the near future and has proven that it can host an event like the World Cup, the 1994 World Cup was hosted here. Our stadiums are already built and our cities already exist. Fan interest would be at an all-time high, and fans from around the world would be welcome and participate in even larger watch parties. Plus, it would be able to take place in the summer and not have to compete with other sporting events.
If it is moved here (or elsewhere), it would be a fun celebration of one of the world’s biggest sporting events. If not, we will at least be able to watch another type of football on Thanksgiving.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.