By CAITLIN MURRAY
Could FIFA be buckling under the pressure to strip Qatar of the 2022 World Cup? For now, maybe not.
But in light of all the problems facing Qatar’s bid to host — from bribery on a massive scale to unbearable summer temperatures to human rights concerns — the pressure to reconsider Qatar as 2022 World Cup host seems to be mounting.
In a Spanish-language tweet Thursday, ESPN writer Jorge Ramos reported FIFA had asked U.S. Soccer to prepare its organizing committee for the possibility that the 2022 World Cup will not be held in Qatar. The tweet implied the decision would come in September or October.
But U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati was reportedly surprised by the news and was swift in refuting the initial claim, New York Times reporter Sam Borden tweeted after speaking to Gulati.
“Sunil Gulati, flatly denied FIFA has approached them re: ’22 WC. ‘They haven’t asked us and I cannot imagine it happening anytime soon,’” Borden tweeted.
Without explanation, Ramos later deleted his tweet, which read: “ALERTA: #FIFA llamo a #USA para que tenga listo un comite organizador para el 2022. No habria #Mundial en #Qatar. Se decide en Sept u Oct.”
Still, it is clear FIFA will not have an easy time brushing off growing calls for Qatar to be voided as host of the 2022 World Cup.
While the initial choice to award Qatar the 2022 World Cup was met with suspicion, a report from The Sunday Times earlier this month seemed to blow the issue open. The blockbuster report alleged that FIFA Executive Committee Member Mohamed Bin Hammam had poured $5 million in bribes to secure secret votes to award the World Cup to Qatar, calling into question the legitimacy of the entire process that resulted in a World Cup for the small Middle Eastern nation.
Of course, Qatar had already been dogged with accusations of employing “modern-day slavery” for its World Cup building projects. Hosting the World Cup in summer as usual seemed increasingly impossible with Qatar’s 120-degree temperatures, too.
For their part, Qatari officials have been steadfast in denying a re-vote is possible, even as an investigation from FIFA into the 2022 bidding process will not be released until July.
What do you think of this development? Could it signal FIFA will act in the future? Or will Qatar get to hold onto the 2022 World Cup, as they expect?
Share your thoughts below.