World Cup 2022: Why are sports getting so problematic?

The FIFA World Cup is a big part of our culture. I remember waking up at 2 a.m. with my family to watch football since I was 9, watching the matches without knowing any of the players’ names. I still remember that moment when I witnessed Argentina lose to Germany in Brazil, and Lionel Messi looking at his trophy being taken by another team. That was a bittersweet moment for the 9-year-old me since I completely immersed myself in the spirit of football. I understood that football is something so important to many people and cultures, and it is used as a medium to make people forget their stressful lives and come together in the same spirit. 


However, as time goes on, I have seen a different wave of opinions toward football and other sporting events. The more time I spend trying to learn about the World Cup or the Olympics, the more controversies about these events I come across. Instead of being the dynamic and fun-filled events I have thought of before, there’s a plethora of problems related to these events that make these sporting spectacles more difficult to enjoy.


From overbudgeting to human rights issues, the list of problems over the years keeps increasing. Environmental pollution at the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics in Brazil, homophobia at the 2018 World Cup in Russia, human rights violations at the Beijing Olympics earlier this year. Even right now, there are allegations that workers in Qatar were used as slaves that are overshadowing the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. As sports develop, more issues start to become noticeable around the organization of these events. Countries have to plan for many problems, and if they don’t do it properly, the international community will take a closer look at them. National leaders have also started to respond to controversies, and some of them even advocate for boycotts. 


For sports fans, this truth is sadly disappointing and tiring to hear. Sports are supposed to be entertaining, and the involvement of politics in sports is making it more stressful and negative than ever. In order to avoid the boycotting wave, FIFA and the IOC have stated that we should separate sports from politics and conflicts should not occur in these sporting events. Furthermore, the IOC has also developed Rule 50, which makes all types of demonstrations at Olympics events forbidden. All efforts are made to ensure that people are unable to raise their voices in such events again, but why does the wave of protests keep getting bigger over time?


The reason behind this might not be easy to hear: the world is more complicated than you think. Behind all the amazing football matches you can see on the TV screen, is the sacrifice of a lot of other things. It could be environmental damage, an overfunded budget that could have improved the lives of many others, or a community that discriminates against minorities. For Qatar 2022 specifically, it is sadly the unfair treatment of stadium construction workers, with many of them not receiving living wages, and some of them  dying in the process of building the glorious stadiums seen on TV. It is true that everything comes with a cost, but is this the right tradeoff? The answer should never be yes. Many lives are being taken just for the sake of entertainment, and that should be enough for everyone to rethink sports’ devastating impact. 

It is hard to take this, but everything is political. These issues have existed long before, but now is the time that people realize that their voices are more powerful than ever, and are ready to fight for their rights. You can still support the World Cup wholeheartedly, but you should never ignore the voices of innocent people around the world. They do not have the same privilege as you to enjoy the fun of the World Cup, and that is against the principles of sports – to share happiness with everyone. It is time to move on from the emotional attachment to these events, and start to be more conscious of the bigger world.