The last few days have deepened the credibility crisis of Qatar 2022 with each day throwing up fresh controversy that fuels the belief that football’s governing body is supporting the wrong causes at their showpiece event.
After years of controversy over how a nation six times smaller than Ireland secured the rights to host the biggest tournament in football, you could have expected FIFA to do all they could to ensure the opening to the tournament was as far away from fresh controversy as possible.
Yet the last few days have deepened the credibility crisis of Qatar 2022, with each day throwing up fresh controversy that fuels the belief that football’s governing body is supporting the wrong causes at their showpiece event.
First came the alcohol ban.
After years of insisting they would not ban the sale of alcohol in World Cup stadiums, FIFA confirmed last Friday that it would be banned inside venues.
The idea that you can still get alcohol if you are willing to pay more than €20,000 for a corporate box made the decision all the more troubling, as he fuelled the narrative that money was talking once again as FIFA made their decision.
Then came FIFA President Gianni Infantino’s horrible and offensive press conference on Saturday.
His bizarre claim that he appreciates how LGBTQ+ community and poorly treated migrant workers in Qatar because he was picked on at school for having freckles displayed a level of verbal insensitivity that only former US President Donald Trump could rival on the world stage.
"He's a terrible face for football, that guy,” said former Manchester United star Gary Neville, in comments initially tweeted by Qatari TV channel beIN Sports, yet it said it all that they later deleted that message from their account.
"He should be statesmanlike, he should be bringing people together, he's the global representative of football, not answering to one or two nations which he seemed to be doing yesterday. He's got to rise above it.
"Some of his language yesterday about, 'I'm a migrant worker, I'm disabled' is an absolute scandal, he shouldn't be using that type of language. He shouldn't be using those phrases in my opinion.
"I think FIFA is a poor representation of what football is, which is a beautiful game enjoyed by communities from Brazil to Bury, from Bolivia to Peru, to everywhere. I have to say that FIFA needs to clean up its act.”
Who could argue with Neville on those comments?
The bad news stories continued as host Qatar played Ecuador in a curious opening match of the tournament on Sunday, as an excited stadium announcer declared over 67,000 fans were at the match in a stadium with a capacity of 60,000.
The sight of thousands of ‘fans’ leaving the stadium early in the second half appeared to back up the idea that many were not there to support the game, with tens of thousands of seats empty long before the final whistle.
Now we are presented with another PR disaster, with FIFA warning England and six other nations that their captains will be shown a yellow card if he wears a ‘One Love’ armband in support of the LBGTQ+ community, with homosexuality banned in Qatar.
A joint statement from seven European nations who had signed up to the One Love campaign – which included England and Wales – confirmed the armbands will no longer be worn due to fear of a yellow card being issued.
“FIFA has been very clear that it will impose sporting sanctions if our captains wear the armbands on the field of play,” the statement began.
“As national federations, we can’t put our players in a position where they could face sporting sanctions including bookings, so we have asked the captains not to attempt to wear the armbands in FIFA World Cup games.
“FIFA has been very clear that it will impose sporting sanctions if our captains wear the armbands on the field of play. As national federations, we can’t put our players in a position where they could face sporting sanctions including bookings, so we have asked the captains not to attempt to wear the armbands in FIFA World Cup games.”
Whoever is running FIFA’s PR campaign is overseeing a disastrous operation and once again, football is being harmed by their incompetence.
If anyone had any doubts over whether the World Cup should be taking place in Qatar this winter, the events of the first few days of the tournament have given everyone the answer they were looking for.