With the 2022 World Cup underway, we explain why and how Qatar won the rights to host the World Cup.

“How did I get here?!”

The line from the Talking Heads’ 1980 track “Once in a Lifetime” may just be something ringing through the minds of many of the players, coaches, fans and media members who find themselves in Qatar right now. Casual viewers, unaware of the politics of the soccer world, who are tuning in may also be wondering, “Why is Qatar hosting the 2022 World Cup?”

The answer is both complicated and incredibly simple. The complicated answer is a long-simmering culture of corruption, backdoor dealings, and ego. The simple answer is money, and lots of it.

Best way to understand how Qatar won the rights

The documentary The Fall Of FIFA: How Qatar Got The World Cup is one of many that exposes how we’ve arrived at a World Cup hosted by a nation the size of Connecticut, with only one major city, at the wrong time of year and in venues that, mostly, didn’t exist just a few years ago.

In our opinion, the video below is the best and most authoritative explanation of what happened to lead to Qatar hosting the World Cup. It’s certainly better than FIFA Uncovered, which is currently on Netflix.

The story is mostly told through the lens of Chuck Blazer, former secretary general of CONCACAF and member of the FIFA executive committee, those close to him and other heavy hitters in the FIFA organization.

The tale recalls lavish gatherings and meals, cash gifts to ExCo members, an office bird aviary at Trump Tower, an apartment for cats, and other excessive indulgences from the CONCACAF kingpin.

FIFA undone by whistleblower

In early 2010, the African Football Union met in Angola, where their meeting was sponsored by the Qatar 2022 bid. Three ExCo votes were in attendance and up for grabs at the time. In the documentary, Phaedra Almajid – a media coordinator for the Qatar bid – details how she was brought in to translate during this conference, with all three members as they were offered 1.5 million dollars each in exchange for support for the bid.

Reynald Temarii, then-ExCo member representing Oceania, is shown later that year in hidden camera footage openly soliciting a bribe, for which he was later suspended from FIFA. Strong-arming by the Qataris of Michel Platini and UEFA is also heavily implied.

One anecdote from the film certainly stands out amongst the reactions to the 2022 voting results. The announcement of Qatar as the 2022 host was so stunning, that apparently former president Bill Clinton, in attendance with the US delegation, smashed a mirror with an ashtray in his hotel room after the vote.

In the years following the decision to award the World Cup to Qatar (and Russia), immense pressure was thrown onto FIFA, and serious investigations were undertaken into the bidding process for 2018 and 2022. An internal report undertaken by FIFA was so damaging, that the ExCo decided to not release it publicly in its entirely.

Sepp Blatter was interviewed, and reveals that the president of France had pressured Platini to support the Qatar bid – allegedly in a quid pro quo ensuring Qatar would purchase French-made aircraft. Though he then goes on to claim ignorance about other details of bought votes and corruption which were outlined in FIFA’s own internal report.

DOJ and FBI step in

Things started to fall apart for FIFA, in part, because Chuck Blazer agreed to cooperate with an FBI investigation as part of a deal – acting as an informant during the 2012 London Olympics to help nail down corrupt officials. Blazer was compelled to participate after the FBI discovered he had been dodging millions in in taxes.

May 2015 saw a series of highly profile arrests of FIFA officials in Switzerland, as well as CONCACAF’s Miami headquarters, as the FBI clamped down those responsible for corrupt activities within the organization.

All in all it’s a fascinating look into the seedy underbelly of one of the world’s most power sporting organization. The tournament has still gone on in Qatar despite many issues and problems – but perhaps the silver lining is that in the wake of the controversial awarding of the bid, at least some of the unseemly characters and practices have been removed from the game. Or at least, we can only hope.

Thank you to DW (Deutsche Welle) for explaining how Qatar won the rights to the FIFA World Cup.

Photo credit: Imago

Guide to World Cup 2022

Here are some resources to help you get the most out of the biggest event in soccer!
TV Schedule: All the info on where and when to watch every game
The Groups: We breakdown each group and all the teams
The Kits: Check out what every team will be wearing on the field this fall
Predictor: Play out every scenario with our World Cup Predictor
World Cup Bracket: Map out the entire tournament, from the groups to the final