On January 10, 2017, the FIFA Council unanimously decided to expand the number of teams in the World Cup from 32 to 48. According to The New York Times, “The World Cup has used a 32-team format since the 1998 tournament in France”. The 48-team tournaments will still be played in the same amount of time as the 32-team tournaments. Even though this rule change will not take effect until the 2026 FIFA World Cup, it shocked most of the soccer community. After all, before the council meeting, very few people discussed increasing the number of teams in the World Cup. Critics of this sudden rule change state that FIFA is simply attempting to boost revenues.
I asked Patrick Ibba, who watches soccer religiously every weekend, how he felt about this issue. He said, ”I feel like the whole world will be more involved because all big teams will make it attracting for people who don’t watch soccer that much.” As FIFA intended, the tournament will bring much more viewership to the World Cup; 48 teams will include many more soccer watching countries around the world. Furthermore, the development will increase the number of regular soccer games played, which will in turn encourage more daily views. After all, many individuals tend to only watch soccer during tournaments such as the World Cup.
Sepp Blatter, FIFA’s eighth president, now faces a six year ban from FIFA. He was charged with corruption, as were many other representatives of the group; these corrupt officials took millions of dollars in bribes from countries that wanted to host the World Cup. As a result, the locations of the 2018 and 2022 tournaments, Russia and Qatar, have proven controversial; they were decided when the bribe scandal occurred. For additional reasons, however, Qatar has caused the greater controversy.
The extreme heat and dangerous building conditions in Qatar lead to high mortality rates among construction workers in the country. A Washington Post article asserts, “[The] International Trade Union Confederation has estimated 1,200 deaths in recent years. If current trends continue, the ITUC estimates that 4,000 workers will die in Qatar by the time the World Cup is actually held in 2022.” The unsanitary living quarters and blazing heat that migrant workers must face in Qatar lead to these mortality rates. This problem illustrates one of the biggest sins of our generation: forcing people to work for the entertainment of others without proper safety precautions.
Thankfully, this tournament will not be played in the summer as usual; temperatures in Qatar get up to as high as 110 degrees Fahrenheit! Instead, the tournament will be played in the winter months to combat the heat. However, club teams have urged FIFA not to hold the tournament in the winter months because it is right in the middle of their regular season.
Torao Yasunaga wrote this article.