November 22, 2022

CHASEN | Why Cornellians Should (Not) Watch the 2022 World Cup

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As Cornellians are beginning to depart from Ithaca for a well-earned Thanksgiving break, there is something happening halfway around the world that many of us will be paying attention to: the start of the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar. The 32-team tournament kicked off on Sunday with Ecuador defeating the host nation 2-0, making Qatar the first host nation in the history of the tournament to lose their opening game. 

This World Cup is sure to be different from most, though. There has been no shortage of controversy surrounding the tournament, from its timing in the middle of the holiday season to the treatment of workers building the stadiums to even the lack of alcoholic beverages in those stadiums. 

With that in mind, here are just some of the reasons Cornellians should want to tune in over the next month, and some reasons you might want to stay away:

Why You Should Watch the 2022 World Cup

The FIFA World Cup is a unique festival of football that only occurs once every four years. From France’s attempts to repeat as champions, to Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo attempting to win what will likely be their final World Cup, there will be no shortage of exciting storylines to follow. Additionally, given the United States has sealed qualification for the first time in eight years, the tournament will surely be receiving a lot of attention here in America.

At Cornell, there are no shortage of reasons you should enjoy the 2022 World Cup. It is a celebration of the various cultures that comprise our university, and a chance to acknowledge the diversity that strengthens the Cornell campus. It is a chance to make new friendships and rekindle old ones throughout our community, as well as beyond our campus. In fact, the World Cup Final is one of the largest communal events we have as human beings, with the 2018 final reaching a combined audience of over a billion people. As a result, when combined with the incredible season that our Cornell Men’s Soccer Team is having, this World Cup is a chance for soccer to gain more of a foothold at this university, and in the Ithaca area overall.

 Why You Should Not Watch the 2022 World Cup

The 2022 FIFA World Cup is one that will, unfortunately, be overshadowed by the controversy surrounding its host nation. The process in which FIFA awarded the World Cup location to Qatar is one that has been criticized for corruption and bribery ever since it occurred in 2010. In fact, even the FIFA President, Sepp Blatter, who originally awarded the World Cup to Qatar, has recently admitted that the decision was a mistake. 

As Gabriel Levin ’26 noted earlier this week, the host nation has been criticized extensively for its human rights record over the years. Homosexual relationships are illegal in Qatar, and women’s rights and freedom of speech and expression will be under the microscope over the next month. For a university as civically engaged and diverse as Cornell, these truths are uncomfortable ones that threaten to cast a shadow over the entire proceedings.

Additionally, human rights groups have critiqued the treatment of the workers building the stadiums that will be in use for the 2022 World Cup. Many of those workers are migrant workers from neighboring countries, and have reported abusive work conditions and denial of pay. Furthermore, estimates of the number of workers who have died constructing the stadiums range from the hundreds to the thousands, with The Guardian reporting a death toll of 6,500 people. Under no circumstances should we excuse these abusive labor practices.

What Should Cornellians Do?

Obviously, the decision of whether to watch or not watch the 2022 World Cup is up to each and every individual. The World Cup is a big part of any soccer fan’s life, but it is impossible to ignore the alarming, unique circumstances surrounding this year’s tournament. In fact, despite the pleas of reporters and human rights groups, the uncomfortable truth is that many people across the world will likely watch and enjoy the 2022 World Cup, despite the circumstances that led up to it.

So regardless of whether you choose to watch the World Cup to cheer on your home nation or not, let’s continue to promote open and respectful discussion on the issues defining the tournament both on and off the pitch. And most importantly, let’s continue to fight for a world where everyone is truly welcome to pursue life, liberty, happiness and the sport we all love. 

Isaac Chasen (he/him) is a senior in the Dyson School. He can be reached at [email protected] Cut to the Chase runs every other Tuesday this semester.