This is a post by Travis Mercer. Travis is a sports and travel journalist who focuses on football and social issues.
Even with Champions League group play just wrapping up, and the Premier League and club play all over the world in full swing, the talk of the football world lately has been the 2014 World Cup —and with good reason. Arguably the biggest sporting event in the world, the World Cup always generates excitement months before the actual tournament kicks off.
The World Cup does require, in some sense, preparation! Those fortunate enough to attend are already booking over accommodation and booking flights. And those of us who enjoy getting a bit competitive about the games can already, even 6 months before the tournament, lay bets on team performance. At Betfair for example I noticed they are already taking bets. Spain is on 7/1 to win, with Brazil, Argentina and Germany all ahead despite Spain attending the World Cup as defending champion.
And, for those looking for a long shot, Portugal at 33/1 is a threat to any team in the tournament – especially considering Ronaldo’s current form.
But in the midst of all of this it’s important for the international community not to lose sight of a more important issue that, unfortunately, just won’t go away.
The safety of World Cup preparation for a host nation has been in the news a great deal lately. And with FIFA coming under a bit of fire in relation to the issues, it may be time to ask if this process needs a total makeover.
In late November, the main stadium being constructed for the 2014 World Cup in Sao Paulo experienced a partial collapse, killing two workers. More recently, a worker fell to his death while working on a stadium while another died of a heart attack while working on the stadium in Manaus. And, looking further ahead to the 2022 World Cup, there have been absolutely shocking reports of abuse and death related to construction in Qatar. Specifically, in September, The Guardian published a report that the Qatar World Cup construction would leave 4,000 migrant workers dead.
There’s an argument to be made that the instances of stadium collapse, fallen worker, and heart attack victim in Brazil had nothing to do with rushed contraction or improper regulation. All of these events could have happened by chance.
There’s no easy solution here, of course, and FIFA is a large, slow to move and stubborn organization. But one has to question if changes might save lives. If World Cup locations were chosen even further in advance, for example, would construction be less rushed? Also, perhaps stricter regulations on eligible countries are needed to prevent worker abuse.
Until change happens this dark side of World Cup preparations will continue to hog the headlines, not the football.