Will the gods of football smile on Qatar 2022?
FIFA 2022 currently playing out in Qatar is the most expensive sporting event in human history. Estimated at more than 229 Billion US dollars, the expenditure is 16 times the amount spent by Russia four years ago.
It is roughly the same amount of money the US spent on its Project Apollo between 1960 and 1973, which included landing human beings on the moon. To put it in another perspective, when you think about Qatar’s 229 billion spent on the World Cup, remember that Ghana is sweating at the IMF for only three billion dollars.
But that is far from being the only cost of Qatar’s football project. Last February, the UK newspaper the Guardian reported that 6,500 South East Asian migrant workers had died during the construction of the huge infrastructure required for the tournament.
About 90 percent of workers in Qatar are foreigners from all over the world, especially from developing countries. Some human rights organisations put the estimated death figure much higher, although the Qatari government’s own figures are lower.
Everyone agrees that “thousands” perished in preparing the place for the football fiesta.
My friend Tetteh Kofi has made an allusion to the idea that football has gained the status of religion for many people around the world. He suggests that Karl Marx’s dictum that religion is the opium of the people must be updated.
In effect, Qatar has built the biggest cathedrals and basilicas to the worship of the gods of football at a scale and pace much grander and faster than the constructions of the biggest religious monuments in the world.
With the ball on the turf, discussions of the grim aspects of Qatar 2022 appear a bit out of place, but not for the families of the deceased for whom every kick and every flick must be a reminder of the sacrifice of a dear one.
So far, about one million people are said to have travelled to Qatar while 3.5 billion of us will all be of one mind in remotely worshipping at the alter of the beautiful game.
Here is the question: long after the last whistle and the last vuvuzela sound, will the gods of football smile on this tournament?
At some point the arithmetic will be done; there will be accountability and most important numbers may not be those football statistics. It will be the human cost of what is probably the biggest narcissistic project in human history.