National Columnist

Qatar World Cup corruption, worker deaths a criminal combination

A Qatari official poses with the World Cup trophy during a tour last year.  (Getty)
A Qatari official poses with the World Cup trophy during a tour last year. (Getty Images)

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People are dying, and others got bribed. People are dying because others got bribed.

The bribes are at the allegation stage, but the dying at the 2022 World Cup site in Qatar is real. And I'll be honest: If I had to bet, I would bet the bribes are real, too. This column wouldn't be written if I hadn't believed long ago that the 2022 World Cup was awarded to stiflingly hot, blatantly corrupt Qatar -- against all odds, against all common sense -- because large sums of money were exchanged.

Hell, lots of us thought it long before Sunday, when the Times of London reported that Qatar's former top football official -- the famously corrupt Mohamed Bin Hammam -- had bribed FIFA officials and their connections to land the 2022 World Cup. Anyone who follows soccer in this country, football in others, instantly wondered how that could happen. How could the World Cup go to such a miserably hot place, a place so lacking in infrastructure that hundreds of thousands of desperate workers had to be brought in from Nepal, 2,000 miles away, to work in deadly conditions? The high in Qatar on Monday is expected to be 113 degrees. It'll be 115 on Tuesday before a break provides a respite, with highs Wednesday and Thursday forecast at 105 degrees. With lows in the upper 80s.

Workers are dying over there, more than 200 from Nepal alone in 2013, with more than 4,000 migrant workers projected to die in Qatar by the time the football cathedrals and palaces are in place.

Media sites in football-fanatical London are leading the way in exposing the crimes being committed in Qatar, from the allegations Sunday of bribery in the Times to a story in September by The Guardian about the strong-arm tactics being used to force Nepalese workers to come to Qatar and dance with death for the sake of a football tournament. The journalism is magnificent, but only because it has underscored just how ghastly the 2022 World Cup has become.

Now this. The allegations, what so many of us already assumed to be true, about the corruption that brought the World Cup to Qatar in the first place. FIFA is taking the allegations so seriously that its chief investigator, Michael Garcia, has already launched an investigation and its vice president, Jim Boyce, has indicated the 2022 World Cup could be moved from Qatar if Garcia finds proof of the bribes.

As far as that proof goes, the Times reported that it has documents -- seen also by BBC Sports Editor David Bond -- that Bin Hammam had made payments into accounts controlled by the leaders of 30 high-ranking African soccer officials to secure their support within FIFA for Qatar's bid. Bin Hammam has been banned for life by FIFA twice, once after trying to bribe his way into the FIFA presidency in 2011, then again in 2012 (after his first ban was overturned) for the unseemly way he ran the Asian Football Confederation's Champions League.

There isn't just smoke here, is my point. Bin Hammam is a five-alarm fire of corruption, and they are his fingerprints on the alleged influence that obtained a World Cup for a country where workers are dying by the hundreds, and soon by the thousands if the 2022 World Cup isn't taken away. Which it should be, of course. The 2022 World Cup has to be moved if the allegations are proved true -- and even if they aren't; how many Nepalese should die just so Qatar can get ready for some football? -- but this story has gone well beyond that.

People are dying ... because others got bribed? That's criminal. It sounds something like murder to me. Second degree, manslaughter, hell if I know, but something. Indict 'em all -- everyone who extended a bribe, everyone who accepted, everyone whose vote for Qatar was influenced by such a thing -- and let the court systems sort it out.

But not a court system in Qatar. That place can't be trusted with something as trivial as a soccer stadium, much less something as substantial as justice for the dead.

 
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