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Human rights? Women? Heat? FIFA didn't look at issues with Qatar


In the days since FIFA's baffling decision to award the 2022 World Cup to Qatar there has been a lot of talk about adjusting the timetable because of the oppressive heat.

The heat is sure to be a nightmare, but it's a different kind of oppression I'm concerned about.

As a female sportswriter who may be at the 2022 World Cup as a working journalist traveling solo, how will I be treated? Will thousands of female visitors be accepted? Will gay football fans be harassed?

The 22 men on the FIFA Executive Committee apparently don't care that Qatar isn't exactly a leader when it comes to human rights. They were wowed by imaginary stadiums, the impact of petrodollars and president Sepp Blatter's apparent desire to take over the world.

Microscopic Qatar may be a little further along than its neighbors. We're all supposed to be thrilled that women there can vote. And drive! And it's only 2010!

But am I expected to cover my head, arms and legs -- while working in 120 degree heat? And what about my friends who would face five years in prison by attending the World Cup. That's the penalty for homosexuality, which is illegal in Qatar.

Amnesty International and raise serious concerns about Qatar from a human rights perspective. A 2010 report by the Office of the United Nations high Commissioner for Refugees rated Qatar "not free." While women have been granted some rights in recent years, in practice they have very little ability to pursues those rights. In 1996 a gay American citizen was sentenced to six months in prison and 90 lashes.

Blatter won't lose sleep over such issues. He's already exhibited his Neanderthal side plenty of times, such as in 2004 when he suggested a way to attract more attention to the women's game.

Perhaps you remember his comments?

"Let the women play in more feminine clothes like they do in volleyball," he said. "They could, for example, have tighter shorts."

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Booty shorts. The answer to all of WPS struggles. Great advice from the leader of a sport.

Funny guy, that Blatter. He seemed to think he was being funny again this month when asked about Qatar's laws against homosexuality.

"I would say they should refrain from any sexual activities," he said with a smile.

What a perfect solution. Why didn't we all think of that?

If Blatter really is, as many think, angling for a Nobel Peace Prize by exporting a huge corporate sporting event to previously uninvolved countries, he might want to consider the impact on all football fans. And not leave the impression that he and his executive committee are conducting secret backdoor deals.

In the days since the 2018 and 2022 choices were announced, Blatter has been on the defensive. His reaction to criticism? For everyone who doesn't embrace building huge new stadiums or holding what is supposed to be a fun sporting event in places fans don't really want to go, he calls them sore losers.

In an interview with the Swiss magazine Die Weltwoche, Blatter decried the "arrogance" of the western world. And arrogance seems to be a trait he knows something about.

"What can be wrong if we start football in regions where this sport demonstrates a potential which goes far beyond sport," he was quoted as saying. "It's my philosophy to drive forward the expansion of football. The next regions we need to conquer would be China and India. Football has become a political matter. Heads of state court me."

Emperor Blatter's plan to take over the world would apparently not put the World Cup back in Western Europe -- where if functions so beautifully -- until 2034 (China and India, feel free to start the process of palm-greasing for 2026 and 2030).

Using a mega-sporting event as an instrument of social change is a dubious proposition. Did human rights improve in China after the Beijing Olympics --or are restrictions on freedom even greater now?

Is Qatar going to magically transform for one month of football 12 years from now? Are football fans going to be able to freely drink a cold beer in the 120-degree heat? Are women and gay visitors going to be accepted?

Somehow I don't think the 22 men of FIFA's executive committee really care.