In case you didn’t know, and if you didn’t then you are among a small minority on the entire planet who didn’t know, the World Cup begins next week in Qatar.
NB: the World Cup is the premier soccer (futbol) event in the world. It is held every 4 years.
NB: you may wonder what a post on FIFA and its corruption has to do with the biblical idea of the Beast. My answer is “a lot” and I hope to show this as we proceed.
I asked in my last post, “how could FIFA [the governing body of futbol] grant Qatar the World Cup?” After all, summers in the Arabian desert are not conducive to hosting such an event.
Well, couldn’t they just move it to the winter months? Of course. But you must understand that this was not FIFA’s plan when they awarded the World Cup to Qatar. They had every intention of hosting it in June-July.
NB: there are a host of reasons why the World Cup should be played in June-July; including player safety. (even Sepp Blatter, FIFA’s former president, has recently admitted it was not a good idea—though not because of the human rights concerns).
It was not until several years into the project that they began seeking how they might arrange for the tournament to be played in Nov-Dec.
In my last post, I hinted at some examples of FIFA’s corruption and its “beastlike” activities.
I noted that the host country receives zero revenue for hosting a World Cup. ZERO. FIFA keeps it all: TV rights, merchandise sales, etc., all go to FIFA. And, as a non-profit—FIFA refuses to pay sales tax to the host nation on all merchandise purchases.
Yet, FIFA requires the host country to provide “FIFA quality venues” and infrastructure for all matches.
This often costs host countries billions of dollars (estimates are that in 2010 South Africa spent $7.2 billion; in 2014 Brazil spent $19.7 billion; in 2018 Russia spent $16 billion; and in 2022 Qatar has spent $220 billion).
In case you are wondering, FIFA’s net reserves are in the billions. Yep, a non-profit that has billions in reserves. Even my non-profit only has a few million. Okay, maybe not.
Why would a country even want to host the World Cup?
Host nations are sold on the fact that they can use this as an opportunity to upgrade their infrastructure and better their country. They also benefit from the added exposure and the tourism that the World Cup brings: hotels, restaurants, and the like enjoy the profits.
Even so, we must ask: is it worth it for a country to spend billions preparing for a World Cup?
The answer is likely no. That is why the people of Brazil were protesting in the years, weeks, and months ahead of the World Cup in 2014. The money spent to meet FIFA’s demands for world-class venues could have been used for better purposes.
An example of FIFA’s at times ridiculous demands is found in their request that a World Cup quality venue be built in Manaus, Brazil in time for the 2014 World Cup.
The problem is that this stadium is virtually unusable today for the poor residents of Manaus who cannot afford the ticket prices to attend a game.
Oh, and there is the fact that Manaus, though a large city, is more than an hour from the next populated city in Brazil and there are no roads to travel there.
This is why, when the stadium was being constructed they had to float construction materials up the Amazon just to get it there. Look at what this report says about the stadium in Manaus,
“The Arena da Amazonia is located in Manaus, Brazil. Manaus is in the middle of the Amazon and very hard to travel to. The stadium took 4 years to build. It’s estimated to have cost the Brazilian government $220-$300 million. Three workers died during construction. It’s one of 12 stadiums Brazil built for the 2014 World Cup. The stadium was used for just 4 matches during the World Cup. It was also used for a few matches during the 2016 Olympics.
Now it sits mostly unused. . . . Most local matches bring in fewer than 1,000 people.
The stadium took in $180,000 in the first 4 months of 2016, while spending about $560,000 in operating costs. It’s not the first stadium to sit mostly unused after being used for just a few big events. It probably won’t be the last.”
So much for helping a country with its infrastructure. FIFA’s idea of infrastructure is to provide a stadium that is more costly to maintain than it generates in revenue.
The end result is that the World Cup in 2014 devastated Brazil’s economy.
This is why, once the people of Brazil realized what was happening, they began to protest.
Qatar and the World Cup 2022
None of this is a problem, however, for the gas-rich nation of Qatar. Estimates are that Qatar has spent over $220 billion (with a “B”) on stadiums, transportation, hotels, and the like to host the games.
Here’s the real kicker: the city scheduled to host the finals, Lusail City, didn’t even exist at the time Qatar won the bid. Qatar built an entirely new city, about 15km north of Doha, to accommodate the tournament.
Now imagine what $220 billion could be better spent on. Of course, this is a futile exercise, because it’s unlikely that, should the World Cup have been taken away from Qatar, the $220 billion would have been spent on education, poverty relief, or even growing the game of soccer among the poor.
Why would Qatar want to host the World Cup?
Qatar’s goal has been, among other things, to improve its image and increase tourism in the years to come. (NB: this article on ESPN.com provides more insights into why Qatar is willing to spend $220 billion to host the World Cup even though they receive none of the proceeds from the tournament itself).
One of Qatar’s main efforts has been to improve its global image—thus increasing tourism. In fact, if you want to travel and enjoy the World Cup in person, Qatar will pay for your travel and hotel costs. All you have to do is agree to provide positive social media content regarding Qatar during the time of your stay! (See this article on Yahoo.com for more info).
Qatar and human rights
You might be thinking that I am looking down on a nation for spending money trying to improve its image and thus increase its wealth. Well, not exactly.
When it comes to a World Cup in Qatar, it is not just the expense of building the infrastructure and asking if the money could have been better spent. There are, and have been, major human rights concerns with Qatar long before they were awarded the World Cup.
These concerns have been raised by virtually every global human rights organization: Amnesty International, in fact, has called the 2022 World Cup, “the World Cup of Shame”. See also the report by Human Rights Watch.
Among the human rights concerns are the thousands of deaths that have resulted from the construction of the needed infrastructure. (see podcast series: “The Lords of Soccer”).
Although the government of Qatar says that only a few deaths have occurred in the construction leading up to the World Cup, human rights organizations have counted thousands. What accounts for the difference?
The government of Qatar only counts the deaths of those who died while building the World Cup venues themselves. The fact is, however, that the number of deaths of all workers who have died during the construction of all projects related to the World Cup totals in the thousands (the British newspaper the Guardian reports over 6,500 deaths).
This is to say nothing of the horrendous working conditions of the migrant workers, which can only be described as “slavery” (see numerous reports from Human Rights Watch and others).
NB: For more details, the 1 hour ESPN E:60 report with Jeremy Schaap is worth your time.
Why would FIFA grant Qatar the World Cup?
So, how did Qatar win the bid in the first place? The answer is, of course, they paid for it! This is no industry secret: See ESPN special with interviews of those who witnessed Qatar officials paying bribes for votes; see also this report; which details the bribes paid to earn the votes needed to secure the World Cup.
What does this mean for us?
Well as a sports fan, I am indeed going to watch the games. But I am also going to weep.
I noted in my last post, my love for travel. Well, if there was ever a place to see—in the winter months of course—it would be Qatar. They didn’t spend all that money on nothing!
The problem is that traveling to Qatar and enjoying the beauty they have created—which I am sure would indeed be a lot of fun—cannot be done without an awareness that its splendor was shaped largely on the backs of slaves, thousands of whom died.
Now, I am not saying you shouldn’t go. Nor am I saying that you shouldn’t watch the World Cup. (I already have my favorite teams set to record so that, if time allows, I won’t miss a match)
I am saying that, just as when we travel to the Pyramids in Egypt or the Coliseum in Rome, we need to reserve time for weeping.
Sure it is beautiful. Sure it displays the capabilities of human achievements. Sure the games will be a pleasure to watch—as long as one of my teams win of course.
But it also displays what happens when those in power use their power to accomplish their own ends and they do so at the expense of the poor and the marginalized.
We cannot walk the streets of Qatar, or many of the ancient cities, without realizing the men and women gave their lives so that others may prosper.
We cannot watch the World Cup from our homes without the realization that tens of thousands of people endured horrific working conditions and thousands died so that we can enjoy a sporting event.
What does this have to do with the Beast?
I have been arguing that the Beast is empire. Empires exert power to impose their will on their subjects.
As I said in a previous post, those in power often have as their first priority the aim to stay in power. Empires most often rule at the expense of the people. The mass of people labor so that the few may profit.
This was most certainly the way of empire in ancient Rome. And this is certainly what Jesus was countering when He told His disciples that they are not to rule like the nations (Mark 10:42-45).
Perhaps, however, one of the greatest sources of power is the ability to control the narrative. In the book of Revelation, Satan is referred to as: “the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world” (Rev 12:9).
Thus, Qatar’s efforts to pay for your trip for positive social media exposure should alert us that something more is going on.
Let me close with this thought. Qatar is merely doing what empires do.
And we too easily look past this because of the love of the game! Because we love sports, we look past the human rights violations.
This behavior is known in the human rights world as Sportswashing: a “catch-all phrase applied to any country or regime with questionable human rights records or autocratic rulers who wield their financial power to acquire prestigious roles and stakes within the sporting world.”
That is but just an example of what the Beast does!
I said in post #1 of this series: “understanding what the book of Revelation (and the whole of the Bible) says about the nature of the kingdom of God and the kingdoms of the world is of utmost significance. This is especially the case for the western church in the early part of the 21st century.”
Then I added, “it is my conviction that much of the western church has largely fallen prey to the Beast of Revelation 13. And, I would add, we have also been seduced by the Harlot of Revelation 17-18.”
Then in post #3, I reiterated that as I discuss further what the Beast is and what it may mean for us today, “I am not sure you will like what I have to say.”
Now my question is, “do we not like it, or are we becoming uncomfortable, because we are beginning to see that the Beast is not simply ‘over there’? Could it be that the Beast is a lot closer than we think?”
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