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From the moment it was announced the Qatar World Cup has caused controversy. First it was the physical awarding of the tournament with talks of bribes galore. Then it was the thousands of deaths caused by poor working conditions. Quickly the attention shifted from that onto their discrimination against LGBT communities. Yesterday a less controversial but still contentious communication was made around the consumption of alcohol but, arguably, the biggest controversy is still to come with accusations of match fixing start to rear their heads.
A perspective that’s needed
We’ve used the words “biggest controversy” above when talking about the alleged match fixing; before we press on with the news of that, it’s important to stress a perspective is needed here. In no way to we believe football sits higher on the scale than the human rights scandals that have plagued the Qatar World Cup, however, in a pure footballing sense, the idea of match fixing in the biggest and most widely respected competition the world has ever seen is seriously damaging. Well, at least it has the potential to be anyway.
What has been alleged?
There are two parts to the match fixing accusations but both centre around the host nation, Qatar.
Throwing the opening game
The first came out a few days ago via social media. The allegations were that Qatar had paid off Ecuador to throw the opening game of the World Cup, which airs tomorrow. A. tweet and subsequent screenshots of said tweet were doing the rounds suggesting that Ecuador would deliberately lose the match 1-0.
Very little has been said in response to the accusations but the general view is that the original tweet was fake. Despite that, it’s been seen by thousands of people already with many now suggesting that Qatar simply cannot win the opening game by a goal to nil.
Paying for penalties
The second accusation that has been against Qatar comes with significantly more weight behind it with FIFA in the loop. It was flagged by the Daily Mail that one of FIFA’s third party “integrity partners” has raised the alarm on suspicious activity during Qatar’s World Cup preparations. The first thing of note was that Qatar have played significantly more warm up matches compared to other nations; this in itself isn’t particularly noteworthy. The trouble is most of these games have been played behind closed doors with nearly all media kept at arm’s length meaning very little is known about the action.
One of the key things that has been reported off the back of these secretive games though is that Qatar have been receiving penalties at an alarming rate. It is that fact that saw FIFA alerted to the abnormal events. As yet, FIFA have refused to comment but it’s not a good look for the hosts. That becomes especially true when you factor in when you understand the dynamics of the relationship between the national team and Qatari government.
On a pure footballing basis, Qatar are one of the weakest teams at the World Cup and they’re ranked lower than each of the three teams in their group. Despite that, the government are known to have applied pressure to the team to progress to at least the first knockout round. Those facts combined with rumours of match fixing and an “unusually high” number of penalties being awarded to them are eyebrow raising to say the least.
If Qatar win the opening match 1-0 courtesy of a penalty then it’s fair to say these suggestions will come under much greater scrutiny.