So, Sepp Blatter wins again. Despite all the scandal (forget the past few days, the past 17 years should've been enough), Blatter has been once more crowned king at the head of FIFA. Predictable, if still hugely depressing - this is, after all, the man who suggested female footballers wear tighter shorts, who's shrugged off stories of match-fixing, who confidently once declared, "there is no racism in football".
Obviously, making ill-advised comments isn't the worst thing Blatter is known for; he's also presided for years over what is now said essentially to be a worldwide criminal enterprise. You only have to look to the settings of the next two World Cups for evidence of questionable ethics: The first, belligerent, LGBT-unfriendly Russia, will host the World Cup in 2018. This, despite the fact that the former Soviet Union hasn't shown as much aggression towards its neighbours since before the Berlin Wall fell (heard the recent one about Putin threatening Denmark with nukes?).
The second, Qatar - a country where apostasy is punishable by death and where being gay carries a prison sentence - will host the World Cup in 2022. Qatar isn't remotely ready to host any kind of tournament; already the 2022 World Cup has had to be moved to winter, because it's just too hot to safely play 90 minutes of sport there in summer. What's more, the climate is dangerous for fans, there's barely enough space in the country to host and, even more fundamentally, the stadiums required to play in don't actually exist yet.
Thankfully for Qatar, that's where its collection of migrant workers come in. They are labourers from all over the world, building Qatar's World Cup facilities from the ground up. All that most anyone - the FBI, FIFA's sponsors, the media included - seems to care about right now is that money may have changed hands illegally over at FIFA, but try this for a real scandal: the accusation that Qatar's World Cup is built upon slavery and death, and that FIFA has only profited from it.
Because if it's true that Qatar was handed the 2022 World Cup on the back of bribes - and those are the claims that the FBI is now investigating - then FIFA has blood on its hands. Working conditions for migrant workers in Qatar are horrific. According to a Guardian report from last year, migrant workers there are exploited and effectively enslaved, dumped in substandard living quarters as their passports are taken away. Working conditions are extremely poor, and sometimes fatal - in 2014, Nepalese workers were dying at a rate of one every two days, mostly from heart complications or workplace accidents.
Those are just Nepalese fatalities - separate figures for Indian, Sri Lankan and Bangladeshi worker deaths are at present unaccounted for. According to reports, around 1,200 have already died building the facilities needed for Qatar's World Cup, and construction is set to continue for another seven years, by which time it's said another 4,000 will have perished. That means around 62 people will have died for every game of football played at the 2022 World Cup. We've known about this for months already. Almost as soon as Qatar had won its World Cup bid, estimates were being thrown around as to how many would die before a ball had even been kicked, like some grim sweepstakes.
Of course, sports writers and pundits appeared more interested then in the weather conditions in Qatar and the logistics of playing in 50 degrees centigrade. It was as though the prospective deaths of the workers building these monuments to overpaid egos knocking a ball around a field wasn't quite enough to be outraged about. It instead took talk of financial corruption to summon wider public outrage and get the authorities turning on FIFA.
Sepp Blatter has today said the World Cups in Russia and Qatar will go ahead regardless of any scandal; to him, clearly, 1,200 deaths isn't yet enough. Maybe 17 years in charge of what is increasingly looking like one of the most casually corrupt governing bodies on Earth has made Blatter overly-confident, that we'll all soon forget, move on and just enjoy the beautiful game. Hopefully, this time will be different. The lives of 4,000 people may depend on it.
This article was previously posted on Shamocracy.