With less than a month until the start of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, FIFA is facing yet another scandal in the already troubled planning of the tournament, threatening to shift how the public views the organization. The Tunisian Football Federation (TFF) was recently accused of breaching FIFA’s bylaws on third-party involvement, according to Al Jazeera.
In a letter sent to the TFF, FIFA showed their willingness to enforce their regulations despite the tournament’s proximity, stating that “any failure to comply with these obligations may result in the imposition of penalties under the FIFA laws, including suspension of the relevant association.” It would not be the first time–even this year–that FIFA suspended a national team for breaking third-party regulations. India was suspended earlier this year on the same grounds.
FIFA has already had to navigate incredible challenges to honor their promise to allow Qatar to host the World Cup. The harsh Qatari heat made it impossible to carry out the World Cup in the summer months, which has been the standard for the tournament’s entire history. This drew the ire of soccer leagues around the world, as their seasons will be put on hold in December, and forcingto pay $200 million in compensation to clubs whose players will be traveling to Qatar to represent their national team.
Additionally, Pro Soccer Wire, an American sports magazine, reports that tests on the Qatari stadium’s event performance earlier this year resulted in repeated failure. The newly built Lusail Iconic Stadium, set to be the venue for the final, hosted its first-ever game earlier this year, leading to a myriad of complaints ranging from poor transportation, inadequate ventilation, and the exhaustion of the water supply by half-time. While the Qatari government assures the public that the nation is ready to host an event as large as the World Cup, that has not prevented mounting criticism and international pressure to move the event.
Tunisia qualified for the World Cup and was placed in Group D with the last World Cup’s champion France, an in-form Denmark side, and Australia. Replacing Tunisia in such proximity to the World Cup represents a difficult logistical challenge for FIFA in a World Cup already riddled with opposition and ample organizational hurdles.
As the World Cup looms closer, FIFA is awaiting a response from the TFF regarding the accusations levied against them, putting currently unqualified national teams on high alert about the possibility of a late and unexpected qualification to the World Cup. There is a lot of speculation on which teams FIFA would consider as candidates to take Tunisia’s spot. theorizes that it could potentially be Italy as the highest-ranking nation not in the tournament, Nigeria as the highest-ranking African nation not in the tournament, or Mali, which Tunisia beat in the qualification playoffs.
If Tunisia is banned from participating at FIFA events, it would put additional strain on an already highly questioned tournament. The tournament has been criticized from the start as there have been plenty of accusations of corruption levied against FIFA for choosing Qatar to host the tournament. Many critics have already raised harsh judgements against the tournament; such as BR Football, predicting that this will be “the worst World Cup ever” and criticizing Qatar’s lack of football culture, the high price of traveling to Qatar, and the corruption scandal surrounding the nation’s bid as World Cup host. Now, with a team on the verge of being kicked out of the tournament in such proximity to its start, it is safe to say that concerns of the quality of this world cup gain strength with each passing day showing FIFA’s inability to carry out the event smoothly. After years of corruption and scandals, the Qatar World Cup will determine the future of FIFA.