Qatar World Cup 2022 survey: Brazil to win, players should protest, England will disappoint


FIFA wants the world to stick to the football.

But despite Gianni Infantino’s plea that the 32 competing nations at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar resist being dragged into “ideological and political battles”, you have told us you feel very differently.

The Athletic launched a wide-ranging reader survey about the tournament 50 days before the big kick-off.

We called for your predictions about how this World Cup would play out on the pitch and sought your views about off-field issues that have plagued Qatar since it was controversially awarded football’s showpiece event in 2010. We wanted to know how you felt, what was important to you, and how you thought players and teams should react.

More than 2,000 of you took part, answering almost 20 questions and providing your views ahead of the curtain-raiser between the hosts and Ecuador on November 20.

Among the findings, our survey revealed:

  • 60 per cent feel ‘angry’ about the World Cup being staged in Qatar
  • 83 per cent believe a winter World Cup negatively impacts the season
  • 52 per cent would back players refusing to play in protest
  • 88 per cent have no confidence in FIFA over the World Cup hosting selection process

Below, we break down your responses, and share a selection of your comments.

The Qatar World Cup off the field…

Four years have passed since France beat Croatia to lift the trophy in Russia, but only 11 per cent of readers surveyed said they “can’t wait” for this World Cup.

FIFA said Qatar will provide “a World Cup like no other” and insisted it is “committed to ensuring a safe and welcoming environment”. The hosts’ Supreme Committee said “everyone is welcome”.

But half of respondents said they felt “uneasy” about the Gulf state in which homosexuality is illegal, flogging is an enforceable punishment, and where migrant workers have died building the stadia to host the tournament. Almost two thirds described themselves as feeling “angry” about the 2022 World Cup.

Thirty-eight per cent said they planned to watch all 64 games, but 13 per cent admitted they were inclined to turn off completely.

An estimated one million fans worldwide will cram into Doha and its surrounding areas — just 44 miles stand between northern outpost Al Khor to Al Wakrah in the south, with every stadium packed in between — but less than five per cent of respondents said they were making the trip.

A quarter said the cost was prohibitive. The most expensive tickets for the 2022 final cost up to 46 per cent more than Russia’s finale in 2018, and The Athletic has spoken to fans across the globe who are expecting to shell out up to $10,000 (£8,400) each.

But while availability of accommodation, expectation of the fan experience, and ability to get tickets were cited by some as hurdles, 42 per cent said human rights concerns were the primary reason for keeping away.

Asked how important several off-field issues surrounding the Qatar World Cup were to them on a scale of 1-10 (10 being of the most concern), 81 per cent picked numbers from eight to 10 when it came to concerns over the safety of LGBT+ supporters in Qatar. Eighty-nine per cent selected between eight and 10 when asked about their worries over the treatment of construction employees, despite Qatar’s Supreme Committee’s insistence over its “genuine commitment to protect the health and safety of the 30,000 workers”.

England manager Gareth Southgate hit back at FIFA’s focus-on-football directive by saying: “I’ll choose if I’m going to speak or not,” and those responding to the survey back him up, with only nine per cent saying they thought football and politics should never mix.

Wales, Belgium, Denmark, England, France, Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands plan to wear a ‘OneLove’ armband at the tournament. Hummel said its Denmark kit with camouflaged logos reflected its wish “not to be visible” at the tournament. Australia — backed by Belgium and Denmark — have gone the furthest, publicly calling for the decriminalisation of homosexuality in a player-led video.

An overwhelming 90 per cent said players and teams should be allowed to protest.

Speaking out (86 per cent) or using social media to share their views (77 per cent) were deemed the most appropriate methods, but more than half of respondents (52 per cent) said they would back individual players boycotting the tournament.

And when it comes to speaking up, our survey also had a message for the media: only five per cent felt there had been too much coverage of off-field issues, with 71 per cent deeming that there had not been enough.

As the first tournament in the northern hemisphere’s winter, Qatar 2022 has caused the European domestic season to be flexible like never before, so we canvassed your views about the calendar, too. The tournament will have the shortest build-up to a World Cup, starting just a week after the Premier League paused, and the Carabao Cup fourth round will pit Manchester City against Liverpool, among other ties, just days after the World Cup final.

“The players who get injured and cannot play, it is a disaster,” Jurgen Klopp has said, with Paul Pogba, N’Golo Kante, Ben Chilwell, Timo Werner and, potentially, Sadio Mane among those ruled out.

The Athletic’s deep dive into injury data shows the narrative is more nuanced, with the transitional period back to club football likely to be more revealing, but you certainly share Klopp’s concerns. More than half (51 per cent) of replies deemed player fatigue as a significant worry, picking numbers 8 to 10 on a scale where 10 was extremely important, and 47 per cent picked those numbers when asked to rate the importance of fixture congestion as an issue.

Amid concerns about the schedule, player availability and conditioning, 68 per cent said they felt the timing of the tournament would impact the integrity of the domestic season. Asked if you thought a winter World Cup enhanced the football season overall, a standout figure of 83 per cent said no.

You were also unequivocal in your assessment of FIFA.

Former FIFA president Sepp Blatter has said the decision to award the 2022 World Cup to Qatar was a “mistake”.

Asked if you had confidence in the governing body’s ability to select World Cup hosts, 83 per cent said no.

Blatter said FIFA had adjusted the criteria used to select host countries in 2012 and a guide in 2017 said a “reformed bidding process” included “sustainable event management and human rights protection”.

FIFA’s new human rights requirements for tournaments were implemented for the first time for a major event during the bidding process for the World Cup in 2026, with hosting countries and cities required to abide by United Nations principles. The governing body said during its 2026 World Cup host cities announcement that it had required candidate host cities “to engage with local stakeholders and develop detailed human rights plans”.

The Qatar World Cup on the pitch…

Our questions about how you expect the tournament to play out on the pitch revealed an overwhelming favourite to triumph on December 18 — and a familiar dose of pessimism elsewhere.

Brazil head to Qatar as the bookmakers’ pick and FIFA’s top-ranked side. The five-time winners last lifted the trophy 20 years ago, but 41 per cent are backing Tite’s side to end their wait for a sixth crown. Argentina commanded 22 per cent of the vote, followed by reigning champions France with 12 per cent. Only five per cent tipped 2018 semi-finalists and Euro 2020 runners-up, England, to go all the way.

With Erling Haaland forced to watch at home, the anticipated battle for the Golden Boot was a more contested affair. Kylian Mbappe, who starred in Russia before an unhappy Euro 2020 — when he missed the decisive penalty in France’s last-16 defeat to Switzerland — was backed by 27 per cent after his 31 league goals for Paris Saint-Germain this calendar year. Karim Benzema (21 per cent), Lionel Messi (15 per cent), Neymar (14 per cent) and Harry Kane (10 per cent) are expected to challenge, but only two per cent voted for Cristiano Ronaldo.

Asked which of the 10 lowest-ranked teams in the tournament you thought would go furthest, 33 per cent backed Canada to spring a surprise under John Herdman, who has lifted them from 94th in the world to 41st in just four years, ahead of South Korea (24 per cent), for whom Son Heung-min has declared himself fit after a recent facial injury.

Belgium’s long-dubbed golden generation were picked to be the biggest disappointment by 11 per cent, with 19 per cent tipping Portugal, but the predicted biggest flop in Qatar? Despite recent tournament successes, 43 per cent are expecting to be most let down by… England.

Our survey gave some final pointers to the sport’s governing bodies regarding format and regulations.

Eighty per cent want to see goalline technology at World Cups, but a lower number of 60 per cent gave their blessing to VAR, and only 40 per cent say they want to see semi-automated offside technology.

Only 18 per cent want to ditch extra time and go straight to penalties, but in a blow to Robbie Williams, who is performing in Qatar, almost three quarters (74 per cent) want FIFA to stick to the football and scrap the opening ceremony.

And despite Arsene Wenger’s proposals for a biennial tournament, 91 per cent are happy to stick with a World Cup every four years.

The Qatar World Cup in your words…

Many respondents left comments, as well as answering our questions. Here are a selection:

“I love the World Cup but will not watch any of the matches given the host nation’s human rights record and will not purchase any products associated with the World Cup. I am already looking forward to 2026.” 

“I feel really conflicted. I love the World Cup, love watching England. I’ve considered boycotting watching due to the human rights issues with Qatar, and I’m more than a bit disgusted with myself really that I know that when it comes down to it, and there’s an England match on, I’ll be watching. I hope that teams protest in their own way. I feel robbed of the usual excitement and build-up, robbed of a normal Premier League season and have to say that I’m not looking forward to the World Cup anywhere near as much as I normally would.”

“Hosting the tournament in Qatar is nothing short of an insult to the integrity of international football. It highlights the extent to which commercial and financial rewards have become the most important factor in decision-making across global football bodies, and overshadows the pride, togetherness and sporting spirit normally associated with a World Cup. It diminishes a lot of the strides made across domestic leagues to promote anti-discrimination and equality campaigns and isolates many football fans. In addition, the infrastructure projects undertaken by the Qatari government to prepare for this World Cup have cost thousands of lives. FIFA should be ashamed.”

“There will be no way for the tournament to not feel tainted. There will just be a high level of discomfort while watching games, and I’m curious to know if people try to watch and then find themselves turning off the TV after a while.”

“The choice of Qatar is a disgrace and the disruption to club football is unacceptable.”

“As a trans woman this is the second World Cup in a row that would be hypocritical to watch. Do queer rights mean nothing to FIFA? Kick out racism? Don’t make me laugh.”

“It makes me reconsider my choice of football to follow — to look for games that don’t directly benefit cynical commercial interests.”

“I desperately wish Wales’s first World Cup for so long was not in Qatar. It’s the mix of cost and human rights issues that are the immediate concerns. This World Cup qualification is special for us but the fan experience will be poor due to cultural differences and climates, as well as the pervading sense that fans are not going to be able to enjoy themselves as they would in other countries. I’m happy for the tournament to go to new counties to grow the game and football is for everyone, but Qatar is not a footballing hotbed and this is a financial decision alone. What should be Wales’ greatest achievement feels tainted and sad, not celebratory. I’m gutted.”

“Giving Qatar the World Cup is a bold gamble, and while I praise the opportunity to grow the game, there are so many issues away from the football. I hope that not only will it help build football, but also shine a light on the issues of equality for all and human rights.”

“While it is an outrage for the tournament to be held in Qatar, I am still extremely excited for the football. I hope there is plenty of coverage of abuses in the country, but also hope ordinary football fans are not frowned upon for enjoying their passion when they had no say over the tournament location.”

“I know that people are upset about this winter World Cup disrupting domestic seasons, but as a fan of MLS, it’s nice to have it in our off-season for once.”

“Frustrating that it’s in Qatar, frustrating that it’s in the winter, but it’s the World Cup, I’m going to watch and I can’t wait.”

“All we can do now is campaign to ensure that every single one of the workers receives a comprehensive compensation package and fight to ensure that the next World Cup after 2026 can grow the game in new regions without endorsing such draconian policies. It’s a long shot but we have to try.”

Find The Athletic’s coverage of Qatar 2022 — on and off the pitch — at our World Cup hub.

(Photo: Getty Images; graphic: Sam Richardson)


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