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FIFA executive shrugs at Qatar labor issues, claims ‘duty’ to not do anything

Brooks Peck
Dirty Tackle

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Theo Zwanzinger in Jerusalem, 2009. (Getty)

FIFA's German executive committee member Theo Zwanzinger has reiterated the governing body's strict commitment to never accepting the consequences of their decisions, only the profits. On the subject of ongoing concerns over mistreatment of migrant workers by 2022 World Cup host Qatar, Zwanzinger promises FIFA will monitor the situation. This amounts to nothing more than an empty gesture though, since he says FIFA is just a helpless little football organization that couldn't possibly do anything to influence Qatar.

From the Guardian:

Theo Zwanzinger, Germany's member of the Fifa executive, admitted conditions for migrant workers in Qatar were "absolutely unacceptable", agreed that human rights considerations should play a bigger role in the decisions of world and European football authorities, and added that Fifa would be carrying out detailed and independent monitoring of the working conditions surrounding the World Cup building boom. But there could be no going back on decisions already taken.

"This feudal system existed [in Qatar] before the World Cup," he said. "What do you expect of a football organisation? Fifa is not the lawmaker in Qatar."

No, but the lawmakers in Qatar certainly care a lot about FIFA. They invested a lot of time, energy and money into becoming the unlikely host of the 2022 World Cup. They're building stadiums and even entire cities from scratch to put on this event, which they hope will bring them prestige and prominence in the eyes of the world.

For every World Cup, FIFA makes all kinds of far-reaching demands of the host nation — from infrastructure and "comprehensive tax exemption" to harsh restrictions on local businesses in order to protect the interests of their own corporate sponsors. Yet when it comes to using its power and influence on something that isn't self-serving, suddenly FIFA is just a football organization that can be shoved in a locker by those lawmaking toughies.

And what if FIFA actually tried to force Qatar to make meaningful changes on this matter? Zwanzinger again asserts FIFA's "duty" to do nothing.

"That would be absolutely counter-productive," he said. "Pressure and threats won't achieve much … We have a duty. The decision has been taken to grant the World Cup to Qatar, whether I like it or not."

It seems Zwanzinger really doesn't like it, either. When he was president of the German football federation back in 2011, he called for an inquiry into Qatar's successful World Cup bid, citing a "considerable degree of suspicion that one cannot sweep aside." At the time, he was running for a place on FIFA's executive committee. Now that he has it, there's nothing that can be done.

Of course, this falls right in line with FIFA president Sepp Blatter's mantra that "FIFA cannot be held responsible." That's what he said when asked whether FIFA was learning lessons from the widespread protests against government corruption and spending on the World Cup and Olympics in Brazil. He even went so far as to say that it was the protests themselves and not the wrongdoing they were upset about that would make FIFA question a host nation.

In short, if you somehow thought FIFA executives might care about anyone who isn't a FIFA executive (let alone a migrant worker in Qatar), you're very, very wrong.

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Brooks Peck is the editor of Dirty Tackle on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him or follow on Twitter!

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