What's happening in Qatar is sickening: Some of the most beautiful soccer stadiums the world has ever seen are being built by migrant workers who have come to Qatar seeking work.
What they find, instead, is a form of slavery. Those workers often have to pay outrageous recruitment fees to find work in the first place. When they are hired, their employers often take their passports.
In fact, employers assume a sort of pseudo-ownership over migrant workers in which their legal residence is their employer's location. Although laws are in place to regulate timely wage payments, health insurance, annual leave and safety regulations, they are frequently ignored.
"Adding to their vulnerability, they must obtain an exit visa from their sponsor in order to leave Qatar," reports Human Rights Watch. "Migrant workers are prohibited from unionizing or engaging in strikes, although they make up 99 percent of the private sector workforce."
In Qatar, thousands of migrant workers die every year from being overworked: Suffering heart attacks, dying from exhaustion and other work-related afflictions. The stadiums that will host the 2022 FIFA World Cup are not exempt from this mass murder.
Hundreds have already died, according to human rights activists. In fact, by the time the stadiums are fully constructed, an estimated 4,000 migrant workers will be killed by these work sites. That's an average of about one death per day.
When they aren't risking their lives building stadiums for the country's ultra-wealthy, migrant workers in Qatar have the privilege of serving as fake sports fans for one dollar per hour. As reported by the Associated Press, Qatar's ruling emir is obsessed with attracting major sporting events, but filling the stadium with excited fans -- the organic kind -- is quite a challenge. So migrant workers get to file into the stands they built and pretend that they're having fun, so long as they didn't die during the long workday beforehand.
What's happening in Qatar is so grossly inhumane that a Paris architecture firm has released designs for a memorial to the killed migrant workers. The Jenga-like tower would feature one horizontal column for each worker killed during the soccer stadium construction process. The brilliant and practical feature is that the tower could be built infinitely to accommodate as many dead as Qatar can produce.
The injustices faced by migrant workers are a national problem in Qatar outside of the World Cup. But FIFA's decision to award Qatar the 2022 tournament implicitly endorses the labor that would be used to construct those stadiums. It sends a message to Qatar that it can ascend to the globe's most visible platforms by climbing up the backs of people owned by their employers like property.
And it's only the most inhumane example of FIFA's blatant dismissal of ethics or morals as it boldly goes on doing whatever it damn well pleases. At this point, it's clear FIFA won't reform itself unless serious action is taken by its member organizations.
What's unclear is what it will take for those countries and associations to take a stand.
Every week, it seems, there's a new storyline concerning scandal within FIFA. Throughout the fall and into winter, though, those stories have concerned an increasingly daring and combative FIFA.
In some ways, that corruption is a part of FIFA's DNA, going back decades to the early years of organizing soccer into an international sport. The more pertinent issues concerning it today stem from a 430-page report ordered by FIFA to investigate accusations of bribery and other corruption regarding the World Cup bidding processes that placed the 2018 and 2022 World Cups in the hands of Russia and Qatar, respectively.
FIFA assigned the report's creation to Michael J. Garcia, a former U.S. Attorney and a member of the FIFA ethics committee. Eighteen months later, Garcia produces a 430-page report that offered as in-depth of a conclusion as he could offer, given that Russia refused to cooperate with the investigation while inquiries regarding Qatar simply weren't able to be answered in full.
It was expected that the report would be made available to the public. But after FIFA's executive committee read through it, they shut the door on its full publication. Instead, a 42-page summary of that report was drafted by Hans-Joachim Eckert, another member of the ethics committee, and only the summary was released.
Garcia appealed, contending that the summary did not accurately represent the findings detailed in the report. Of course, FIFA rejected that appeal.
Left with no other option, Garcia resigned from the FIFA ethics committee Wednesday.
"(My) report identified serious and wide-ranging issues with the bidding and (World Cup host) selection process," Garcia said in a statement Wednesday, according to the Associated Press. Garcia also said that Eckert's decision to publish an inaccurate summary "made me lose confidence in the independence of the Adjudicatory Chamber, (but) it is the lack of leadership on these issues within FIFA that leads me to conclude that my role in this process is at an end."
Garcia also challenged FIFA and its ability to correct itself internally after years of rampant corruption.
"No independent governance committee, investigator, or arbitration panel can change the culture of an organization," Garcia said.
FIFA's president made only a limited acknowledgement of Garcia's resignation.
"I'm just surprised," Blatter said. "It's all what I can say. Just that."
There are parties within soccer's organized hierarchy that see Garcia's resignation for what it is: Another black eye on FIFA's integrity. FIFA vice president Michel Platini was disappointed to see Garcia go, and he's been an outspoken critic of FIFA under Blatter's leadership. Platini, who is also the UEFA president, has refused to support Blatter as president of FIFA. But Platini has also declined to put himself up for election to FIFA's top position.
He called Garcia's resignation "a new failure for FIFA."
"FIFA's ethics committee was created to increase transparency at the organization, that's what we wanted, but in the end it has just caused more confusion," Platini said.
Platini may not want to pursue the presidential seat within FIFA, but his voice will be an important one in righting a ship that has sailed so far in the wrong direction. The circumstances surrounding Garcia's report, and the way his findings were obscured in the infamous "Eckert Decision," snuff out what was more or less the only realistic hope FIFA had of driving reform from within.
By refusing to hold itself accountable, FIFA has demonstrated that only force will prompt it into action. Platini himself may not be entirely clear of corruption -- he was reportedly offered a Picasso painting as a kickback from Russian president Vladimir Putin -- but as a legendary soccer player for France and an executive in both FIFA and UEFA, Platini has the power to incite more palpable demands for change.
Rhetoric alone won't do it, though. To inspire any progress, FIFA needs to face imminent financial threats. Europe's football association is the organization best-positioned to force such an ultimatum. By coming together and taking a stance -- a protest involving even a handful of countries -- major soccer nations like England and Germany could threaten to boycott the upcoming World Cups unless serious reforms are made by FIFA.
Financial consequences are the only thing FIFA is sure to respond to, which means a revolution has to come from major soccer powers.
A boycott of the World Cup sounds extreme, but there were already rumblings last month that UEFA members would discuss the possibility of a boycott. FIFA's decision to withhold its own ethics report will surely stoke that fire.
The risks those countries face are not small: Millions of dollars lost, an absence from soccer's most celebrated stage, and all without the assurances that FIFA will enact any credible change.
The alternatives, though, are even worse: FIFA continuing to operate unchecked, dismissing ethical charges and continuing to taint international soccer by allowing bribes and corruption to dictate the organization's actions.
Meanwhile, FIFA is content to incentivize the systemic human rights violations ongoing in Qatar at this very minute, and for years ahead.
Time is running short to pull the plug on Qatar's World Cup bid. It may come to pass that in the year 2022, the world's most popular sport will be played on a cutting-edge stage built by slave labor.
There's no place for that kind of dichotomy in an event designed to celebrate humanity and cultural diversity through soccer. But then, that narrative only matters to fans and the participants. And FIFA must be grateful for the distraction.