The 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar will live long in the memory of fans of the beautiful game, culminating with arguably the greatest final in the history of the sport. Close to 1.5 billion people witnessed Argentina, led by Lionel Messi, defeat the valiant French national team led by the heir apparent to the footballing throne, Kylian Mbappe. It’s moments like these that keep us coming back to a sport that can be so hard to defend.

In 2026, it’ll be Canada’s turn to host along with the US and Mexico, but just how far are we willing to go to become FIFA’s dance partners?

Lionel Messi and Team Argentina celebrate their 2022 World Cup Final victory.

The 2022 FIFA World Cup was a means of showcasing Qatar as an attractive tourist destination and creating political and economic alliances for the Persian Gulf nation. But at what cost? The 2022 edition was by far the most expensive ever. Qatar invested a reported $300 billion since 2010 – 15x what Russia invested for the 2018 edition – but most importantly, anywhere between hundreds and thousands of migrants died while working on the preparations. Qatar officials have claimed between 400-500 workers have died but members of the international press have claimed the number is closer to 6,500. Either way, lives were lost in the name of sporting spectacle.

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Soon it’ll be our turn to host with both Vancouver and Toronto being selected to host games. Montreal, however, bowed out when the Quebec provincial government refused to help fund its bid, and Edmonton was sidelined when they requested certain guarantees in order to make the hefty investments. FIFA doesn’t take kindly to such demands but has been known to force host nations to make concessions. For the 2014 edition, Brazil changed local legislation to allow the sale of alcohol in stadiums; there was a ban put in place due to multiple alcohol-related incidents and deaths in the past, but Budweiser was one of FIFA’s main sponsors.

The 1930 Italian National Soccer Team poses under Benito Mussolini's leadership.

If we look further back, FIFA allowed Mussolini’s fascist Italy to host in 1930, and Argentina in 1978 while in the midst of a violent military regime. It seems moral compromises are something of a foundational pillar of international sporting events; in 1936, Nazi Germany hosted the Olympic Games, and today, there’s growing concern for undocumented migrant workers preparing the 2024 Paris Olympic Games, where Russian athletes will be allowed to compete despite the Russian federation’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine.

On the pitch, soccer creates moments of transcendence where for a fleeting instant you become part of one big, living, breathing entity with the rest of the world. The game can offer spectacle like nothing else. On the pitch, the sport can transcend the world but behind the scenes, it is merely a reflection of it. For too long the beautiful game has been a place for the world to rear its ugly head. As future co-hosts of the biggest sporting spectacle in the world, once again, just how far are we as Canadians willing to go to be FIFA’s dance partners in 2026?

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