Certainly controversial, allegedly corrupt, and seemingly amoral. The Qatar World Cup has highlighted the utterly broken state of football, the hypocrisy of the West, and the susceptibility of previously respected figures to shameless promotions. Daniel Evans shares his opinion of the horrors of Qatar’s World Cup, the dangerous stereotyping of Qatari culture, and whether you should watch the tournament or not.
FIFA, the body which awards the World Cup, has been dogged by accusations of corruption. The former FBI director James Comey stated in 2015 that ‘undisclosed and illegal payments, kickbacks and bribes became a way of doing business at FIFA’ and BBC Sport editor Dan Roan called FIFA (4:15) ‘an organisation that became defined by corruption’ during Sepp Blatter’s time as President. Those accused continue to deny any allegations, but it is certainly strange that a country that had never previously qualified for a World Cup and had to build its entire footballing infrastructure from scratch was able to succeed in their host application ahead of all other bidders.
Many have highlighted the human rights abuses perpetrated by Qatar; uninvestigated deaths where workers have been subject to ‘scorching temperatures and a lack of labour protections’, the alleged confiscating of passports of low-income workers, and wide-ranging anti-LGBTQ sentiment.
Sadly, although entirely predictably, there has been little to no effective opposition
It was perfectly within the power of world football to object to this tournament the moment it happened. It was perfectly within the power of world football to object to this tournament when the first stories of alleged corruption and workers’ deaths broke, and it was perfectly within the power of world football to stop this tournament all the way up until the first kick-off. Sadly, although entirely predictably, there has been little to no effective opposition.
On the contrary, a list of people I see as hypocrites has only grown in recent years with David Beckham and Gary Neville as the two most well-known persons involved in the tournament. The former a supposed ‘champion’ of the LGBTQ+ community, and the latter a man who has rallied against mismanagement within the game. It is the view of this writer that both Beckham and Neville have become little more than tools for a giant sports-washing enterprise and deserve to be ridiculed for it.
I believe that it would be an understatement to call their excuses pathetic. Neville was recently humiliated by Ian Hislop on Have I Got News for You, squirming as he faced real scrutiny for the first time. Both men appear to be under the impression that their acceptance to take part in the tournament will somehow help reform within Qatar. They have excused their actions by claiming that exposure to the world will inexplicably lead to progress, with Neville advocating to collaborate and ‘try and impact change through football’.
Putin’s Russia was opened to the world in 2018; have Ukrainians seen the benefits of this in the years since? Giving autocratic regimes tournaments benefits no one but them and it is high time we all abandoned the notion that any progress can be achieved by giving these governments exactly what they want.
There is no reason that Arab culture should not be seen and appreciated by the whole world
It is also important to address another of the excuses made for ignoring potential Qatari human rights abuses. That being the profoundly insulting notion that it is somehow Qatari culture to perpetrate horrific human rights abuses. It is ridiculous to argue that it is within a national culture to have an autocratic government in which its people have absolutely no say. There is no reason that Arab culture should not be seen and appreciated by the whole world. We should of course be brought together and find the common ground that unites us all. We are all human after all.
However, was the goal of this tournament ever to unite us? Or rather is it intended to clean up the image of a state with no care for its own people or any other?
So, should you watch the Qatar World Cup? It is my argument that it is entirely up to you. If you were to take a solely moralistic stance, then it would simply be impossible. On the other hand, if you were to use that logic for all things it would be almost impossible to live in modern society. If you drive a car, ride on a bus, train, or plane – or even pay tax – you are supporting a UK government who have licensed nearly £17bn worth of arms to rights abusers. Where does our oil come from? Where do the materials used to make our electronics come from? Why does the UK even have its position in the world? The answers to these questions are anything but clean.
Should you have to deny yourself the joy of watching your national team?
The World Cup is the great event in football. It is watched by billions and creates memories that last a lifetime. Should you have to deny yourself the joy of watching your national team, your favourite players, or one of the iconic moments in footballing history? Will it achieve anything at all if you abstain? The answer to these questions is no. You were not responsible for this mess; you did not take money to promote it and you do not have to justify this tournament’s existence.
Football fans are routinely punished for their loyalty and shown no regard by those in charge of the sport – why should they punish themselves for yet more corruption? If you abstain from watching this tournament then you have my utmost respect, but this does not mean I judge any fans who have decided that they cannot miss it. This tournament will go ahead and there is nothing that will stop it now.
You have every right to watch and enjoy this tournament if you love football. There has been lots of criticism from fans ahead of the tournament – just do not forget to maintain this commentary throughout the competition and highlight the potential corruption and abuses.
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