The World Cup. This tournament is notoriously a chance for football fans to relish in the sport that is football and subsequently is patriotism on mass scale in England. From addicts to amateurs, anyone can take pleasure (score depending!) on the 90+ minutes of entertainment. However, this year the world cup is heavily tinged with an air of controversy which has drawn the spotlight away from the game and has raised bigger questions. Should Qatar have hosted the World Cup? Is football getting too involved in political events?
So why is there a large presence of controversy surrounding this year’s games? Qatar is a country in the Middle East and their laws are overwhelmingly restrictive for example women are heavily restricted in what they can do, and it is illegal to be a member of the LGBTQ+ community- the consequences for going against this law could be fines, prison sentence or even a death sentence. Adding to this, migrant workers, 30,000 of them, have built 7 stadiums from scratch and have built hotels. There have been many accusations surrounding the treatment of these workers and according to the economic times 6,500 workers have died in the making of these stadiums. Qatar claims that there have only been 3 “work related” deaths but sources predict that Qatari government have overwhelmingly miscommunicated their failings and have blamed workers deaths on “natural causes”.
Qatar won their bid 12 years ago to host the World Cup and promised that they would amend their laws – no action has been taken. The concern is that by FIFA giving the stage to Qatar they are presenting themselves to be in support of the government and legislation of Qatar. Its right that not only wealthy countries should have a chance at the hosting the World Cup, but the concern is also that FIFA are giving light to a country with a mass number of failings in the way that the country is run.
Rightly, there has been protest about this year’s games, including the teams competing finding their own ways of making their voices heard. The European football teams in the World Cup were planning to stand together and wear the “one love” armband, a way to campaign against the same-sex laws in Qatar. Yet, that decision was never seen on the pitch. FIFA was adamant that sporting sanctions would be seen if the teams were seen to be wearing the armbands, with Infantino (chairman of FIFA) saying that the teams should “focus on football”. I believe that wearing an armband does not encourage an unjust game of football instead it allows the viewers to understand that the players do not encourage the laws of Qatar and they can encourage support for the LGBTQ+ community. Germany had the most striking response to the statement. Prior to their game against Japan the team stood and put their hands over their mouths, this was to emulate how the team felt that they had been “gagged” by FIFA. Their silent protest sent powerful ripples around the world.