- The closer the World Cup in Qatar gets, the more we hear voices of protest from public figures, politicians, supporters, simple football fans…
- The reasons for these calls for boycott are: suspicions of corruption, human rights abuses, thousands of deaths on the construction sites, ecological aberration
- But there is too much noise for too little response: no qualified nation or player has ever announced his boycott
Before it even gets started, many who follow football and world geopolitics closely are calling it the “World Cup of Shame“. For them, this World Cup is a symbol of the drift of modern football.
The usual excitement has been replaced by global outrage. Boycott is the word on everyone’s lips. Boycott is seen as a political weapon to compensate for the weaknesses of collective diplomacy in the face of the award of the World Cup to Qatar twelve years later.
Here’s a view of basic issues at stake in this World Cup :
According to an investigation by The Guardian in February 2021, 6,500 workers died on the World Cup construction sites in ten years, among five nationalities of immigrant workers (Sri Lanka, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal). Victims of accidents, falls, heart attacks, exhaustion and heat stress in the stifling heat of this desert country.
The consequence of a titanic construction programme, disproportionate for a country the size of Ile-de-France (2.8 million inhabitants, 90% of whom are immigrant workers), with eight stadiums, hotels, airports, motorways and even an entire city: Lusail, which will host the opening ceremony and the final.
- Suspicions of corruption
At the heart of the suspicions is a lunch organised at the Élysée Palace on 23 November 2010 between President Nicolas Sarkozy, Michel Platini, then President of UEFA, the Crown Prince of Qatar Tamim ben Hamad Al Thani, who has since become Emir, and Hamad ben Jassem Al Thani, then Prime Minister of Qatar. The courts are considering whether there is a link between this meeting and Michel Platini’s vote in favour of Qatar. The dinner was the basis of the trial that led to the dismissal of Michel Platini as UEFA President and of the Swiss giant Sepp Blater, then FIFA President. The two have recently been relieved of all charges.
- Environmental impact
Behind these massive constructions, an ecological scandal is also emerging. With unbearable weather conditions in the summer (around 45 degrees), Qatar and Fifa have not hesitated to move the traditional summer event to the autumn.
It will still be hot, between 25 and 30 degrees, and Qatar has built air-conditioning in seven of the eight open-air stadiums, if necessary, with a definite environmental impact.
- A soft power committed to washing away the excesses of autocratic power
The existence of a Qatari media empire, based on the broadcasting of major sporting events (notably via the BeIN Sports media), is criticised by organisations working in the fight for human rights such as Amnesty International. This indignation also concerns the sponsorship of sports events, notably by using naming mechanisms that give visibility to the “Qatar” brand, as with sports clubs, for example via Qatar Airways (whose parent company is the government of Qatar), the sponsor that appears on the official shirt of the Paris-Saint-Germain football club in 2022. Qatari soft power can also be seen in the takeover of high-level sports clubs such as Paris-Saint-Germain Football Club in 2011 through the purchase by the Qatari sovereign investment fund Qatar Investment Authority.
To positively reinforce its image with the general public, Qatar also buys the help of world-famous ambassadors who lend their image to that of Qatar, and contribute to occupying a non-polemical media space, while relaying a positive Qatari narrative, for example, star footballers Lionel Messi, or Neymar.
With all its humanitarian, ecological and political antics, Qatar, which has prospered from its oil wealth and would like to change its narrative, is in the process of succeeding in a “ tour de force ” that can be summed up in one sentence: money is power.
Let’s remember that Qatar will not allow sexual relations between unmarried and gay people during the 2022 World Cup, be it players or fans. Penalties of up to seven years in prison may be incurred.
At a time when many are considering turning off the TV during the World Cup, and hoping to take a bite out of the ratings of the broadcasters who fatten FIFA. I, footballer and coward (judge me as you see fit) will watch it. Otherwise, how can we ask a simple viewer to take on the burden of a world heresy?