ENGLAND and assorted others have now qualified for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. No matter how big the PR budgets are, nobody is ever going to be over-convinced about the suitability of Qatar as a host. Two years on from the 2019 film made by Gary Neville, it’s still hard to be assured that “this could be a great World Cup”.
England players take the knee before every game these days and they want to make a point, be it political or social. How, then, can they seriously travel to the Middle East to take part in a World Cup staged in a state that has a notorious human rights record? It is all very well issuing statements that the squad will review their position on Qatar before they go to the World Cup, but these are hollow gestures. If footballers want to be taken seriously, they have to show their displeasure at FIFA awarding Qatar the competition.
If any of the major countries withdrew, it could trigger a mass exodus. Let’s be frank, if one nation does it, the others will feel they have to follow otherwise they risk being seen as a supporter. That might not be the case, but the modern way, be it socially, politically, emotionally or financially, is “you’re either with us or against us”. They should all ask themselves, “would I visit Qatar on my own free will?” and the answer would probably be “I doubt it”.
There’s no question that Qatar will include some spectacular stadiums, state-of-the-art facilities, high technology and anything a fan would need, apart from freely-available alcohol. The fan parks will fill that need to some extent, but it does seem as though a couple of weeks in Qatar will come with lots of caveats.
The employment reforms promised in Qatar have, apparently stalled according to a report from Amnesty International, with thousands of migrant workers still victims of exploitation. The notorious Kafala system, which binds workers to their employer, continues to hold a huge influence. Workers have also had problems getting paid and have suffered from employers cancelling their residency permits.
Mark Dummett of Amnesty said: “Qatar is one of the richest countries in the world, but its economy depends on the two million migrant workwers who live there…. By sending a clear signal that labour abuses will not be tolerated, penalising employers who break laws and protecting workers’ rights, Qatar could stage a tournament that we can all celebrate, but this has yet to be achieved.”
Amnesty is calling on Qatar to push through the full range of reforms it committed to implement and hold the perpetrators of worker abuse to account. As for FIFA, the governing body should conduct appropriate due diligence on human rights.
Interestingly, FIFA and the World Cup has its usual palette of high profile partners: Adidas, Coca-Coila, VISA, Hyundai and Macdonalds to name but a few. How do they feel about being associated with a competition that has been tainted since day one?
With this grubby backdrop, how can players who have [rightly] shown their intolerance of racism go to Qatar and help such a regime make World Cup 2022 a success? Moreover, how can they support FIFA for its somewhat dubious process of awarding the competition to them in the first place? The hypocrisy is really quite appalling and shows that football will easily elbow morality in the face if it is convenient.
Can an eleventh hour solution of some sort be found? If Qatar, for example, renounced its approach and proclaimed the World Cup as the start of something new, a sea change in the country’s social and political structure, that might help. But those that intend to go to the World Cup should ask themselves, do you care what happens in Qatar when the bunting comes down and the propaganda stops? In 1936, not everyone knew what was happening in Hitler’s Germany when the Olympics were held in Berlin, but in our time, we are aware of almost everything and therefore, to ignore is merely adopting the ostrich mentality.