Thursday, 13 June 2024
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Sport and politics have hit head on in the desert of Qatar

Written by  Dec 04, 2022

Money talks. Always has and probably always will. And money is undoubtedly the only, I repeat only, reason why we are all glued to our TV screens watching football from the middle of the desert.

In terms of population it would be like Croatia, without Zagreb, hosting the biggest sporting tournament in the world. Although Croatia is over five times the size of Qatar. Imagine that. If only we had 15 percent of the world’s gas and endless oil fields. It might be the 158th biggest country in the world, only just bigger than Kosovo, but it has the third largest gas reserves in the world. None of its 2 million residents live below the poverty line and less than 1 percent are unemployed.

Sport and politics have hit head on.

And whilst the two should be kept a long way from each other we are reading more about the controversies than the action on the pitch. I can’t help thinking that these protests are a little too late. Surely we all knew the situation before the teams got on the planes to Doha.

Whilst I may not agree with the Qataris policies they were all well known. And now it strikes of preaching rather than constructive arguments. If you don’t agree with their politics, then don’t go to the World Cup. Stand by your opinion. All it took was the threat of a yellow card and the whole of the Western protests collapsed.

We also have to be careful of double standards. If you live in a greenhouse don’t throw stones, is a saying that springs to mind.

FIFA was brought to its knees by the whole Qatar (and Russian) World Cups. And in spite of the obvious mass corruption surrounding the voting and selection of these two host countries the rest of the footballing world follows what FIFA orders. On the other hand, a tiny country demands that beer isn’t sold at venues a few days before the tournament kicks off and FIFA accepts without so much as a protest. And as one of FIFA’s main sponsors is Budweiser, but even the reported $75 million the beer company paid to be part of Qatar isn’t even close to what the Qataris offered.

And when you look at the finances it isn’t surprising. South Africa spent around $3.6 billion, Brazil $15 billion and Russia $12 billion. Huge numbers. But the 2022 World Cup in the desert of Qatar is estimated to be (at least) $220 billion. Much too much for FIFA to ignore. There were little sporting conditions taken into account.

More cash has been spent on one competition than all of the 21 tournaments that have come before. Money really does talk.

The last time the World Cup was held in the USA in 1994 they spent only $0.5 billion.

There is global politics and economic games going on, one could argue that the real games are off the pitch. It is “sportwashing” on a grand scale. And that according to the Oxford Dictionary is “a term used to describe the practice of individuals, groups, corporations, or governments using sports to improve reputations tarnished by wrongdoing.” The last two World Cups seem to fit into that model.

But the 99 percent has now forgotten the scandals, as soon as the first whistle was blown our minds were caught by the action. As it should be. The vast majority are here to watch football.

Sports commentators should leave the politics to other, more informed, journalists. Would you expect a political reporter to commentate on a football match?

In four years, when the World Cup circus moves to the USA, Canada and Mexico will we be wearing black lives matter T-Shirts? Will we be talking about people smuggling over the US/Mexico border? Or drug cartels?

I for one want to get back to the sport, to the love and passion of the game. But it seems that the intertwining of sport and politics is like a cobweb now. Our beautiful game, a game that at its essence is simple and can be played almost anywhere, is nothing without the fans. Just look back at the pandemic. The empty stadiums made the whole spectacle less attractive. And yet the fans are always the last of the list of considerations, as opposed to being the first. None of the multi-million sponsors would be interested in the game didn’t have a worldwide audience of billions. And Qatar certainly wouldn’t have spent a bucket load of gas cash.

And it is fans and fans alone that have the power to change the course of football. Whether they know their strength is debateable. Often they are treated as sheep. Unity is strength. Football has the power to unite nations, and if it were used as a force for good the sky is the limit. Now, I am going back to watch the games. Enjoy! 

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