Opinion: Let’s call out the Qatar World Cup for what it really is

Editor’s note: Roger Bennett Founder of Men In Blazers Media Network and co-author of Gods of Soccer. Tommy Vetter is a former spokesman for President Barack Obama, co-founder of Crooked Media and host of the foreign policy podcast Pod Save the World. Together they collaborated on a podcast series called World Corrupt examining the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. The views expressed in this commentary are their own. Read more comments on CNN.



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This November, billions of people around the world will tune in to the World Cup – one of the greatest sporting spectacles in human history. It has stopped wars, canonized sporting saints and sinners, and is an event that has united the planet to relish every stunning point goal, final tackle and intricately watched celebratory knee slide.

There’s just one problem: this year it’s happening in Qatar.

In Qatar, journalists are jailed for investigating migrant worker conditions. LGBTQ+ people are treated as criminals. In many cases, women must ask men for permission to marry, travel abroad, and study.

Qatari labor practices have been compared to modern day slavery – 6,500 South Asian migrant workers are reported to have died in Qatar since the 2010 World Cup was awarded. Experts say most of these deaths can be related to building construction. Tournament.

6,500 deaths – at least. The total death toll is almost certainly higher as this number does not include many countries that send workers to Qatar, including the Philippines and African countries.

(Qatar argues that the death rate of its migrant worker community is within the expected range for its population size and demographics.)

In recent years, Qatari authorities have introduced “several promising labor reform programs,” according to Human Rights Watch. But “significant gaps remain,” including “widespread wage abuses” and “a failure to investigate the causes of the deaths of thousands of migrant workers,” it said.

Let’s not think the Qataris won their cup bid on merit alone. Indeed, Qatar — a peninsula smaller than Connecticut and so hot during the summer months that playing soccer there is a health risk — is the last place that would make sense to host a giant international sports tournament.

So how was Qatar chosen? Well, as an endless stream of investigative journalism alleges, it is The bid was won through a top-down rigged process. (Qatar vehemently denies the allegations).

For example, shortly after France’s support vote, Qatar Sports Investments bought Paris Saint-Germain football club. At the same time, another Qatari company bought a piece of French energy and waste company Veolia.

Don’t tell: A firm linked to Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund hired the son of former UEFA chief Michael Platini. Nepotism? Zut alors!

But don’t take our word for it. “It’s the most corrupt thing I’ve seen in my career and I’ve spent several years,” Matt Miller, a former Justice Department official who traveled to Zurich to witness the bidding process with former Attorney General Eric Holder, told us. Working in New Jersey politics.

Jokes aside, this all begs the question: Why does Qatar even want to host the World Cup?

Also known as the National Stadium

The answer is that the country is hoping for a Beijing 2008 Olympics — a chance to air its human rights abuses and shine on a global stage. By hosting the World Cup, Qatar wants to project such a global image. that The United Arab Emirates has signaled to its neighbors that it is open for business, welcoming tourists and a player in global politics.

To ensure that image happens, Qatar announced that it would ban international television crews from filming on location without prior approval from Qatari authorities. As James Lynch of FairSquare, a London-based human rights group, told the Guardian, these “extraordinarily wide-ranging restrictions” would make it very difficult for the media to cover any stories not strictly related to sports.

(Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Inheritance and Inheritance said a statement that Twitter’s filming licenses conform to global practices).

When you think of Qatar, its leaders don’t want you to picture migrant workers dying in the sweltering heat or dismiss Doha as less important compared to neighboring Dubai. They want you to remember the sheer thrill of Lionel Messi running onto a goal, or the epic thrill of Brazilian goalkeeper Alisson Becker’s physics-defying fingertip save.

That’s what Qatar will get after this World Cup – unless we all work to tell a different story that will draw the world’s attention to Qatar’s atrocities and act as a warning to other authoritarian regimes watching. We need to send a clear signal that dictators cannot amass soft power through the refracted glow of sporting immortality.

That means making sure that by the end of the tournament, every single person expected to tune in — all 5 billion. Of them – know what is happening off-screen in Qatar.

Already, there are some positive steps in this direction. Denmark’s monochrome “protest jersey” is a powerful statement – and one The Qatari government has been provoked. Germany and Norway wore shirts displaying the message “Human Rights” in the opening round of World Cup qualifiers.

Meanwhile, Netherlands’ ever-belligerent coach Louis van Gaal called FIFA’s rationale for hosting the tournament in Qatar “bullshit”. Legend.

These steps should only be a starting point.

National groups – and, critically, their governments – can push Qatar to account. The most critical step is getting behind Human Rights Watch’s no-nonsense #PayUpFIFA campaign. It is an attempt to demand that Qatar and FIFA pay at least $440 million – the same amount as the prize money offered at the World Cup – to the families of migrant workers injured or killed in preparation for the tournament. Every society with a conscience must support it forcefully.

Up to this point, US Soccer has quietly signed on to the #PayUpFIFA campaign but has not publicly commented on the issue. As the world’s richest country, with a major military base in Qatar, America has a special mandate to champion these values ​​— especially with the current administration’s stated commitment to holding Gulf dictators accountable.

The FA has also been weak in its response. After European football confederations promised to call Qatar more than “wearing a T-shirt”, they decided to wear rainbow armbands, which are, literally, less than a T-shirt.

All national teams must move forward – and players also have a crucial role to play in this endeavour. We can only imagine the level of pressure these athletes are already under to perform. They may have dreamed of this moment since childhood – and have fought hard, bloody battles and given up a lot to make it a reality.

They didn’t start kicking a football thinking they would have to talk about human rights. But there is also a long tradition of child hunger in the UK, from Tommy Smith and John Carlos raising their hands in Mexico City to Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford.

This does not mean that every player must speak. But support should be given to those who do – like Australia’s national football team, the Socceroos requested Redress for injured workers and decriminalization of all same-sex relationships in Qatar.

Anyway, this is more than the World Cup. It’s about whether people who believe in democracy and human rights are letting totalitarian regimes get away with hijacking the sport we love.

Saudi Arabia is already trying to play up its image through LIV Golf and WWE. Russia and Bahrain have tried to do that through Formula One. But if we take a stand against Qatar on the world stage, perhaps we can make the next generation of dictators worry about a Qatar 2022-style humiliation, rather than the thirst of a Beijing 2008 moment.

Fans can help by using their social media platforms to draw attention to human rights abuses in Qatar and lobby football associations to publicly support the #PayUpFIFA campaign.

Our activism could change the calculus for FIFA – countries like Qatar might be less inclined to award the World Cup if they knew that doing so would lead to years of boycotts, protests and damaging press.

This is important. Because as every soccer fan knows, the World Cup is more than a tournament. It has been likened to a month-long global solar eclipse.

It is a unique arena where nations can compete fiercely and then shake hands. It should represent the best of us – our incredible diversity and our common humanity.

No wonder the autocratic powers want to take over these events. And that’s why we can’t let them go.



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