The World Cup is almost upon us, and the wall of negative noise surrounding this year’s tournament is becoming increasingly deafening.
Many are horrified that it is being held in Qatar at all given the alleged corruption believed to have given them the rights to host international sport’s richest and most prestigious event, and the country’s mistreatment of migrant workers and non-existent LGBT rights.
Last week Australia’s Socceroos team released a serious video expressing concern over the “suffering” of migrant workers and the inability of gay people in Qatar “to love the person of their choice”.
Separately, England captain Harry Kane declared that he will wear a OneLove anti-discrimination bracelet during the Games to register his own protest.
And now Ukraine’s football federation has called for Iran to be banned because of its reported kamikaze drone support for Vladimir Putin in his illegal war against their people, also citing Iran’s “systematic human rights abuses” including a brutal crackdown on domestic protests.
So there is a lot of moral outrage flying around, and there will be plenty of halos on the pitch glistening in the ferocious Qatar heat on November 20 when the World Cup begins.
But I can’t be the only one who wishes we could just keep all the politics and virtue signaling out of it so we can just enjoy the football?
Surely the time for a proper serious debate about Qatar’s suitability to host the tournament was during the bidding process twelve years ago, not three weeks before it starts?
And if the argument against them standing is that they have a poor human rights record, which is an indisputable fact, then what about the other 31 countries participating?
Specifically, if persecution of gay people is considered a disqualifying bar to participating in the World Cup, shouldn’t we be equally outraged by the participation of Senegal, Morocco and Tunisia where it is also illegal to be gay?
Or of Ghana, whose parliament is pushing through a new bill calling for prison terms for anyone who even expresses support or “sympathy” for homosexuals?
Or of Cameroon which, according to a recent report, “currently prosecutes same-sex behavior more aggressively than almost any country in the world”?
And don’t get me started on Saudi Arabia, where if you get caught in a homosexual act, you can be chemically castrated, imprisoned for life, or even executed.
A closer look at other World Cup nations reveals further distinctly “problematic” human rights issues.
Costa Rica has serious human trafficking problems, Brazil has shocking levels of illegal police killings and torture, Argentina is marred by government and judicial corruption, and Serbia continues to oppress Romani Gypsies.
Many of the countries already mentioned wage ongoing wars on free speech, imprison dissident citizens and journalists who criticize the government—or, in the case of Saudi Arabia, chop them up with bone saws—and also have horrific records of abusing migrant workers.
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And if modern moral failings really are our new World Cup qualifying language, then why should either England or America be allowed to play given our invasion of Iraq in 2003 and all the subsequent global terrorism hell that illegal war unleashed on the world?
You get my point…
Once you play the morality card in sports, I’m not sure where you can ever play it without seeming to support human rights violations.
To single out Qatar for such exaggerated horror when so many other competing countries are just as morally bad, if not much worse, is hypocritical.
We’ve seen similar double standards in golf where PGA Tour leaders have vilified the new Saudi-backed breakaway LIV Tour for putting money before morals – even though they themselves host events in places like China that have a terrible record for Human Rights.
And frankly, as a sports fan, I’m tired of all the disingenuousness.
“Meaningless Virtue Signaling”
If footballers are really that offended by Qatar’s human rights abuses, then they shouldn’t go and play in the World Cup.
It’s fine to wear wristbands or post critical videos, but if you’re still going, you’re just engaging in pointless virtue signaling that won’t have any impact on bringing about any change.
I feel the same way about all the sports journalists who suddenly jump on the anti-Qatar bandwagon and say it shouldn’t happen.
You can bet your life most of them will hold their indignant noses long enough to get on a plane to Doha for six weeks as they cover the event they pretend to want cancelled.
I will also be there for part of it, as a pundit for Fox in America during the group stage which has pitted England against the USA.
And I feel no moral dilemma about going because I understand that many of the countries playing in this World Cup make Qatar look almost benign when it comes to human rights.
That doesn’t excuse Qatar’s problems, but it does put them into perspective.
I also think it’s crazy that this is the first time the World Cup has ever been held in the Middle East given the huge popularity of football in the region, and we should celebrate that fact, not spoil the party with a very selective judgement.
So, my message to the moral moaners is this: put away your cracked halos and just let me watch the bloody World Cup without trying to make me feel ashamed or guilty about it.
Oh, and come on England!
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