Sport

I’m not excited about the World Cup.

Well, the England squad for the World Cup has been announced. I’m not surprised by Gareth Southgate’s selections. I’m also really not bothered. I’m just not excited for this World Cup at all. Ever since Qatar was announced as hosting the 2022 World Cup, I knew this was one edition of the World Cup that I could not support. The last two host nations have been very hard to get behind, even if the actual football played in Russia was quite good to watch. But socio-political factors just make me very uneasy about a country like Qatar being given the opportunity to host a major sporting tournament. Not only is there historic, current and institutionalized discrimination against the LGBT community, but the human rights violations, the abuse of migrant workers in the constructions of the new stadiums. So much leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

In response, Qatari officials have insisted that LGBT people will be perfectly safe and welcomed into the country for the tournament, but as part of their guide to respectful behaviour in Qatar, they had a portion on not demonstrating homosexual behaviour. That is not welcoming someone into your country. It feels more like an extension of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Their argument would be that their religion teaches homosexuality is a sin, an affront to their God. And I can’t accept that. The idea that you would put the word of ‘prophets’ and holy books ahead of treating your fellow man with respect, and simply accepting the fact that others may live their lives in a different way to you, is unfathomable to me.

And the human rights abuses are also horrendous. While the authorities claim conditions have been improved, and that may very well be the case, it was not so when construction of these stadiums began. If you were a migrant worker coming into Qatar to be part of the workforce building these stadiums, once you entered the country, your passport was taken off you and kept in your employer’s office. You needed a permit to leave the country once you were in. Thousands upon thousands were dying, building these stadiums. It was little better than modern indentured slavery. And now that all of Qatar’s oil money is in their back pockets, FIFA are telling the teams to shut up and get on with it. Not long ago, Gianni Infantino was quoting Nelson Mandela and talking about the power of football as an agent of change and progress. A couple of weeks ago, he wrote a letter to all the teams going to the World Cup to ‘focus on the football.’ What happened to the power of change?

And from a sporting point of view as well, it is nonsense to hold an international tournament as big as the World Cup. Of course, The African Cup of Nations is also usually held in the winter months, but that does not require the league seasons of all of Europe to come to a complete standstill. And that is purely a consequence of the tournament being held in Qatar. The World Cup is usually a summer tournament. Summer temperatures in Qatar reach 50 degrees Celsius. So, it is next to impossible to hold a summer sports tournament in Qatar. They have to hold it in winter otherwise everyone will be passing out and getting sun stroke.

There’s a lot of things I don’t like about this World Cup and it hasn’t even started yet. I don’t like where it’s being held. I don’t like how the host nation was awarded the competition. I don’t like how they treat people of a certain orientation. I don’t like the death toll that has resulted. I hope England do well at this tournament. But that is about it. I don’t particularly like watching England play. I find Gareth Southgate’s football one dimensional in the extreme and very uninteresting to watch. World Cups are losing their mystique for me. I would rather watch a league game on a Tuesday night against Preston North End than watch a World Cup game. That being said, I’ll still probably watch some of the games. It’s football. I like watching football. Even if it’s between teams I could not care less about.

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