Editor’s Note: Roger Bennett He is the founder of the Men In Blazers Media Network and the original author of Gods of Soccer. Tommy Vietor He is a former spokesman for President Barack Obama, founder of Crooked Media and host of the foreign policy podcast Pod Save the World. They collaborated on a podcast program called World Corrupt, focusing on the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. The opinions expressed in this opinion are their own. Read more on CNN.
This November, billions of people around the world will tune in to the World Cup – one of the biggest sporting events in human history. It’s an event that ended wars, saints and criminals that joined the world to enjoy every exciting box, last box and slide to the knee.
There’s just one problem: This year, it’s happening in Qatar.
In Qatar, journalists are thrown into prison for investigating labor conditions. LGBTQ+ people are treated like criminals. Women have to ask men for marriage, go and study abroad many times.
And Qatari labor practices have been compared to modern-day slavery – an estimated 6,500 laborers in South Asia have died in Qatar since the country was awarded the World Cup in 2010. People said Many of these deaths may be related to the construction of buildings for competition.
6,500 dead – at least. The number of deaths is much higher, because this number does not include many countries that send workers to Qatar, including the Philippines and African countries.
(Qatar argues that the death toll for its migrant workers is within the expected range for its size and population.)
In recent years, Qatari authorities have introduced “a number of reform measures,” according to Human Rights Watch. But “significant gaps remain,” it said, including “damaging wages” and the inability to “find out the causes of the deaths of thousands of workers.”
Let us not think that the Qataris won their Cup prize by virtue alone. After all, Qatar — a peninsula smaller than Connecticut and too hot to play soccer there in the summer months — is the last resort. to host a major international sporting event.
How, was Qatar selected? Well, like an endless stream of investigative journalism, that is He succeeded in the process from top to bottom. (Qatar strongly denies the allegations).
Shortly after the French referendum, for example, Qatar Sports Investments bought the Paris Saint-Germain Football Club; at the same time, a Qatari company bought a part of Veolia, a French energy and waste company.
Not to mention: A club linked to the Qatari government has hired the son of Michel Platini, the former head of the European football team. Nepotism? Zut alors!
But don’t take our word for it. Matt Miller, a Justice Department official who accompanied former Attorney General Eric Holder to Zurich to witness the bidding process, said: “It’s the worst thing I’ve seen in my career, and I spent two years working in New Jersey politics.
Jokes aside, this raises the question: Why does Qatar want to host the World Cup?
The answer is that the country is hoping for an Olympic opportunity of Beijing 2008 – an opportunity to dilute its civil rights and shine on the international stage. By hosting the World Cup, Qatar wants to project a cosmopolitan image as that of its neighbors in the UAE, signaling that it is open for business, welcomes tourists and is a player in world politics.
To confirm that image, Qatar has announced that international television companies will be prohibited from filming the locations without permission from the Qatari authorities. As James Lynch, from the London-based human rights group FairSquare, told the Guardian, these “extremely broad limits” make it very difficult for the media to cover stories that don’t concern the victims. game.
(Qatar’s High Commission for Inheritance and Inheritance states that language on Twitter the film permissions are associated with international activities).
When you think about Qatar, its leaders don’t want you to get workers dying in the heat, or make Doha look so small compared to Dubai. They want you to remember the exhilaration of Lionel Messi’s goal-scoring run, or the exhilaration of a physics-defying finger save by Brazilian goalkeeper Alisson Becker.
And that’s what Qatar will get after this World Cup – unless we all work to tell a different story, one that will bring the world’s attention to Qatari atrocities and become warned other governments that were watching. We must send a clear signal that autocrats cannot amass soft power through the refracted light of sports immortality.
That is to ensure that at the end of this competition, everyone is expected to listen in – all 5 billion. of them – see what is happening outside the wall in Qatar.
Now, there are some good steps in this direction. Denmark’s “protest outfits” have a strong statement – and one which upset the Qatari government. During the start of the World Cup qualifiers, the teams of Germany and Norway wore shirts showing the words: “HUMAN RIGHTS.”
Louis Van Gaal, the long-time coach of the Netherlands, called FIFA’s reasoning for hosting the tournament in Qatar “bullshit.” Fairy tale.
These steps are just a starting point.
International organizations – and, importantly, their governments – can and should hold Qatar accountable. The most serious action is going on after the Human Rights Watch campaign #PayUpFIFA. It is an effort to force Qatar and FIFA to pay about $440 million – an amount equal to the prize money awarded at the World Cup – to the families of workers injured or killed in the preparations. training for competition. Any company in its right mind should actively support it.
Meanwhile, US Soccer has signed up to the #PayUpFIFA campaign but has said little to the public. As the richest country in the world, with a major military base in Qatar, America has a right to challenge these values - especially with the current administration’s commitment to securing the right to Gulf autocrats.
The English Football Association was equally weak in response. After European football clubs vowed to call Qatar out of “just wearing a shirt,” they ended up using rainbow cleats, meaning more smaller than a t-shirt.
All teams need to step up – and the players play a vital role in this process. We can imagine how much pressure these players are under to perform. They may have dreamed of this moment since their childhood – and fought bloody hard and sacrificed a lot to achieve it.
They didn’t start kicking football thinking they had to talk about human rights. But there is a long tradition of sportsmanship, from Tommie Smith and John Carlos raising their arms in Mexico City to Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford fighting child hunger in the United Kingdom.
This doesn’t mean that every player has to say it. But those who do will be supported and promoted – such as the Socceroos, Australia’s national football team called out redressing injured workers and disputing various relations in Qatar.
After all, this is more than the World Cup. It’s about people who believe in democracy and human rights to allow governments to get away with robbing the sports we love.
Saudi Arabia is trying to erase its image through LIV Golf and WWE. Russia and Bahrain tried to do it through Formula One. But if we stand against Qatar on the world stage, we may make the next generation of autocrats worry about a Qatar 2022-style humiliation rather than thirst for a Beijing 2008 era.
People can help by using their social media to call attention to Qatar’s human rights abuses, and by urging football clubs to publicly support the #PayUpFIFA campaign .
Our efforts can change the score for FIFA – it may not be less to give the World Cup to countries like Qatar if they know how to do it after years of boycotts, protests and bad press.
This is important. Because, as every football fan knows, the World Cup is more than a tournament. It has been compared to a world cycle that strikes the whole world for a month at a time.
It is a unique platform where nations can compete fiercely and shake hands. It aims to show the best of us – our uniqueness and our humanity.
It is not surprising that the powers that be take these events for themselves. And that’s why we can’t accept them.