We’re still in the group stages of the World Cup but already the pre-tournament concerns that Qatar would revert to its standard approach of oppression of minorities and strongarming journalists, and that FIFA would simply roll over and do nothing about it have been shown to be totally accurate.
A Danish film crew filming a short preview piece in a public place was descended upon by Qatari police who threatened to smash their equipment despite them having a permit, the One Love armband has been banned despite original assurances that it could be worn without repercussions and Iranian fans protesting against their own oppressive regime have reported secret police filming them in the stadiums with the full collusion of the Qatari authorities.
Meanwhile, the corrupt former head of FIFA Sepp Blatter, having no doubt trousered a big old wedge for the award of Qatar’s vanity project, now has the nerve to say that it was a terrible mistake. His successor, Gianni Infantino, then took subservience to new depths in his bizarre pre-tournament speech in which he praised Qatar, a country in which migrant workers have died in their thousands in the last decade for its treatment of them while accusing European countries in general of being racist and oppressing them.
Then, of course, we had a member of FIFA’s technical study group praising Cristiano Ronaldo as a “total genius” for the way that he conned the referee into awarding Portugal a penalty against Ghana as if such dishonesty was some sort of skill to be learned.
Of course, there will be plenty who choose to ignore the backdrop and say that we should only concern ourselves with the football, but whatever the quality on display at this World Cup, it should never be forgotten that this is all happening in a country with an appalling human rights record and where being gay is an offence punishable by up to three years in prison, and that this World Cup is serving to legitimise that in much the same way that Newcastle United is being used to sportswash the Saudi regime.
However, whatever the situation in Qatar, it shouldn’t blind us to the fact that there are plenty of people in the UK who are quite happy with the idea of LBGTQ+ people being flogged or worse and who still have antediluvian attitudes towards women in football.
I had hoped that after the Lionesses had secured the European Championship in such impressive style, we would see more change but judging by the reaction to ITV fielding an all-woman panel for the Saudi Arabia v Poland game. These are just a few of the comments I’ve seen on Twitter:
“Sadly, this is the road they’re going down these days, all in the name of diversity to keep the do-gooders happy. Not 1 of them has played top-class football, and suddenly they’re experts talking about it.”
“No offence but women should stick to women’s football only.”
“Can’t wait for their in-depth insight considering between them all they have about as much experience of the game at the top level as my 8-year-old nephew.”
The chauvinism is one thing, but the sheer pig ignorance on display is another. To suggest that “none of them has played top-class football” when Eniola Aluko has 102 England caps and Karen Carney has 144 is quite remarkable, but sadly it is far from an unusual response.
If someone is talking sense about the game, why should their gender be an issue? Anyone who listened to the excellent Emma Hayes during the Euros last year couldn’t fail to be impressed by her tactical acumen and ability to interpret the game, yet there are those who would prefer the Danny Murphy school of stating the bleeding obvious simply because it’s coming from the mouth of a bloke.
That’s not to say that all female pundits are good, just as not all male ones are, but to discount someone’s opinion simply because of their gender is pathetic.
Leaving that issue aside, it has been interesting that this World Cup has thrown up a new generation of analysts who are showing up the likes of Murphy, Alan Shearer and Martin Keown, with current or recently retired players like Andros Townsend, Vincent Kompany and Nadia Nadim bringing their experience to give some real insight instead of sounding like bar room pundits.
For too long the former group has relied on lazy cynicism, cliches, and an implied attitude that current players are simply not as good as they were, but the newcomers are offering real insight into modern tactics that their elders appear not to understand.
It’s just a shame that the Women’s Super League isn’t taking a break as Hayes would have been a great addition, but at least women are being represented and allowed a voice, and I have huge admiration for Alex Scott, who has recently come out as gay for wearing the One Love armband on screen while presenting.
It’s sad that a World Cup in the modern era should be a celebration of diversity, but FIFA is yet again shutting its eyes and holding its nose instead of making a stand, or at least allowing the participants to do so.
In his speech, Infantino said, without a trace of irony: “Everyone is welcome. This was our requirement and the Qatari state sticks to that requirement.”
martin penney says
You haven’t dropped a stitch there – well said.
We all know how and why Qatar got the gig and it ain’t right on any level.
Those at FIFA should have nipped this bid in the bud over 12 years ago, but as ever the lure of the brown envelope proved too much for certain people, I am sure.
You are quite right about the new generation of pundits as well My personal favourite has been Hal Robson-Kanu who looks like a media natural with a bright future ahead of him.
Tommy Thompson says
Why does the West think everyone else should be the same as them . Russia does not like the western values because they are strictly orthodox. We are becoming a f!!!!!! Up society who thinks anything goes . What has happened to our religious values they have disappeared our religion now is our phones and Google .
Football is Football so let it be .
Tommy Thompson says
And I too find the “Diversity tag” oh so boring being force fed a new modern way well not for me I’m afraid bring back the 80s they were the days . 😊
Tommy Thompson says
I find myself muting the build up ,half time and post match now .
And most here wish to mute you.
Alex Scott was previously in a long term gay relationship with her ex Arsenal Captain its now being reported that she is in another long term relationship with a gentleman that was a regular actor on coronation street and has always back the gay community and has admitted she is Bio in her life style.
But the above paragraph and someones preferences to who they partner shouldn’t be an open discussion it’s their private life and everyone should respect their choice.
FIFA is rotten to the core and unfit for purpose they let it be known that they could move away from Switzerland due to the climate of investigations from the Swiss police and suddenly most if not all said investigations were dropped through lack of evidence it just shows how far the corruption has gone.
Anyway there’s been some good games and some bad decisions as there always will be but the extra time added has started to sink into the coaches that it doesn’t work using time-wasting tactics sadly the FA and EPL have said they will not be following the same policy.
Can England beat Wales tonight or will there be another upset and will the Iranian team beat their enemy the US eve4ything to play for.
Al Thani was never going to tow the FIFA line and they had plans in place for last minute changes so that the WC couldn’t be snatched away at the last minute but Infantino likes the nasty regime he praised Putin on many occasions.
Tommy Thompson says
Today I am Stuart Webber
Today I am Delia Smith
Today I am Michael Wyn Jones
Today I am Dean Smith .
Football involves people, millions of people, people have issues and it’s impossible for football to avoid those issues, they have to be taken into consideration and dealt with. Doesn’t matter if they are world politics or players being deceitful or gender issues they can’t be ignored. Unfortunately no decision will ever meet with everybody’s approval so the best thing for fans is cheer, moan and carry on, or walk away and find another interest. After all it’s just a game isn’t it?
Tommy Thompson says
You can’t Impose your views on Everybody we all think differently.
Gary Gowers says
No-one’s imposing views on anybody. Robin has written a comment piece that expresses his view. He’s not talking on behalf of anyone but himself, but I – along with most decent people – happen to agree with his balanced view.
You’re welcome to pen a guest blog for MFW, albeit I’ll not be posting anything that’s, as you describe (in a comment I opted not to post) ‘bigoted’.
Tommy Thompson says
Ha ha that’s nice of you Gary I just meant the whole situation. People countries think differently.
Think there’s far more important things to sort out like the state of the planet .
To me its sad that football is being used to get publicity to world problems. It tells a lot about the world and especially about politics.
In Qatar there has been athletics and volleyball world championships. Volleyball world championships were even held 2022. No one protested, human rights were not a problem then but suddenly became a problem now. Football is a bigger sport than all other sports together, a lot bigger, thats why activists use it as a platform. Figures of death immigrant stadium workers are all immigrant death rates during a certain period. Qatar by the way is not even close to last place in human rights, I support all kinds of human rights, im very concerned about climate change and the biodiversity of nature. I can understand someway using football as a platform of human rights, because obviously there seems to not be any other world wide platform. To me football is football and thats why its wrong place to activism and especially its wrong and very stupid to start boycotting football world cup but its like that in todays world. People have become so close minded, media tells how to behave and how to think. Its just like an old western movie where all indians are bad and try to kill good white people who are peaceful and friendly. We all know who took land from who by force and which ones have miserable life since then.
Today starts the last round of group games. To me the most impressive teams have been France and Brazil, Mbabbe and Vinicius most impressive players. The most positive surprise team has been Saudi Arabia, Saudi Arabia has actually been so good that if they use their scoring chances better they are able to build huge upsets. I have also liked Iran and Canada. The best african team to me looks to be Morocco. Morocco has an individually impressive squad and they are difficult to play against.
martin penney says
You make an interesting point about Morocco and I would agree that they are probably the best of the African teams this time around.
I find Cameroon, Senegal and particularly Ghana to have had their moments too and none of them have been dull to watch. Each of these teams has its faults too of course but I have really enjoyed watching all of them play.
*When will an African nation win the World Cup* is a question that has been around for a long while now and I guess we are still no closer to finding the answer.
Martin, Teemu Pukki told to finnish media that he is cheering for african nations in this tournament. Senegal already qualified for the playoffs without Mane.
USA-Iran was a low level game yesterday, Pulisic was heads above everyone else again. Wales has been very pragmatic and got good results before, but it was all the time the impression that they might have been lucky. So many times the ball has somehow bounced in their way and this time luck turned. Jari Litmanen rated Gareth Bale as the best british player in last decade which of course has been the main reasons why Wales has so often get good results.
Belgrade Canary says
Yes football is football and it is not a place for activism, except FIFA is not just football, it is a business that will pull in over $6 billion from this world cup. We have the expectation that businesses should behave ethically and FIFA must be included in that .
The 6500 deaths do indeed include all deaths of migrant workers from 5 countries, however, given that all migrant workers are required to take a health check upon entering the country meaning they are all being certified as fit, young and healthy, and combined with the high number of young men that are dying from “natural heart-related causes” there is absolutely a need to be skeptical. Even if we take away the question of the death-rates the living conditions and wages are terrible and the sort of thing that gets British fashion brands boycotted if they were to try the same, not to mention the visa system is riddled with corruption (UK has a similar problem for recruiting migrant fruit pickers) which means many workers come into the jobs already in debt and combined with restrictive visa policies tying employees visas to employers, you have a situation where workers have limited freedoms and rights. Now sure I guess you could say that some of this would be happening without the world cup, but then the world cup did require the building of 8 stadiums holding 430k fans in a country where average league attendances are below 10k and the population is barely 3 million.
Now to your point there are countries with worse human rights records, again you are absolutely correct but I am not sure we will see a North Korea, Burma, Iran, Syria or Belarus world cup any time soon. The fact that there are countries with a worse human rights record does not excuse another’s poor record. I guess Dean Smith should worry about his record as we are not even in the bottom half of the league.
To me the discussion is not about football being used for activism, it is about a global business, FIFA, not upholding standards we would expect of other businesses.
Ask yourself if a world cup came to the UK but it required the cutting down of half the New Forest, the concreting over of the Broads and Stonehenge being move 500m to the left you would feel the need to push back and ask questions.
Belgrade Canary, I agree of course the majority of what you wrote. Fifas plan is to bring football everywhere around the world. Professional football is business in every country and as long as the world cup interests players it works. World cup grows football interest overall.
I suspect, as with Russia in 2018, after the event looking back there will be much regret at both the tournament being staged in Qatar and that various nations football governing bodies didn’t take a stronger stance against both it and human rights issues.
The World Cup in 2026 is scheduled to be held in 3 countries, Canada, USA & Mexico. According to statistics, The US and Mexico alone account for over 80,000 gun related death’s per year, Canada far, far less. So perhaps there’s a very good case to campaign against it being held there too.
I’m all for women in the men’s game and who’s to say Serina Wiegman wont be managing at the next finals plus more female match officials?
Hopefully we will get to a position where one’s sexuality is no longer ‘a thing’ and the need for identity armbands, flags, banners to get behind will fade away, who cares, I don’t so long as we can all live alongside one another without prejudice, with just one exception……………………….Can we all agree, WE ALL HATE FIFA !
Jim Davies says
I notice that the two token female referees haven’t even been given a job running the line yet, let alone refereeing a game. The best they’ve managed so far is as the officials holding up the boards indicating the substitutes.
Jim Davies says
Update. I believe they’ve now given Germany’s next game to the female officials.
Good to know FIFA read MFW!
Interviewer, ‘ why Qatar for the World Cup’, FIFA spokesman, ‘Twas the backhand of God’.
Oh Robin you are dead right with the comments about , probably middle aged + blokes decrying the girls commentating on football . Mind they probably voted brexit as well.( Puts on tin hat)
Jim Davies says
I’m past middle aged (“old” is the accurate description), but I don’t mind the female pundits, thought the BBC’s female commentator is rubbish. The French lady pundit is very good. Oh, and I didn’t vote for Brexit either!
Excellent article thank you, Robin.
The comments from the likes of @Tommy Thompson illustrate very clearly that we have a long way to go with developing inclusivity in the UK and also why standing up for what we believe in is so important.