Backman: Qatar beats the pace, Fifa tries to keep up – and we are dragged behind like hollow-eyed rag dolls

A threat of a yellow card for trilling captains became a red card for love. Fifa reached a new low water mark on Monday and we waltz on in the dystopian dance.

There are a lot of English people living in Doha, Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

I ran into several of them today. Here’s what a typical discussion looked like when I asked questions about the human rights issue ahead of the match against Iran, and whether Harry Kane should wear the rainbow armband or Fifa’s hastily scrapped replacement armband.

– Do you really have to ask me about that?


– Why do you think I live in Dubai?

I do not know why?

– To avoid all nonsense.

The people who wanted to see Harry Kane wear the Fifa armband were, in fairness, in the majority today. Not only English people living abroad thought so, but also several who still live in the British Isles.

– I’m not modern, said Steve Holmes from Sheffield.

– We are not interested in human rights, says Frank, who is here for the football and nothing else. Then he recovers and adds:

– Or we care, but have to live with the situation here.

Football and politics don’t mix is ​​still a widely accepted opinion among supporters on the ground. And so does the international football association Fifa.

The smoke begins to clear

In the end, Fifa got what it wanted: The threats of yellow cards became too much for England and the rest of the European countries that had announced the rainbow bracelets as early as September.

The time perspective is ironic.

Fifa was taken to bed close to the premiere when Qatar made a complete U-turn on the alcohol issue. Qatar had had twelve years to announce an alcohol ban and did so two days before the losing match against Ecuador.

Now Fifa is doing the same. They had had time to react for two months, but did so late and forced the progressive countries of Europe into obedience. When threats of hefty fines fell on deaf ears, Fifa resorted to the heavy artillery.

Harry Kane wearing a captain's armband with the text "no discrimination".
“No discrimination” was written on Harry Kane’s captain’s armband against Iran.

Image: IMAGO/Ulmer/Team Photo/ All Over Press

The smoke starts to clear on the dance floor. Power relations crystallize.

Qatar sits and claps the beat. Fifa is trying to keep up with the rhythm – and we are being dragged ad nauseam by the dystopian notes. Like hollow-eyed rag dolls.

We don’t want to, but we can’t help it either. No qualifying national team announced a World Cup boycott, everyone is still hungry for the glory of the World Cup.

Pride on your own terms

Fifa’s hypocrisy is expected but still astonishing.

Since the Fifa Pampers are not in Qatar, where homosexuality is prohibited, the organization prides itself on Pride campaigns. This summer – when the World Cup really should have been played – waved the rainbow flag in the wind above the Zurich office.

Fifa also writes on its website that they “embrace their responsibility to respect human rights in all projects and agreements”. Despite that, Denmark was not allowed to wear training shirts with the message “human rights for all”.

Where is our border?

Fifa is constantly moving the goalposts, new lows are normalized as football moves further and further away from the value base we are used to.

Sportbladet’s Erik Niva and many others await the inevitable backlash, a split within the football world. But it waits.

On Monday, there was a red card for diversity, but the matches continue exactly as usual and we waltz on.

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