The ball does not stain: boycott, denunciations and the campaign of "sportswashing" Qatar 2022

The ball is rolling. The World Cup in Qatar 2022 started this Sunday and promises 64 games that will raise the blood pressure of fans and soccer fans for 29 days. 5760 minutes of play. Football, football, football. But the complaints related to the history of Human Rights violations in the host country they are also at stake and a boycott of the main sporting event of the year is still in place.

The discrepancies are not recent. Since its designation as the venue for the world championship in 2010, attention and criticism have focused on Qatar, the first country in the Middle East to organize a world tournament. The ball reached a corner of the Persian Gulf settled on oil and natural gas reserves in which 2.9 million people live, of whom only 15% are Qataris and 25% women, which became independent in 1971.

Qatar wants to show itself to the world. And the world is watching.

The World Cup in Qatar 2022 will have 29 days of football

And what he looks at, for example, is a labor system like the kafala –which had to be eliminated due to the pressure of international organizations– which allowed the construction of six stadiums at the cost of undervalued work, the health or the lives of the workers; also the situation of the rights of women and people who are part of the LGBTI communitycomplaints of discrimination and even the obligation towards trans women to attend conversion therapy sessions or statements by officials who speak of “mental damage” when referring to homosexuality.

You can’t play football in the summer, but you can work. The number of deaths among migrant workers is still difficult to determine, with numbers ranging from tens to hundreds to thousands. Steve Cockburn, Director of Economic and Social Justice at Amnesty International, recently took aim at the International Football Federation: “By ignoring legitimate human rights criticism, Gianni Infantino is not only leaving out the enormous price that workers have paid and migrant workers to make this emblematic tournament possible, but also FIFA’s responsibility in it. The demands for equality, dignity and compensation cannot be treated as a kind of culture war: they are universal human rights that FIFA has committed to respect in its own statutes.

The neologism that has been repeated in recent weeks is sportswashing. and even if it sounds snob, it is as old as the organization of sporting events. It is, in a nutshell, using the meetings to wash the face of the organizer. Distract attention from the questions and project yourself, in this case, as an example of development.

“Qatar is facing an unprecedented campaign that no other country has faced. At first we handled it in good faith because we saw that the reviews were positive so that we could improve certain aspects. But we soon found out that the campaign continues with ferocity. The World Cup is an event to show who we are, not only in terms of the strength of our economy and our institutions, but also our identity as a civilization. It is a great challenge for a country the size of Qatar that impresses the world with its successes,” Qatari Emir Tamid bin Hamad al-Thani said recently.

The World Cup in Qatar 2022 will have 29 days of football

The Argentine journalist Alejandro Wall warns in a column in the Washington Post that the sportswashing “It doesn’t always work” and recalls the experience of the 1978 World Cup in Argentina. “Sometimes, it generates the opposite effects. The Argentine dictatorship of 1976-1983 tried with the 1978 World Cup to cover up its State crimes, torture and the disappeared, but it was that World Cup that opened the doors to the international press, to which the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo could be heard. It was not automatic, but a year later a commission from the Organization of American States was in the country to take complaints against the regime.”

The World Cup that is being played has detractors. For example, in Germany the Bundesliga matches were played with fans who called for a boycott of the World Cup by fans of Borussia Dortmund, Hertha Berlin or Bayern Munich. According to a poll carried out by FOCUS magazine and the Civey Opinion Research Institute, 65% of the population supports a boycott of the World Cup and some bars will close during the matches and reopen an hour after the judge decrees the end of the game. It must be granted that it will be the first time in history that there will be three women refereeing the men’s tournament: the French Stephanie Frappart, the Rwandan Salima Mukasanga and the Japanese Yoshimi Yamashita.

In France, local authorities in Paris and other cities announced that they would not broadcast World Cup matches in protest.

Before the start of the game, seven European teams had planned to wear a captain’s armband in favor of inclusion and against discrimination, although this Monday they preferred not to do so in the face of the threat of “sports sanctions”. The former English soccer player Alex Scott was the only one so far who circumvented the ban and wore the multicolored bracelet in a live broadcast for the BBC from the Khalifa International Stadium.

The World Cup in Qatar 2022 will have 29 days of football

The Qatari record regarding Human Rights not only affects the fans but also among the artists.

The first to speak was the British Dua Lipa, when she clarified through her social networks that she was not going to sing at the opening ceremony of the silent championship, and that she was not involved in any negotiation in this regard either. “I will be supporting England from afar and hope to visit Qatar when she fulfills all the Human Rights commitments she made when she was assigned to host the World Cup,” she wrote categorically.

followed by the mythical Rod Stewart, who revealed that he rejected a millionaire figure to sing in the show. “They offered me a lot of money, more than a million pounds [que se traduce en unos US$ 1.190.000] to sing there about 15 months ago,” he told Britain’s The Sunday Times. “I told them no. It is not correct to go”, announced the Englishman.

It also had repercussions in the artistic field in Latin America. Shakira, the expert from Barranquilla in opening World Cups and who has the ceremony of Germany 2006, South Africa 2010 and Brazil 2014 on her resume, sounded like one of the candidates to sing on the stage of the Al Bayt stadium. However, she did not sing at the event in the Arab country.

The one who directly faced criticism was the Colombian Malumainterpreter of one of the songs which makes up the soundtrack of the World Cup together with Nicki Minaj and Myriam Fares. “I have to ask you: Shakira and Dua Lipa refused to take part in this World Cup due to Qatar’s poor record regarding human rights. And obviously people think, Maluma, does he have problems with the violation of human rights in this country? ”, Asked the journalist Moav Vardial in an interview prior to his show at the Fan Fest.

“It is something that I cannot solve. I only came here to enjoy life, enjoy football and the football party. It’s not something I really have to get involved in. I am here to enjoy my music and the beautiful life, playing soccer too,” he replied.

But the journalist asked Maluma again if he understood why people may have problems with his answer and if the presence of the Colombian star was helping the Qatari regime to cover up the situation. The question ended up bothering the Colombian, who got up and left the interview, without first telling the journalist: “That is not done, you are rude.”

The musician later used his social networks to address his almost 63 million followers. “I came to celebrate the football festival, to put my flag and my culture in the most important event in the history of sports, and to bring joy to the corners of the world. That is my task and my legacy, I will not change and I will continue to do so with all the love in the world. If some did not want to come, it is their problem, but I am here facing reality and bringing light to the whole world”.

Finally the opening ceremony of the biggest celebration of world football was insipid. With the presence of actor Morgan Freeman and K-pop star Jungkook singing Dreamers, Another of the World Cup songs, the lack of great musical numbers was covered with the memory of songs like the South African classic waka wakaof Shakira, and The cup of Lifeby Ricky Martin.

The World Cup in Qatar 2022 will have 29 days of football

But politics and complaints about human rights violations are not limited to the host of the sporting event. Just two days after the start of the competition we already saw the Poland national team escorted by planes F16 fighter to the border, after in the middle of the war between Russia and Ukraine a missile that hit Polish territory. A the 11 players of Iran’s starting team refrain from singing the national anthem as a sign against the regime and in memory of the victims of the protests that followed the death of Mahsa Amini. To the English team, in the same game, kneeling on the field of play against racism and discrimination.

The day that Diego Armando Maradona said goodbye to football, when he played his last game for Boca Juniors 21 years ago at La Bombonera, he made a speech that remained in the history of sports: “Football is the most beautiful and healthiest sport in the world That there is no doubt about that to anyone. Because you make a mistake, you don’t have to pay for football. I was wrong and I paid, but the ball doesn’t get stained”.

We will see how the ball is when the World Cup ends.

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