The controversies of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar were perhaps the climax of FIFA’s ethically promiscuous history. Many outraged football fans (myself included), perhaps torn between a sense of patriotism and a moral compass, pondered what could be done to combat FIFA’s decisions. Some decided to boycott in protest, and others simply watched. Was boycotting an effective strategy to fight back against FIFA, and did the World Cup deserve to be boycotted in the first place? The following are two opposing articles written by Javier MP in Year 7 and Agnes H in Year 12 about the topic.
WHY WE SHOULD HAVE BOYCOTTED THE WORLD CUP
This year’s World Cup in Qatar has arguably been the most controversial in the tournament’s history. The vast human and workers’ rights breaches, discrimination and corruption have been the fuel for this controversy since the awarding of the games in 2010. So, why should we have boycotted this year's edition of the popular sporting competition?
To preface, this is not an argument against Qatar, but against FIFA. And I’m not arguing that the football was not good; there were many great games and the final may have been the best ever. FIFA and Qatar put on a good show.
The name that has been on people’s lips this week is Lionel Messi. However, someone you may have heard less of is Ashkan Dejagah. This Iranian footballer is currently facing possible execution. Why? for supporting protests in favour of women’s rights in Iran.
Iran enforces discriminatory practices against women and the country literally - constitutionally - values the life of a woman at half of that of a man. Similar practices are prevalent in Qatar. In our society, and ones like it, practises like these have long been abolished and are considered barbaric.
How is this relevant to the World Cup? In Iran, a footballer is facing death for fighting for the rights women have almost universally around the world. In Qatar, on the other hand, the awarding of the games is legitimising their enforcement of these same laws Dejagah is being killed for trying to protest.
FIFA’s actions are a clear example of allowing a nation to indulge in sports-washing, the term given to the practice of corporations or governments using sports to improve reputations that have been tarnished by wrongdoing.
This is not unusual in sport, as it is seen in the ownership of football teams by the Saudi state and the awarding of other sporting events to countries like Russia and China which are accused of human rights abuses. Essentially, Qatar has used the World Cup to show the country in the best light, trying to make the world forget or ignore its unjust practices.
There are a multitude of reasons that we should condemn sports-washing.
First, it legitimises the intolerance demonstrated in Qatar. I don’t mean to say that we should be imposing our values upon them, that is a question for Qataris. However we should not be allowing FIFA, and by extension the world of football, to endorse these values by awarding the country a competition that is watched around the globe, when this contradicts the values of diversity and inclusivity which the organisation claims to uphold.
By overlooking the sports-washing, we are ignoring the human cost of this World Cup. Amnesty said that ‘in the decade since Qatar was awarded the right to host the World Cup, exploitation and abuse of these workers has been rampant, with workers exposed to forced labour, unpaid wages and excessive working hours.’
People have been made well aware of this human cost; however most have chosen to ignore it, and support Qatar and FIFA anyway, by watching the games, travelling to Qatar and buying merchandise. In doing this, we are excusing the conditions on migrant workers, and forgetting those whose lives the World Cup has taken, perhaps as many as 6500.
The environmental effects of holding the World Cup in Qatar have also been astounding. This is most obvious when we look at the country’s climate. Why is the World Cup being held in November? Because Qatar is one of the hottest places on the planet. Even this late in the year every stadium had to be air conditioned! During an energy crisis and a climate crisis. FIFA’s claims for an ecological tournament are clearly nonsensical.
The corruption involved in awarding this competition to Qatar is another of the many reasons why we should have reconsidered whether or not we support this World Cup. There is irrefutable evidence of bribery for hosting rights and wider FIFA corruption associated with the Qatar World Cup. Investigations carried out by Swiss prosecutors and the US Department of Justice have unearthed evidence of corruption. Several people have been convicted. These levels of corruption are unacceptable for such a large and influential entity such as FIFA.
Fifa excuses all this by claiming that they’re ‘trying to spread popularity of football in the Arab world’. If this was really the case, why would they not choose a country like Egypt or Morocco, where the sport is loved, and whose teams have richly contributed to World Cups, not least this one. Rather than Qatar, whose 2022 team crashed out of the competition after just two games.
Alternatively, they could have chosen a country like Spain, which hasn’t hosted since 1982, or the UK, who hasn’t hosted since 1966. In these countries, football is not only the most popular sport, but the countries are both more accessible to fans, and the countries themselves are more suited to arranging such a huge sporting event. They have also made extensive efforts towards making football a more inclusive sport, especially for women, with football leagues in the UK and Spain being some of the most popular.
In conclusion, Qatar and FIFA masked their ethical wrongdoings behind the impressive show they put on for this year's World Cup. And shame on us all for allowing them to do it, and participating.
- Agnes H Y12
WHY WE SHOULD NOT HAVE BOYCOTTED THE WORLD CUP
The World Cup is a sporting event that happens every 4 years. It is viewed by more than 5 billion people. The event brings countries together, makes children from all over the world strive to be football players and it also brings tourism from all over the world to the host country.
This event also brings incredible controversy and every year there are people who say they want to boycott the World Cup for some reason. For example, in Russia 2018, people started saying that we should have transferred the World Cup to another country due to conflicts in Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea but, did we stop watching? No!
Why should the rules be any different for Qatar? People might have died and in Qatar and they do have different opinions about LGBTQ+ people but if we stop watching we will do what we always do: ignore and pretend that the problem is not there instead of acting up on it.
Another reason why we should not boycott the World Cup is that the World Cup unites countries. This is because there is a sense of national pride meaning that neighbours, while they watch the match, will talk and unite as they comment on the match and if they win, a lot of people will go to the street and celebrate together with people they have never met. An example is in Morocco when they beat Spain, the Moroccan streets were full of people celebrating their victory and even in Spain after Morocco’s victory over Portugal, Moroccan fans were partying in La Plaza del Sol.
A perhaps unexpected reason why we should not boycott the World Cup is because of children. I don't mean teenagers, I mean children my age. These children see their team play and wish that they could too, so they work hard to try and achieve their objective. Pele, who is rated to be one of the best players in footballs history, worked incredibly hard to try and join the Brazilian team and won 3 World Cups which is incredible and shows how far dreams go and how important the World Cup was for him and many others in their career.
One of the main reasons why a country chooses to host the World Cup is to attract tourists and people who will spend money in their country, which is good for the economy. Qatar, being a very small country, decided that they also wanted to do this even though they have been accused of bribery, which I am not saying is not true. I believe that they should be allowed to host the World Cup and we should not boycott it because, yes we might think that it's wrong what they're doing, but this boycott is not only against the Qatari government, it’s also against the citizens. Qatari citizens would not gain the money that they would have otherwise expected. What is more, the boycott means that we are judging another government’s belief, saying that it is wrong and not being respectful, but not only that, we are making the people of that country not gain as much money. I don't think anyone wants this and if it were you then you wouldn't want it, so why should we do it to Qatar.
The main reason why people want to boycott is because of the values of Qatari culture. However, we have always learnt that we must respect other cultures. Just because their values don’t align with those of the Western world, doesn’t mean we should hold ourselves above them. Another reason why people consider boycotting the World Cup is because of the deaths of the workers that built the stadiums. This, however, is not a problem native to Qatar, it also happens in most parts of the world. Using this argument, we could say that we shouldn’t watch any sporting events. What we can do is raise awareness, and stop it from happening again. Boycotting a tournament to no effect will not solve any of these problems.
The World Cup is about unity not division. It’s about respect and putting away our differences and that is why we should not boycott the World Cup. Thank you.
- Javier MP Y8