Firstly, the focus of the World’s premier international team tournament should be focused on the football, the FIFA World Cup.
The second key point is that Wales, AKA Cymru, are in town. Their first such visit to the World Cup finals since 1958. Their Swedish encounters ended in the quarterfinals to eventual Champions Brazil. Youngster Pelé scored the winning goal and Wales never returned to the big stage until 2022. I’m no fan of international football and feel conflicted. My first and only games watching international games have been Wales at Wrexham’s historic Racecourse and the Millennium Stadium. I’m claiming Welsh ancestry through my maternal grandfather.
As great Aberystwyth Town and Wales fans I’ve met a long life’s journey enjoy their deserved visit to Qatar, I can’t help but feel the magic of these finals hasn’t arrived and feels a world away. It could even bee argued that Wales is a far more suited host nation than Qatar. It has established football teams, leagues and a population higher than Qatar. Wales didn’t need to naturalise so many players to make a national team.
The list of issues include human rights abuse (modern slavery) accusations, need reporters being robbed on air, bribes and corruption, questionable suitability, accessibility and handling of the LGBT community didn’t help their bid and winning of the right to host. Nobody mentioned the Thai workers getting a pound an hour to make England shirts. Each shirt sells for £115 or so. Where’s the hypocrisy? That’s Nike’s way.
Put that aside and moving from summer to winter, banning beer for fans a few days before the tournament, dodgy underdeveloped fan accommodation, bad food, hack for hire schemes, forced labour including held passports and other problems. Avoiding a clash with the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics and Ramadan means pre-Christmas news features football controversies on a near hourly basis. 12 corrupt officials, 11 pounds a pint, 10 FIFA statements, 9 imprisoned hackers, 8 bags of cash, 7 passports missing, 6 lies-a-leaping, 5 air conditioners (nationwide), 4 building sites, 3 carbon footprints, 2 pundits flapping, 1 regime in denial, and 0 homsexuals.
When visiting a new country, exercising modesty and following local customs seems second nature to me. Honouring the Qatari way of life is fine. If someone steals, they accept the local punishment. Sharia laws are strong and it’s their gaff, their rules. Will the accused get a fair trial? That’s open to debate. Flagellation for adultery, anyone? Is it barbaric or a just punishment? Who am I to judge?
The sustainability of the World Cup is laughable. Brazil’s last tournament has derelict stadia, as does Russia, and South Africa. The original final venue in Uruguay, at Montevideo may get reused in 2030, and has tenants now in Montevideo City Torque F.C. How many stadiums crinkle and crumble? How many get moved? Plenty of air-conditioning has ensured Qatar will release plenty of emissions. But, at least Stadium 974, made of recycled shipping containers will move to Maldonado, Uruguay by 2030, if their World Cup bid is successful. On a non-judgemental side note the son of Nazi war criminal Albert Speer and his design firm were involved in all the stadium designs for World Cup 2022. The one that quoted his Uncle as being nice. Hitler was his uncle.
The Iranian team refused their national anthem versus England. Their fans held banners stating, ‘Woman. Life. Freedom.’ or simply a flag with ‘WOMEN‘ on it. Nobody noted that Qatar’s progressive regime has many female graduates and high-ranking female jobs. Qatar has non-discriminatory minimum wage systems, which removed the Kafala system in 2021. Change was inevitable. As was fan corruption to counter the protests. Denmark and sponsor Hummels will tone down their red, white and memorial (to dead workers) black shirts when they feature in the finals. Germany have been outspoken. Many European clubs unveiled banners in protest. Paris won’t be showing any football.
Qatar underwent a huge diplomatic relation crisis in 2017. Its neighbours effectively cut it off. It was a hard time but they have engaged regionally since. Sadly not, enough for Jewish visitors who were promised Koshar foods, prayer areas and safety. All were revoked and fans from Israel were told to be a tad silent. If I was Jewish, I wouldn’t want to step into grounds designed at a place that possibly profited from a WWII war criminal.
Make of it what you want, the World Cup has the love in motion, Arrivederci, it’s one on one. Something like that. Human rights, democracy and equality are going to rumble on as a debate until long after the trophy has been lifted. The Wales game versus USA wasn’t bad. I did feel dirty watching it though. More so because George Weah played for City and really annoyed me. His son scored for USA. Good on him. Haaland senior played for City around that time. His son returned to City recently. He’s not at the World Cup, sadly.
The World Cup goes on…