Modern Football & Qatar 2022: Moral Ambivalence, Political Corruption, Welsh Nationalism and Essential Protest
Does boycotting the World Cup achieve anything?
(A protest in 2015 by the International Trade Union against the deaths of migrant workers building the stadiums in Qatar)
There are two distinct sections on This Red Planet: alongside the required home page sits ‘The Joy of Football’ and ‘Football is Broken’. Juxtaposed like the whirling confusion that exists within the brain of any fan of this wonderful sport with even a hint of a conscience. Liverpool fans in particular, as highlighted by Paul recently, are currently facing this moral dilemma: if and when our current owners FSG sell up, how would we react if a nation state bought us, invested billions turning us into the best team in the world, creating a side who would dominate the Premier League with magnificent style and verve, wowing the masses with one hand and painting a perfect sportswashing PR picture with the other.
Well a similar dilemma exists now with the World Cup currently taking place in Qatar. As a 10 year old, watching the tournament in Italy, it triggered a passion for the sport that has existed ever since. It all seemed so other worldly. Accompanied by Panini sticker albums, swapsies, players I’d never heard of, and teams like Cameroon who I’d never seen: it was dream land. Unfortunately, the naivety of youth soon ebbs away as you start to learn about football’s governing bodies - and in particular FIFA. Rife with corruption, riddled with bungs and backhanders, ravaged by a burning desire to milk the very essence of the sport’s soul for every last corporate penny.
Well, even FIFA - now led by Gianni Infantino - managed to outdo themselves in recent times: not only did they award the World Cup to Russia, which in hindsight looks like a precursor to illegal warwashing (always feels like the word ‘washing’ hugely underplays the seriousness of what’s being attempted by these regimes; surely ‘poisonous propaganda’ is a better phrase?) they also ‘handed’ the 2022 version to Qatar. Nevermind milking the corporate cow for every last cent, they’ve now decided they may as well use the wealth of nations to line their pockets; lest we remember the organisation is non-profit, while sitting on cash reserves of $1.5bn in 2021.
Moving on, and focusing on the idea of boycotting the World Cup, my own personal decision on whether to watch or not has been flip-flopping more often than a Tory Chancellor in 2022. That was until I heard David Goldblatt - one of the finest football historians and writers - discuss the subject on this Tifo Podcast last week. He lists five of the main reasons why a boycott is justified: