At the first match of the 2022 FIFA World Cup yesterday, Qatar became the first host nation in history to lose its opening game, a blow that may be particularly painful considering the country has spent over $220 billion in preparations. Ecuador’s 2 – 0 triumph sparked a slew of jokes on social media as fans allude to failed attempts at bribery and jail sentences for the Qatar players.
These comments build upon the now longstanding and widespread debate surrounding FIFA’s decision to allow Qatar, a country where homosexuality is punishable by death, to host an event as historic and significant as the World Cup.
Numerous celebrities, including Dua Lipa and Rod Stewart, have recently stated their refusal to perform at the games despite offers of over one million dollars to do so.
Controversially, Robbie Williams has taken the opposing stance, announcing that he will be performing at the Doha Golf Club in Qatar on December 8 since it would be “hypocritical” not to. He reasons this by saying “if we’re not condoning human rights abuses anywhere, then it would be the shortest tour the world has ever known: I wouldn’t even be able to perform in my own kitchen.”
🎙️ Abdullah Al Nasari, Head of Security at the World Cup in Qatar… 🏳️🌈🇶🇦 pic.twitter.com/gDnJfnmnrd
— Football Tweet ⚽ (@Football__Tweet) November 12, 2022
In yesterday’s opening speech, Qatar’s ruler Sheikh Tamin Bin Hamad Al Thani stated “people of all races, nationalities, beliefs, and orientations will gather here in Qatar and around screens across the continents to share in these exciting moments.”
He continued these sentiments saying, “how lovely it is that people can put aside what divides them to celebrate their diversity and what brings them together at the same time.”
Despite this message of acceptance, the Sharia laws that govern the country and the stadium alike led to a feeling of “constant pressure,” as one fan at yesterday’s match stated, with spectators fearing the consequences of doing or saying the wrong thing.
This trepidation clearly did not extend to all fans though, as those from Ecuador, the game’s victors, rallied together against restrictions prohibiting alcohol in the stadium by chanting “queremos cerveza” (we want beer).
Ecuador fans are chanting "Queremos Cerveza" at the World Cup in Qatar.
Translation: "We want beer."pic.twitter.com/Sxxy3z3R48
— Front Office Sports (@FOS) November 20, 2022
Multiple news outlets including the BBC took the time to set their coverage of the match within the context of the shocking human rights violations that have reportedly taken place in Qatar as recently as last month.
LGBTQ people have been particularly victimised by the stringent laws enforced across the country.
In fact, the Human Rights Watch group recently interviewed four transgender women, one bisexual woman, and one gay man detained between 2019 and 2022. They all reported that they were held without charge and both verbally and physically abused whilst in police custody.
Furthermore, according to the Group, “all six said police forced them to sign pledges indicating they would ‘cease immoral activity’,” with the transgender women also instructed to attend conversion therapy.
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These reports are coupled with allegations of dire treatment of migrant workers in preparation for what is by far the most expensive World Cup in history.
It is believed that these tasks related to Qatar’s hosting, such as the construction of the stadium which began in 2014, have cost 15,021 migrants their lives. This is more than double the 6,500 fatalities caused by the Russo-Ukraine war.
Beyond this, there have also been countless instances of unpaid wages and reports of workers having their passports confiscated, leaving them with no choice but to perform the “grueling work” demanded and reside in the squalid labour camps haphazardly set up.
Amnesty International have led calls for these injustices to be rectified and for the lost lives and wages to be compensated by FIFA and Qatar.
FIFA has banned Harry Kane 🏴 from wearing the One Love armband.
There are concerns he could be booked as soon as the game kicks off if he goes ahead and wears it. 🏳️🌈 pic.twitter.com/cUTx0z1lQp
— FIFA World Cup 2022 (@2022_QatarWC) November 20, 2022
Some players have attempted to use their platform to openly advocate for equal rights, including England’s captain Harry Kane who planned to wear a One Love armband at the team’s games.
Kane will unfortunately not be allowed to proceed with this demonstration, as FIFA believe that were he to do so he would be booked immediately and potentially suspended as a consequence.
This decision, as well as the warnings against public displays of affection delivered to the crowd, shows that whilst tolerance was preached at the opening ceremony, the country’s regulations will retain a tight grip over the games.
It consequently seems that whilst the FA promises that “football is for everyone,” this year that couldn’t be further from the truth.
It is easy for Gianni Infantino, the president of FIFA, to urge spectators and the media to “focus on the football.” However, the unfortunate reality is that, given the country’s recent demonstrations of intolerance, this focus is impossible for the many fans who break Sharia law by simply being themselves.
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed here by the authors are their own, not those of Impakter.com — In the Featured Photo: Doha, Qatar. Featured Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons.