Highlights

  • The beautiful game's biggest celebration kicks off
  • Questions over propriety haunt Qatar World Cup
  • Is this an example of 'sportswashing'?

Latest news

Aaftab Poonawala asks jail authorities to provide novels, books | Shraddha case

Aaftab Poonawala asks jail authorities to provide novels, books | Shraddha case

'Not serious': Zelenskyy reacts to Price cap level on Russian oil by EU, G7

'Not serious': Zelenskyy reacts to Price cap level on Russian oil by EU, G7

Iran starts construction on $2 billion new nuclear power plant

Iran starts construction on $2 billion new nuclear power plant

FIFA World Cup 2022: Lionel Messi inspires Argentina to 2-1 win over Australia in 1000th game

FIFA World Cup 2022: Lionel Messi inspires Argentina to 2-1 win over Australia in 1000th game

MCD Polls: Who will win the high stakes Delhi civic polls?

MCD Polls: Who will win the high stakes Delhi civic polls?

Decoded: FIFA World Cup in Qatar kicks off amid 'sportswashing' allegations

The Qatar World Cup has been embroiled in controversy since it was announced. Is it an example of 'sportswashing'? 

Held once every four years, the FIFA World Cup is supposed to be a celebration of the beautiful game. The world’s best players, representing their nations, and competing for the top prize - there’s a certain air of romance to the whole thing.

Countries from all over the world descend on one location to essentially play a lot of football - it’s a real melting pot of cultures and camaraderie and sporting spirit. World Cups are supposed to be above concerns like geopolitics, and political rivalries, and even wars. But that’s a bit of a lofty ideal.

In reality, football’s biggest competition is as susceptible to corruption and political pressure as any large event. Never has this been more evident than the last decade.

The process for the bidding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups began around March 2009. On December 2, 2010, it was announced that Russia and Qatar respectively would host the tournaments. The decisions were immediately controversial.

The Qatar World Cup, in particular, has been embroiled in controversy since it was announced. Qatar is a small country on the northeastern coast of the middle east - it’s pretty small in size, around one fifth of the state of Uttarakhand, is home to less than 3 million people. It’s also a hereditary monarchy, with Islam as an official state religion.

Also Watch: Decoded: India's big diplomatic moment at G20 amid US - China relations & Ukraine - Russia war

Right away, critics saw a disconnect between the tournament and the assigned host. Qatar has no real history or legacy of footballing culture, it had never qualified for a World Cup before it hosted one, and it follows religious law guidelines, which often stand at odds with the fan culture of most major footballing nations.

This was quite evident over the issue of alcohol, for example. Drinking is a big part of European fan culture, alcohol is abundantly sold in stadiums, and flows quite freely. In Qatar, alcohol is legal in some specific areas for non-residents, but is not allowed for the Muslim population.

During the bidding process, Qatari officials had indicated that alcohol would be sold in special ‘fan zones’ in and around stadiums. On November 18, two days before the games were to begin, Qatar announced that alcohol would not be permitted in stadiums.

There are also larger human rights concerns. For one, the Qatar World Cup required the building of many entirely new stadiums, which were built by migrant labour brought in from South Asia. A 2013 investigation by The Guardian found that many workers were denied food and water, had their identity papers taken away from them, were compelled to forced labor, and were either not paid on time or at all, making some of them effectively slaves. Another report by the newspaper said that between the years of 2010 and 2020, 6,500 migrant workers - all from South Asia - had died in Qatar.

Also Watch: Decoded: World leaders converge at COP27 as time runs out to save the world

Then, of course, was the issue of LGBTQ+ rights. Homosexuality is illegal in Qatar, and is punishable by fines and up to seven years imprisonment. Despite this, the country had announced that rainbow flags will be allowed in stadiums. However, many reports have said that fans wearing the rainbow have been barred from entering World Cup stadiums, and confronted by security and members of the public to remove the emblem.

So, if there are so many issues with human rights and the cultural fit of this tournament, why was it awarded to Qatar in the first place?

Allegations of corruption and vote buying have been levelled at the Qatar World Cup since it was first announced. A FIFA internal investigation has cleared Qatar of any wrongdoing, but has since been decried by its own author, who said that the final report was incomplete and erroneous. In May 2015, Swiss federal prosecutors opened an investigation into the bid, and former FIFA President Sepp Blatter - who was himself forced to resign amid corruption allegations - has suggested that Qatar cheated to win the hosting rights.

It has never been definitely proven that Qatar cheated in the bid process. But over time, 11 of the 22 FIFA Executive Committee members that voted for Qatar to host the World Cup have been fined, suspended, banned for life, or even prosecuted for corruption.

But why did Qatar, a nation with no particular history of football, want to host the World Cup to begin with?

The term ‘sportswashing’ has come to describe the practice of countries or organisations trying to improve their reputations that have been tarnished through some wrongdoing. Critics have applied it to the Qatar World Cup. The claim, then, goes that Qatar is using the goodwill generated by the usually joyous atmosphere of the FIFA World Cup to cover up its human rights abuses and shady arms deals.

If that was indeed Qatar’s aim, it is unclear how much it has worked. Conversation around these issues is at its peak as the World Cup has begun. The BBC chose to ignore the opening ceremony, with global stars like Morgan Freeman and Jungkook from BTS, and covered the controversies around the tournament instead.

But, as the tournament goes on, upsets and 7-goal routs dominate headlines, and sporting talking points overwhelm political ones, the football must be played. The show must go on. The conversations that arise after the World Cup has ended, will decide how successful the sportswashing has been.

Up Next

Decoded: FIFA World Cup in Qatar kicks off amid 'sportswashing' allegations

Decoded: FIFA World Cup in Qatar kicks off amid 'sportswashing' allegations

The India Story | China Covid protests: Xi Jinping regime backed into a corner?

The India Story | China Covid protests: Xi Jinping regime backed into a corner?

Should cannabis be decriminalised in India? | The Issue

Should cannabis be decriminalised in India? | The Issue

The history of cannabis in India | The Issue

The history of cannabis in India | The Issue

Decoded: India's big diplomatic moment at G20 amid US - China relations & Ukraine - Russia war

Decoded: India's big diplomatic moment at G20 amid US - China relations & Ukraine - Russia war

The India Story | G20 presidency: India’s big diplomatic moment?

The India Story | G20 presidency: India’s big diplomatic moment?

More videos

Decoded: World leaders converge at COP27 as time runs out to save the world

Decoded: World leaders converge at COP27 as time runs out to save the world

India's biggest camera museum Ft. Aditya Arya | The Footnote

India's biggest camera museum Ft. Aditya Arya | The Footnote

The India Story | Chaos or order: What will Twitter look like under Elon Musk?

The India Story | Chaos or order: What will Twitter look like under Elon Musk?

Decoded: Elon Musk takes over Twitter, and chaos reigns

Decoded: Elon Musk takes over Twitter, and chaos reigns

Decoded: Can Rishi Sunak unite a divided United Kingdom?

Decoded: Can Rishi Sunak unite a divided United Kingdom?

Air pollution: equally bad for all? | The Issue

Air pollution: equally bad for all? | The Issue

Air pollution: Delhi's unique conundrum | The Issue

Air pollution: Delhi's unique conundrum | The Issue

The India Story | ‘Rising Dragon’: How will India deal with a resurgent China?

The India Story | ‘Rising Dragon’: How will India deal with a resurgent China?

How does Author Amish Tripathi avoid controversy?

How does Author Amish Tripathi avoid controversy?

The India Story | In controversial times, can India accept multiple truths? Author Amish answers

The India Story | In controversial times, can India accept multiple truths? Author Amish answers

Editorji Technologies Pvt. Ltd. © 2022 All Rights Reserved.