FIFA Politics - How The FIFA Is Helping To Sportwash Some Of The Most Cruel Dictatorships
Over the years, FIFA politicshas been against players, teams, and fans protesting or shouting slogans. However, it looks like the organization that runs soccer around the world may now be willing to let politicsand sports mix more than it used to.
Since before the first game, there have been arguments about how FIFA stopped European teams from supporting LGBTQ+ diversity, women's rights, the treatment of immigrant workers who built stadiums with air conditioning in the desert, and the availability of alcohol in the Muslim nation.
Despite the fact that Qatar has little to do with the "beautiful game," the dramas resurrected the idea that a sport claiming to be open to all ignored human rights and political repression in Qatarin exchange for a piece of its host country's oil wealth.
Now that goals are being scored, including two for Saudi Arabia in their shocking win over Lionel Messi's Argentina on Tuesday, FIFA hopes that politics will become a sideshow, even for fans who feel bad about watching their team in such a situation. But the political subplot could also be bad for PR.
For example, Iranian players didn't sing their national anthem in their first game against England on Monday. This could have been a protest against the Islamic Republic's violent crackdown on dissent.
But the discord caused by this tournament, which was made worse by the PR moves of global football leaders, is a window into geopolitical trends that are shaking old global centers of power at a time when the liberal order led by the West is being challenged in a way that has never happened before.
The Qatar World Cup is the clearest example yet of how a small group of very rich oil and gas companies in the Gulf are using their money to get a foothold among the most powerful countries in the world and to build tourism, entertainment, and sports industries that will keep them going when their carbon energy reserves run out. It also shows that they are willing to go against liberal values to get what they want.
The tournament is a test of how eager Western institutions, like sports teams and leagues, museums, and businesses, are to get a piece of the huge amount of money coming from the Middle East, even if it means putting their values at risk.
This is a reflection of how power and, especially, money are shifting around the world, from the capitals of Western Europe to new hubs in the Middle East, India, and China. And football, which is very popular all over the world, is getting a huge cut.
According to a researchfrom LigaDeportiva, traditional football clubs for the working class that have been part of their communities for decades are now owned by foreign energy magnates.
A group led by the United Arab Emirates purchased Manchester City in the Premier League.And Newcastle United is owned by a group led by Saudi Arabia.
This means that fans must decide whether or not it is ethical to support their local teams.
This shift in power around the world is changing more than just football. Since hundreds of millions of people in India watch the fast-paced IPL cricket league, England and Australia no longer have as much power in the sport.
Formula One now sends its 200-mph racers to multiple Middle Eastern circuits. Its international reach is similar to that of soccer.
And Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund is trying to break up the PGA Tour's dominance in the US by paying golf stars like Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson a lot of money to join their team.
It's called "sports washing" when an authoritarian country wants to improve its image by courting the world's best sports stars, even though it has been criticized for its political system and treatment of human rights.
China was accused of having such a plan for the summer and winter Olympics in 2008 and 2022, respectively. However, most attempts at political activism failed under China's strict rule.
At a time when football was supposed to "bring the world together," FIFA was trying hard to stop what it saw as unwelcome criticism from players and commentators.
This disagreement mostly came from the fact that Qatar was getting a lot of bad press for being the host of the World Cup, especially for how it treated foreign workers, LGBTQI+ people, and people who wanted to drink alcohol.
At the same time, security in Dohadetained Iranian supporters for the "crime" of donning T-shirts or holding signs in support of the recent protests against the Islamic Republic and its moral police.
Security personnel, government agents, and those who supported the government frequently took Persian flags and other items from before the revolution that read "Woman, Life, Freedom."
In the end, FIFA stepped in to reassure Iranians that symbols of dissent wouldn't be limited by World Cup officials anymore. However, this didn't happen until after the Iran team had been kicked out of the tournament.
In another place, Brazilian fans were in a very different kind of political bind. In recent years, their team's famous yellow jersey, the canarinho, has been used as a symbol of the right-wing populist movement led by former President Jair Bolsonaro.
Many supporters of the new left-wing president, who is known as Lula, think that the yellow jersey is still politically tainted. After all, Bolsanaro and his supporters used the canarinho in a way that was similar to how Donald Trump's supporters used "Make America Great Again" gear.
Long-term, leftist football fans want to reclaim and "democratize" the canarinho as a symbol of patriotism that isn't tied to any one party. For now, they want people to wear the less popular blue kit, which Brazil wore when they beat yellow-clad Sweden to win the 1958 World Cup.
Overall, FIFA's decision was criticized because Qatar does not protect the human rights of women, migrant workers, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and transsexual (LGBT) people, as well as journalists.
The basic equipment that everyone has to have can't have any political, religious, or personal slogans, images, or words on it. If a player's basic gear has political, religious, or personal slogans, images, or words on it, the competition organizer or FIFA will punish that player's team.
But in terms of human rights, the FIFA World Cup in Qatar will be remembered for all the wrong reasons: the lack of protections for women, journalists, and LGBTQ people; the deaths of thousands of migrant workers who built $220 billion worth of tournament infrastructure and stadiums over 12 years.
FIFA or its stakeholders frequently use the "power" of football and the World Cup to unite people and unite them as a whole as a selling point. But claims like "football is the cure for all ills" and "the World Cup breaks down barriers between cultures" don't hold up to scrutiny.
Human rights rules will have to be followed at future World Cups, even though Qatar (2022) and Russia (2018) didn't have to.
Still, FIFA politics has so much cognitive dissonance that Infantino dreamed about having the World Cup in North Korea on the day before the cup.