The next few weeks will be a reminder of the clash between the values of the West and the rich Arab countries that can play out on the world stage if not to everyone’s liking.
First, Qatar’s human rights record is patchy. A democracy in name only, the country is ruled by the Al Thani dynasty, which imprisons LGBTQ people who engage in homosexuality. UK human rights activist Peter Tatchell was kicked out of the country last week after he attacked a one-man demonstration outside Qatar’s National Museum. On German television last week, Qatar’s World Cup commentator, Khalid Salam, chose at the time to say that homosexuality is a form of “evil in the mind. “
Then there is the human disease. About 6,500 migrant workers died while building the glittering infrastructure of the tournament in Qatar, including highways, hotels and eight stadiums (one was built like a Bedouin tent, the one made from 974 recycled shipping containers). Authorities say they have cleaned up the practices since then.
Even Sepp Blatter, the former president of FIFA, the biggest power in the world of football, calls his decision to give the World Cup to Qatar in 2010 “a bad choice.” Blatter told the Swiss paper Tages-Anzeiger: “It’s a very small country. Football and the World Cup are too much for this.
The decision was mired in controversy and allegations of corruption. Blatter was acquitted of fraud charges by a Swiss court in July. The U.S. Department of Justice also believes that FIFA members sponsored the vote for Qatar, although the country has repeatedly denied it.
However it doesn’t get any better when you consider the Qatari perspective. Qatar competed with the UAE for trading power in the Gulf, so winning the right to host a World Cup was a big propaganda move. The Al Thanis have billions to spend and the West wants their money and natural gas. Qatar already has several major league European football clubs; Why should the kingdom not receive their reward?
Western leaders are happy to host international sporting events such as the World Cup and the Olympics. These employees don’t care about politics when the games are on schedule. It’s just business.
The World Cup was milked for promotion by Mussolini’s Italy in 1934, Argentina’s tyrannical army in 1978 and Vladimir Putin’s Russia in 2018. So why choose the poorest of the poor? Qatar, which wants to be friends with everyone, and guarantee its 300,000 people a very comfortable life as long as they keep their heads down?
In addition, bureaucrats are aware of the competition that autocracies provide. Their massive construction projects avoid all the dangerous compromises and crippling delays in democratic planning. Consider how long it would take to build a train line in the UK or an airport in Germany. Never mind Qatar’s long-standing support for the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamic restrictions on alcohol in Qatar can be relaxed (slightly) for tourists during the tournament with the swing of a gold coin. solid owner.
Western greed and deceit go hand in hand. Many celebrities, models and sports figures turn up to pose for photos at Gay Pride events and support local charities who are happy to receive Qatari money to promote the World Cup. . To the al Thanis, everything and everyone in the West seems to have been sold.
In any case, if the West wants to influence the kingdoms of the Arabs, it should be involved. According to Lord Charles Powell, the leader of the British prime ministers, “the days of the Gulf being an embargo for the US, and the UK, are over.” China and Russia have a trade and security rivalry in the region. To the east and the west, Iran and Israel are working for the benefit. We cannot ignore these connections. Yet one minute Washington is calling for a civil rights record for civil rights, the next he’s asking for help to keep oil prices down.
Of course, I will welcome the England team next week with my compatriots. But make no doubt, even if what you are watching is good football, winning the World Cup is a bad game.
This post does not reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP or its owners.
Martin Ivens is the editor of the Times Literary Supplement. Previously, he was the editor of the Sunday Times of London and his main political columnist.
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