Damn World Cup kicks off, Qatar in no mood to apologize for 2022 World Cup

youPut away faded summer bunting. Turn the thermostat up half a notch. Bathed in the yellow glow of that rectangular screen in the corner of the room. The most divisive, brutal, and incredibly corrupt sporting event of the modern era is with us right now. The time has finally come to discover the astonishment, as the 2022 FIFA Men’s World Cup in Qatar repeatedly urges passing traffic on the endless fences and fences that surround this city of light and sheer surface.

Football players from Ecuador and Qatar will play the opener at the Al Bayt Stadium on Sunday night. Over the next 29 days, Qatar’s eight brand new arenas, gleaming glass and steel monuments to those killed in their construction, will live out their own short tomb-like lives before being demolished or converted into shopping center.

England take on Iran in a heatwave on Monday afternoon. Wales play the United States in the evening. 12 years, £220 billion, and thousands of unexplained deaths, it looks like we’re really going to be playing football. Welcome to the damn World Cup.

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Qatar: Beyond football


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Getting to this point is a painstaking process. It’s been 12 years since FIFA staged a ridiculously pompous double World Cup bid in Zurich. Former President Sepp Blatter seems genuinely convinced he will win the Nobel Peace Prize by awarding 2018 and 2022 to Russia and the United States. Instead, from the moment Blatter opened the envelope and stammered out the word “Qatar” – which Blatter knew then – he lit the fuse under FIFA’s own mountain bunker. .

Later in the day, with a Cold War Steve-esque montage of A-listers from Boris Johnson to Bill Clinton slinking back to their helicopters, Vladimir Putin Appeared on stage in Zurich for a triumphant impromptu press conference. Fast forward to today, and since that day, 16 of FIFA’s 22 voting committee members have been tainted by some form of corruption, both alleged and proven, ranging from arrest and extradition warrants, to After accepting the Picasso paintings of the Russian bidding team and other slight negligence, I really regretted it and said sorry.

Sepp Blatter (left) shakes hands with Vladimir Putin after Russia was announced as host for the 2018 World Cup in 2010
Sepp Blatter, left, shakes hands with Vladimir Putin in 2010 after Russia was announced as host for the 2018 World Cup. Photo: Kurt Schorrer/AP

It’s the first item on Qatar’s charge sheet for 2022, a World Cup essentially awarded by a toxic criminal organization. But that’s just the backstory here. In the years since, the suffering of the fast-track migrant workers hired to build the event has been widely reported. The Guardian reported that as many as 6,500 workers may have died since Qatar won the World Cup.

Qatar disputes this. For a long time, it brought the total down to three. Qatar has also refused to conduct proper autopsies on the dead of its work. Various independent reports point to cases of cardiac arrest due to long hours in the desert heat, to a workforce managed on the basis of entrenched institutional racism, and to some truly heartbreaking details. The New York Times reported this week that at least 2,100 Nepalis have died in Qatar since 2010, 200 of them by suicide.

It takes a certain amount of cognitive dissonance to continue watching a spectacle plagued by these absences. Qatar’s official 2022 mascot, named La’eeb, is billed as an elf from the mascot’s underworld and is modeled on the traditional regional white cloth headdress. Basically, La’eeb looks like a smiling, friendly ghost presented to those arriving at Doha’s international airport in an unintentionally poignant way via a hologram box. Here he is the cheeky, ghostly face of a World Cup shrouded in death.

The question of exactly why Qatar staged this spectacle probably hasn’t been asked enough. Qatar has no serious football culture. At the time it had no infrastructure, and the cost of visiting was still ridiculously high.

FIFA used the argument of expanding the game because it was ahead of the 1978 edition of Murder. Indeed, there is a huge hunger for football in the Middle East and the Gulf region. Hosting the World Cup in winter in Europe for the first time is not an unreasonable demand from the rest of the world. But why not take this thing to a place where it can actually take root, to a developing country where FIFA’s vast wealth can be used to help build the facilities that are actually needed?

The term sportswashing has long been a convenient, all-encompassing interpreter for hardline states using sports to boost their public image. This is of course nothing new. The FIFA World Cup has been the plaything of tyrants for as long as there has been a FIFA World Cup. Its second edition was staged in Benito Mussolini’s Italy. Only the intervention of World War II saved us from losing World Cup 42 to Nazi Germany.

This is a little different. Qatar is not on a charm offensive. Qatar has no ambitions beyond its own borders. Qatar has natural gas for 200 years. It doesn’t need to be liked. Instead, the World Cup now looks like part of a broader national security plan, a way for the world to see the uber-rich little peninsula, either on the map or to minimize its exposure to coups and lockdowns vulnerability. This is the changing plate of hard power, security, global wealth and influence.

Indeed, with the start of the World Cup, Qatar’s status has been elevated by Europe’s energy crisis – the result of a war waged by the hosts of the last World Cup – with a decidedly tough attitude that Qatar is indeed not in the mood to keep apologizing for.

It’s hard not to feel that Qatar was right too, reading the way the world was turning, its incredible announcement as host in 2010 and its growing influence over the ensuing 12 years. Now we have this: a brutal and grim end to Big Football’s reimagining of itself as a luxury publicity tool.

But hey, Harry Kane is healthy. Perhaps Gareth Southgate can be lured out of his home base and persuaded to play a back four instead of a back five. It might even end up being a pretty good tournament on the field. Brazil, France and Argentina are favorites to win the title, and all three teams are packed with high-end offensive talent. England were strong enough to crash out of the group stage, but also good enough to carry them all the way to the end. Wales will bring vibes, collectivism and a sunbathing late Gareth Bale. The show will go on. The world, as always, will be watching.

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