BILLY MORRELL argues that virtue-signalling will do little to counter the already inherent political nature of big business football
The whistle sounds as the game gets going under the scorching winter sun. 832 of the world’s best athletes all striving to write their name in history and be their country’s hero. Fans in the stadiums roar for their nation, while fans at home gather at pubs, fan zones, and their living rooms to cheer their boys and their quest for eternal glory on… right?
There are plenty of fans around the globe who have said they won’t be tuning in for this year’s iteration of the FIFA World Cup, despite it often being labelled football’s ‘most prestigious tournament’.
It’s no secret that this year’s World Cup is controversial. Whether it’s the alleged deaths of migrant workers (a number that keeps growing, even by the Qatari government’s official count), or the nation’s appalling human rights record, even the bid that won them the cup in the first place is marked by supposed corruption. Even now, as the tournament rages on, we’re seeing controversy, with items being taken from fans and journalists being intimidated by security guards.
All of this has culminated in a divide between football fans. Those with a ‘get on with it’ philosophy, wishing to ‘keep politics out of football’ and ignore the controversy, and those taking a stand against the regime by not watching it.
But look. It’s time to face the truth. Professional football is inherently political. Perhaps in a time long gone, the sport was just that, a sport. Today, every decision that FIFA make is political. Recognising nations, banning ones from competing, and supporting (or rejecting) protest. Everything.
FIFA this, Fee for That!
And even if you ignore all that, the high-stakes financial aspect completely overrules any semblance of an apolitical institution. The fact of the matter is that FIFA seem to only care about one thing and one thing only – making money. Who has money? Qatar, and lots of it. Backdoor deals between those in power and diplomats likely stand at the forefront of any decisions the organisation make. In fact, 16 of the 22 people who awarded the nation the world cup are either suspended, jailed, or charged according to TV2. Coincidence? Sure, why not.
However, let’s also be real about the latter belief.
A boycott is going to make no difference whatsoever.
Boycotts can, and have been effective in the past, yes. But never in a case as massive as this. Not watching TV for a few weeks is hardly going to make a dent in the pockets of the fourth richest nation in the world. Especially when in the rest of the season, they benefit from us punters watching the teams that they and their equally controversial neighbours own. Or is it okay in relation to club football because it is highlighted less?
And even if we don’t watch, our own government relies way too heavily on its relationships with Qatar to ever stand against them. It’s a sad fact that this feels like a situation where the common person is completely powerless.
Watch and learn
Let us watch the World Cup. Not while being ignorant to the atrocities for the sake of avoiding conflict. But listening to the stories of those who have been treated awfully by the regime, raise awareness, reach out to representatives who can enact change and put effective pressure on our wider government to do more for those affected. Call out players and football associations who planned even the most minute form of protest, but backed down the second they faced the slightest bit of opposition. But if aren’t doing any of that, please don’t virtue signal by announcing you aren’t watching it to make yourself seem like some kind of hero.
The World Cup is available live on BBC and ITV until Sunday 18th December.
Written by Billy Morrell