My World Cup Problem
It's December 2022 and the football World Cup is currently happening. The World Cup is something many football fans look forward to; happening every four years it is a celebration of football, cultures and community.
Image from wix.com
While I have seen clips enough times to feel like I watched Italy'90 and USA'94, my first actual memories of the World Cup are of France'98. The Round of 16 tie with Argentina had real World Cup flashpoint. Michael Owen's goal, David Beckham's red card and a penalty shootout loss. I have fonder memories of Japan & South Korea'02, maybe because I was older? I remember waking up early because of the time difference for fixtures. The amazing culture and celebrations that seemed to be shared throughout the tournament. That again seemed like a huge part of South Africa'10 with many around the world being introduced to the vuvuzela and to the excitement of a new tournament ball, the Jabulani.
We will all have our own moments and memories of tournament football and of the World Cup. Assuming you are a football fan, or even passive watcher. Many including myself have approached this year's World Cup differently. Not with excitement or anticipation, but with concern, disappointment and anger.
The 2022 World Cup is being held in Qatar. As with all World Cup hosts, arguably part of the reason to host the World Cup is to bring more eyes and attention to your country; as a travel or business destination. With the added attention on Qatar, criticisms have been reported of Qatar as a World Cup host and the hosting selection process. Qatar has also received negative press focusing on their human rights; specifically drawing on treatment of migrant workers, women and LGBT people.
Additionally, there have been reports about the process in which World Cups are awarded. However that, from the reports I've read, seems to be far more a FIFA issue than one specifically with Qatar.
If you would like to read more about this, here are some of the sources I have read/ watched/ listened to:
All of this is means I am not excited about this World Cup, I want to be, but I am not. I am very aware there are more important issues at play. Maybe it's sports washing, maybe it's cultural issues and crimes, maybe it's our approach to these issues and our challenges.
I had decided before the World Cup started I would not watch any non England game, limiting my support and engagement in this World Cup. However, as the tournament got closer, I read more articles and listened to the three (linked above) Football Ramble podcast episodes and decided I just couldn't watch and enjoy even England matches.
I am so disappointed to not be able to watch, enjoy and celebrate the festival of football. But FIFA's approach to this tournament and responses to questions has just made this inaccessible to me. Even the smallest protest planned by a number of European clubs to wear a 'OneLove' armband was met with the response of sanctions (more here). What's worse, is then those teams, including England, backed down. From wearing an armband!
I do worry if England win or even make the final, will I have missed the one chance I could have to watch my country win the World Cup. Maybe... But, I'll be alive and allowed to love. Which isn't the case for everyone.
At some point we all have to decide what we are comfortable with and what we choose to support (actively or passively). And for me, this World Cup; is something I can not and do not support.
FIFA is not football.