Peter Anderson ⚽️ With the World Cup in Qatar looming, there have been some interesting opinions on show lately.
ITV did a great documentary last week, highlighting the awful abuse of the migrant workers who built the stadia where the games will be played. They spoke with the family of a Jordanian building manager who took the side of striking workers. The strikers claimed to have not been paid for months. The Jordanian was arrested and jailed for 3 years in a fast tracked and unlawful trial. His family claim that the Qataris wanted him silenced in the run up to the World Cup. The docu also highlighted the shocking lack of rights for women, gays and other minorities and pointed out that Qatar supplies the UK with much of its gas, implying the UK is not doing enough to pressure the Qataris on their awful human rights record.
At this point we get into the realms of moral relativism. Is it the UK's, or indeed FIFA's, job to meddle in Qatar's affairs ? Internation relations and moral relativism are minefields to be argued over in loftier tomes than my column, but it does beg the question if the World Cup should even be played in Qatar in the first place.
Liverpool's manager addressed this question during his weekend presser and as usual he was quite brilliant. Gotta love 'ol Klopp! He berated the journalists for not attacking the original decision with enough vigour back in 2012. Back then the World Cups in Russia and Qatar were announced at the same time. It was obvious that FIFA had obtained back handers from two states eager to launder their dirty images by staging the world's second favourite sporting competition. Questions were asked but not enough opposition was galvanised to reverse the decision. Klopp told the gathered journalists to stop asking managers and players to condemn this or that, we are where we are: Russia got their games and Qatar are about to get theirs.
FIFA's defence is that they gave the games to countries where football needs developing, and that is a righteous policy which worked in the USA and South Africa, but the world and his wife knows the real reason Russia and Qatar got the nod: corruption, pure and simple. In FIFA's defence, it must be a nightmare trying to negotiate the minefield of representing the rights of women, gays and the disabled across the globe in countries with very different morals and values. For example, the ITV docu railed against the Qatari's state-run "gay conversion" clinics, but these also exist in the USA. Having said that, FIFA have lost all the moral high ground by taking bribes. The Blatter years were an absolute disgrace, and I don't think much has changed.
But Klopp's best point was that only one stadium existed in Qatar in 2012, and that many needed to be built. To build 8 large stadia leaves an awful carbon footprint for constructions that will never get used after the games finish. All the stadia would have to be built quickly and cheaply by imported labour. That labour would be poorly paid, relative to Qatari standards, and would have to work in temperatures reaching 50c in summer. This should have been enough to render the World Cup as unplayable in Qatar. But money talks.
So, for Klopp the players and managers are in a bind. The World Cup is going ahead and they have to go, duty calls, but do the pundits and journos? Those two socially conscious ex-football players, Neville and Lineker, seem to think so. They have plenty to say on the rights of UK citizens and the ills of the Tory government, yet seem happy to take the Qatari dollar and to hell with workers' rights. Neville appeared on Have I Got News For You and got absolutely slaughtered. He asked the panel the question: Is it (the world Cup trophy) coming home? And the reply was: Is your reputation! Ian Hislop pointing out that criticising the Qataris while taking their dollars is a tad hypocritical. Neville claimed that he is going to Qatar because it is better to criticise the regime from the inside. We'll see how much criticism he brings forth, but I suspect that it won't be much.
A few weeks out from the start of the World Cup and I have mixed feelings about the whole shebang. In my youth the World Cup was the greatest possible thing imaginable. As I get older the modern world and FIFA are doing their best to taint it. If the football is as good as Russia 2018, there may still be a partial redemption.