The World Cup that never should have been has finally fully kicked off, and it’s been just as harrowing as every self-respecting football fan feared.
The normal pre-tournament buzz has been usurped by feelings of anger and dread, signposted by FIFA lies, appalling statistics, and division throughout every sinew of the beautiful game.
It’s almost laughable how poor a host country Qatar is to represent the sport we all hold so closely to our hearts. The disgusting treatment of migrant workers, criminalisation of homosexuality, and ludicrous scourge on the environment has made this World Cup a travesty and embarrassment.
It’s important to remember how the awarding of the most coveted sporting trophy in the world was given to a country with almost no football heritage, is down to the corruption and idiocy of FIFA. Nothing encapsulated this more than FIFA president Infantino’s sprawling pre-tournament speech in which he tried to display empathy for the communities that have done nothing but suffer since the decision to host the WC in the Qatari wilderness.
As indigestible as all of the above has been, another hammer blow has come from legends of the game endorsing this year’s World Cup – most notably, David Beckham. In a commendable and charitable stunt leading up to kick off, queer comedian Joe Lycett challenged former gay icon Becks to withdraw from his Qatar sponsorship deal as an act of solidarity with the gay community. He, of course, didn’t. Relatedly, the ever-admirable Arsenal fan group Gay Gooners hosted a protest outside the Qatari embassy in London to show their abhorrence towards the competition.
In a similar act of defiance, #PayUpFIFA has become synonymous with the tournament. A call to action for the world’s most powerful football organisation to face consequences for the amount of injuries and deaths brought upon migrant workers. Jeremy Corbyn also took to Instagram to display his dismay via a photo of himself at Tufnell Park.
There has been a lot of pressure for important figures and players to speak out on the matter, as the only way to avoid this travesty again is to protest on a wide scale before it is too late. It is going to take great efforts to dismantle FIFA, especially with Infantino at the helm at conveniently announcing he is unchallenged for presidency.
On the pitch, football has been football. Unpredictable, astonishing, emotional, and passionate. A huge black cloud looms over the players who unfortunately have to deal with the pinnacle of their career being shrouded in misery. Although not necessarily their responsibility at all, some players and teams have powerfully shown their disinterest in a variety of ways. The German national team powerfully covered their mouths in an image which will undoubtedly live on as a defiant memory of this WC. Similarly, the Iran players protested their own government’s military involvement by refusing to sing the national anthem.
The English contingent did flirt with a OneLove statement, but the threat of a yellow card was apparently too significant a risk. It is important to emphasise that it is not the player’s responsibility to navigate this disaster, but it would have been a great message (if not a salve) to the fans at home to show solidarity with the queer communities that love the game so much.
It was great to see Saka and Rashford show their courage after the events of Euro 2020 by bagging on the world stage. In other on-the-pitch activity, it was also amazing to see the legendary Ochoa save a penalty, concreting himself (if he needed to at all) as a legend of the World Cup.
Although many football fans feel hostage to this World Cup, choosing not to watch it, or feeling guilty by doing so. It is important to seek enjoyment from on-field activities when you can, it is still our game after all.
Stay tuned for further round ups from this unique (to put it kindly) World Cup.