World Cup

Boycott the 2022 World Cup in Qatar – or not?

O you happy, o you blessed? The final of the most controversial soccer World Cup to date is scheduled to take place on December 18, 2022 at the Lusail Iconic Stadium in Qatar – and thus on the fourth Sunday in Advent. During the public viewing, fans can freeze together at Germany’s Christmas markets. 

And at the stands there are Christmas tree balls with the face of national coach Hansi Flick. The date of the “Advent World Cup”, which seems absurd for European habits and is due to the summer heat in Qatar, is one of the more harmless aspects of the “FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022” – an event between corruption, human rights violations and the stadiums as death traps for the disenfranchised Construction worker.

 Or is that just the western one, supercritical view of things? Does the tournament even offer a chance for the people of Qatar and other authoritarian states in the Gulf region? 

What speaks for a boycott – and what against it? In a new episode of our “Find the balance” series, weighs the arguments.Players from all over the world will soon be on the field at the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022.

Pro Boycott: The purchased World Cup

The fact that corruption is almost always involved in the awarding of major sporting events such as the World Cup or the Olympics – who would know that better than soccer fans in Germany? Why the 2006 World Cup was “visiting friends” and what role “Kaiser” Franz Beckenbauer played in it has not been fully clarified to this day. 

Beckenbauer refers to “memory gaps”. But when the 2018 World Cup was awarded to Russia and the 2022 World Cup to Qatar, new records were obviously set in terms of smearing and bribery. “Does anyone remember December 2, 2010?” write the authors Bernd-M. Beyer and Dietrich Schulze-Marmeling in their book Boycott Qatar 2022!

 Why we have to stop FIFA” (Verlag Die Werkstatt, 160 pages, 12, 90 euros) on the decisive vote of the Executive Committee of the world football association FIFA. And further: “It would be an exaggeration to say that it was the Nine-Eleven of international football, but it was a huge shock and a turning point.”

Because on that day, Joseph S. “Sepp” Blatter, the then President of FIFA, held up a note that said “Qatar”. That left the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, an authoritarian, monarchist state with no significant football tradition or culture, where political parties are banned, Sharia law is the main source of legislation, and homosexuality is punishable by up to five years in prison . 

14 of the 22 members of the executive committee, which also included the later “slave denier” Franz Beckenbauer (but not a single woman), voted for Qatar. Only eight opted for competitor USA. The committee actually had 24 members – but two were no longer allowed to vote because they had already been exposed as corrupt.

 “In fact, it was a criminal organization that awarded the tournaments to Russia and Qatar. For that reason alone, the World Cup should have been withdrawn from both countries and a new decision made,” write Beyer and Schulze-Marmeling in their book. Only six months after FIFA’s decision, ten members of the committee were suspected of having sold their vote. 

The influence of politics was obviously enormous. Because Qatar is well connected worldwide and now also in Germany, from VW to Deutsche Bank, one of the largest foreign investors. Among others, the then Federal President Christian Wulff, the later Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel and the French President Nicolas Sarkozy are said to have campaigned for the 2022 World Cup to be held in Qatar. 

Can a tournament be awarded under these dubious circumstances? And is this award allowed to endure after all the dirty revelations? Or should the critics from summer fairy tale Germany be very quiet here?

Against boycott: change through dialogue

FC Bayern Munichhas maintained excellent – ​​and often heavily criticized – contacts with Qatar for years. The German champion regularly flies to the winter training camp in the capital Doha. And on the sleeves of the FCB shirts is the logo of the state airline Qatar Airways, one of the club’s most important sponsors. Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, Bayern CEO for many years, repeatedly defended the partnership with the Gulf state during his tenure:

“We at FC Bayern believe that much more can be achieved through dialogue than through a permanently critical attitude.” In February 2021, moderator Jochen Breyer in the ZDF sports studio pointed out to Rummenigge the “different culture and different religion” in Qatar. Breyer responded with great applause on social media: “Human rights violations are not a culture.”The former Munich CEO is nevertheless convinced of the principle of “change through dialogue”. 

He says the partners in Qatar “know our beliefs, for example on the issue of workers’ rights. But they will only listen to us based on respect and trust.” He is not alone in this position. Even the human rights organization Amnesty International is against a boycott of Qatar in 2022. “We want to use the international attention at the World Cup. It is now important that the reforms lead to long-term improvements beyond the World Cup,” said Amnesty expert Lisa Salza.

World champion and ex-national player Toni Kroos adds to T-Online: “The fact is: the tournament will take place. The question is how to deal with it. I think you should try to give the tournament the biggest possible stage to point out the grievances in the country. But please not only before and during the tournament, but also afterwards.” His demand: “The media interest in Qatar must not disappear when the footballers leave again. That is important.” outlawed and boycotted Qatar would have had better cards, one can actually doubt it.

Pro Boycott: Playing in the “Kicktatur”

The human rights situation at the future World Cup hosts must still be described as devastating by Western standards. Qatar ranks 128th out of 180 countries in the 2021 Press Freedom Index published by Reporters Without Borders. Bernd M. Beyer and Dietrich Schulze-Marmeling write in their book “Boycott Qatar!”:

“Freedom of opinion and religion, the right to free sexual orientation, equal rights for women and the right of employees to form associations are severely restricted in the country. Qatar acts in a non-transparent and brutal manner when pursuing people it doesn’t like.” According to Amnesty International, torture and other forms of abuse occur.

In the Democracy Index of the British newspaper “The Economist”, Qatar is ranked 126th out of 167 countries and is classified as an “authoritarian system”. After all, there are more anti-democratic countries in which FIFA could hold its tournament in the future, “leader” is North Korea.

 But major sporting events in unjust states have not just been a tradition since the 1936 Olympic Games in Nazi Germany. Two years earlier, Italy’s fascist dictator Benito Mussolini had used the 1934 World Cup as a political platform in his own country. And in 1978, FIFA unhesitatingly awarded the World Cup to Argentina’s military dictatorship. 

Screams and cries for help from the torture chambers of the prisons were said to have been heard from the stadiums. Berti Vogts, as captain of the German team at the time, put the injustice into perspective: “Argentina is a country where order prevails. I didn’t see a single political prisoner.”Skyline of Doha – capital of Qatar. 

In 2013, Vogts’ former teammate Franz Beckenbauer “didn’t see a single slave” during his friendly visit to orderly Qatar. In 2022, 44 years after the Argentine military, the absolutist rulers of Qatar will also be able to bask in the light of the World Cup and distract attention from the injustice in their country.

 For democratically minded observers and football fans, this is difficult to bear. Isn’t FIFA learning anything? She doesn’t want to at all, says the “Boycott Qatar!” book, quite the opposite: “World sports leaders and autocrats are kindred spirits. Both sides love the gigantic, the monstrous and wallow in fantasies of omnipotence. Countries like Russia and Qatar don’t get the nod despite democratic deficits – but because of them. Pro boycott: World Cup stadiums as death traps

2.7 million people live in Qatar – but only 300,000 of them are citizens of the country. The large remainder of the population are workers (or slave laborers), mostly migrants from Nepal, India or Bangladesh, without any significant civil rights and without access to adequate health care. 

The notorious kafala system, a kind of dependent relationship between employers and workers, was abolished in Qatar under pressure from the West. Since then, at least officially, employers are no longer allowed to keep the workers’ passports, effectively taking them into captivity. However, massive human rights violations in employment apparently continue to occur. As the FC Bayern fan club “Nr. 12” claims to have learned during his research,

Due to pressure from abroad, there has only been a monthly minimum wage of 230 euros since 2017 – and that in one of the richest countries in the world. According to the British “Guardian”, at least 6,500 people have died during the World Cup construction work in Qatar since 2010 – most of them due to the downright brutal working conditions in the desert heat. For each of the approximately 700 soccer players at the 2022 World Cup,

there are already almost ten dead construction workers. Blood will stick to this World Cup trophy – although the specific numbers are considered controversial. Because it is unclear how many of the deaths are actually due to the construction work. Either way, it’s absurd to pound eight World Cup stadiums out of the desert in a mini-state like Qatar at a cost of up to four billion dollars. Because the emirate measures just 11. 627 square kilometers. With Saarland, Berlin, Hamburg and Bremen, only four of the 16 German federal states are even smaller.

In other words: In Schleswig-Holstein (15,799 square kilometers), between Lübeck, St. Peter-Ording and Flensburg, FIFA would have had more space for its football temple.

Against Boycott: Progress in Qatar

The progress in Qatar, which Karl-Heinz Rummenigge also attributes to FC Bayern’s local commitment, is apparently real. Rummenigge thinks that Qatar has “made a lot of progress in terms of human and labor rights”. Human rights lawyer Sylvia Schenk agreed with Der Spiegel in March 2021 :

“In a call by the Center for Sport and Human Rights with human rights experts and FIFA, the representative of the international trade unions stated that the reforms in Qatar are real, they exist big steps forward. Of course, everyone wants it to go even faster. But it was also said that no other country in history is known to have undertaken so many reforms in such a short period of time.”

The freelance football journalist Ronny Blaschke writes in the “Boycott Qatar!” book, which allows all sides to have their say: “By European standards, whose unions have evolved over generations, Qatar is backward. By the standards of the Gulf region, which does not know labor movements, Qatar is a model for the future.” And, Blaschke continues:

“As cynical as it may sound: It was only through football that Europe became aware of the many dead guest workers in Qatar.” Schenk has his doubts as well other observers also give the number of 6,500 dead World Cup construction workers. In fact, “only” 20 percent of the victims worked at the stadiums. The lawyer warns that a boycott of the World Cup could stifle the obvious progress made in Qatar: “A boycott would be completely wrong. That would only strengthen the forces of inertia in Qatar instead of supporting the forces of reform.”

Against boycott: Then all football would have to be boycotted

Anyone who calls for a boycott of the World Cup would have to boycott the whole football industry as a consequence,” points out journalist Ronny Blaschke. Because corruption, dubious dealings and crazy handling of money are omnipresent in the modern football industry – nobody has to point the finger at Qatar for that.

 In addition, the links between Qatar and other autocratic Gulf states with the international economy and global sport have long been so enormous and irreversible that a World Cup boycott would seem downright absurd. Would Paris Saint-Germain then have to pay out their Qatari club owners? Should FC Bayern no longer travel to the training camp in Doha? What about Deutsche Bahn? Can she then still participate in the multi-billion dollar route expansion in Qatar?

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More informationAccept And then how do you deal with the much larger, more powerful and influential Saudi Arabia, which is only just striving into world sport and which, among other things, is hosting its first Formula 1 race in December 2021 – although it is in the rankings for democracy (156th place) and freedom of the press (170th place) is even behind Qatar?

 In view of the billions and billions that the Gulf States are investing in the West, it is reasonable to assume that there can no longer be any opposition – only cooperation, in which consistent and persistent attempts are made to improve the living conditions of the local people. Journalist Blaschke puts it so pragmatically: “A broad World Cup boycott is unrealistic. We should say goodbye to the utopia that the commercial logic of professional football can be overcome.

Boycott? It might also be smarter

According to the current status, the 32 teams will actually travel to Qatar in November 2022 and determine their world champion there – although the question is how much the world title in this tournament, which is absurd in many respects, is still worth in sporting terms. 

Despite their book title “Boycott Qatar 2022!” Bernd-M. Beyer and Dietrich Schulze-Marmeling no longer assume that footballers will stay at home or that viewers at home will not turn on the television. Under the hashtag #BoycottQatar2022, they are hoping for clever and creative measures that fans all over the world can use to show that they do not agree with the corrupt system of FIFA and with the World Cup being held in the unjust state of Qatar.

The authors think of “civil disobedience”, for example with counter-tournaments during the World Cup at home, of protest actions, of choreos in the stadiums, of protest letters to those responsible and of clear signals in the social media. One of the most amusing ideas is the mascot “Infandino” as a symbol of a corrupt, backward-looking football official – based on FIFA President Gianni Infantino.

 Because in the end it is not FIFA who holds the reins of power – but the fans as the worldwide base of football. Hopeful conclusion of the two experts: “Fans have power as consumers. If Coca-Cola and Co. realize that sponsoring such tournaments is poison for the cash register, then they will stop doing so in the future. And then at the latest, FIFA will inevitably have to rethink.”

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