FIFA should weigh the costs of 2022 World Cup

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The highly anticipated, highly controversial FIFA Men’s World Cup is less than a month away. The tournament is set to take place in Qatar, a country whose human rights abuses leading up to the event are widely known. 

Thousands of migrant workers have reportedly died building facilities for the World Cup, leaving the public questioning whether the cost is justifiable. 

Realistically, millions of people will stream the World Cup no matter the circumstances—shaming viewers does no good. Still, it’s hard not to feel the associated abuse taints the sport. 

We should be able to enjoy sporting events without worrying about whether exploitation made them possible. FIFA and other global sports organizations have a responsibility to athletes, fans, and everyone else involved to ensure their rights are respected. 

This week, reports of the Qatar government detaining and mistreating LGBTQ+ people added to the controversy already surrounding the World Cup. Those in power have made it clear who and what are unwelcome at the biggest sporting event of the year. 

No public displays of affection, no alcohol consumption in the stadium, no profanity—unenforceable at a sports game—and of course, no being your authentic self if you’re a queer person. 

We should respect the customs of any country we visit, but there’s a line between being respectful and condoning human rights violations. A country where the maximum penalty for homosexuality is death by stoning should not be chosen to host any global event. 

What’s even worse is how the past several World Cups have taken place in queer-unfriendly countries. These are often countries in the Global South with cheap labour and corrupt governments that frequently look the other way in the face of human rights abuse. 

It isn’t right to say only Western democracies should be allowed to host international sporting events. However, when a country openly abuses people for their identities, sports organizations should consider the implications of holding events there. Fans shouldn’t have to compromise their morals to watch a soccer tournament.

By allowing a country so hostile to queer people to host, FIFA is sending a message to millions of fans that their safety doesn’t matter. 

Heteronormativity is inherent to sports culture, though this is gradually changing. Sending professional athletes to queerphobic countries undermines the progress that’s been made in the fight to make sport accessible for LGBTQ+ athletes. 

An all-out boycott by multiple national teams could make a difference, but of course that’s asking a lot—and could have political ramifications.

Historically, success in sports has acted as a display of political power, particularly in times of conflict or tension.

Take the most recent games hosted in Beijing despite the People’s Republic of China’s violent Islamophobic internal politics. Organizations like the Olympic Committee and FIFA are happy to ignore abuse if their events turn a large enough profit. 

The sporting world as a global institution is inherently capitalistic and uses the spectacle of sports to distract people from their own oppression. It’s disheartening to see the sports industry reduced to a machine with no regard for human life or people’s well-being.

The mere association of the World Cup with the abuse, displacement, and deaths of thousands should shame FIFA into some sort of action. 

We can’t call it the World Cup if not everyone is welcome. 

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