Neither Qatar or FIFA will get their wish for everybody to just focus on football during the World Cup 2022.
If we were to speak only about football this morning, it would inevitably lead to politics. Hosts Qatar opened the tournament with a limp 0- 2 defeat to Ecuador that highlighted their lack of football heritage.
Football heritage is, of course, not a requirement to host or participate in a World Cup. However given what we know about Qatar, the opening game only served to highlight the farcical nature of this tournament.
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Qatar has spent the last 12 years building a national team who could compete at the World Cup. The team, made up mostly of naturalised citizens rather than native Qataris, never got going.
This is because Qatar has been trying to buy a culture of football that never existed in the country. They’ve been trying to manufacture the kind of affinity for the game that other countries have been fostering for over a century.
It’s no surprise the football didn’t come together for them in the opening game of the World Cup. The game was played following a weekend of controversy of the political nature.
On Friday, news broke that Qatar reneged on its promise that fans would be allowed to buy beer at the stadiums. It was seen as them throwing their weight around, seemingly unhappy at the level of scrutiny directed towards them and the tournament.
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The following day, newly-reelected FIFA president gave an astonishingly tone-deaf and offensive speech suggesting he stands in solidarity with LGBTQ+ people, disabled people and migrant workers.
It was an attempt to paint the Qataris as inclusive and socially responsible which was never going to work. To make matters worse Group B, in which England, Iran and the US will all play each other, begins on Monday. You couldn’t make it up, could you?
Politics is unavoidable at this world cup. Even football fanatics who wish they could switch it off can’t. FIFA and the Qataris have made their bed, now they must lie in it.