Qatar 2022: to watch or not to watch?

The World Cup kicked off in Qatar with the opening ceremony and the first match on Sunday - and the debate continues about the right position to take vis-à-vis the event. Criticism of the host country focuses among other things on human rights abuses during the construction of the stadiums and infrastructure and its stance on homosexuality. Commentators discuss the calls to boycott the games.

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Público (PT) /

Diverting attention from what really matters

Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa has announced that he will travel to Qatar for Portugal's first World Cup group match. Público sees this is a mistake:

“A humanist and democrat, as Marcelo undoubtedly is, should assume that the best way to defend Portugal in the eyes of the world is not to go, and to say why not. By going, he is casting Portugal in the role of a 'country of football boots'. It is not in our country's interest to be seen like that. Football is just a game that is so often used as a pretext to divert the country's attention from the truly essential things.”

The Economist (GB) /

The right host

The Economist is fed up with the West's criticism of Qatar as a World Cup venue:

“A lot of the indignant pundits sound as if they simply do not like Muslims or rich people. ... Unless Fifa wants the tournament to rotate among Finland, Norway and Sweden, it cannot always hold it in a blameless spot. The idea of bringing the World Cup to the world is only right. The Middle East is full of fans, but has never hosted the event before. Nor has any Muslim country. If the World Cup is ever to be held in such a place, Qatar is a perfectly good choice.”

Libertatea (RO) /

Our prosperity is also based on injustice

There is exploitation in Europe too, columnist Costi Rogozanu points out in Libertatea:

“Qatar is just a more brutal form of our secret recipe for prosperity. The withholding of papers, extortion through unpaid wages, shifts without breaks, weeks without a day off - we've heard it all before here on our sunny continent too. Certainly, the abominations in Qatar are two, three times worse. ... The country refuses to acknowledge that its luxuries are based on inadmissible exploitation, just as a Western citizen doesn't acknowledge that many social or agricultural sectors function only at the expense of Eastern Europeans or Africans.”

Daily Sabah (TR) /

The pride of the Muslim world

The pro-government Daily Sabah sees little grounds for criticism:

“The World Cup is something magical and spending your income on preparing your country to host the World Cup is magnificent. Qatar is now the most modern Muslim country in the world with state-of-the-art infrastructure, roads, transportation and technology. ... Not only the uniquely rich, but white countries, host the World Cup anymore. A Muslim country will host the Fifa tournament in its magnificent eight stadiums, and it will open the way for Muslim nations to be equal partners with imperialist nations.”

Ilta-Sanomat (FI) /

Sports and politics belong together

Ilta-Sanomat hopes for changes in Qatar:

“Sports and politics are almost always intertwined. There are major moral issues with Qatar that are now being raised again and again. Football fans have had to deal with the ethical aspects of watching the games in a way they never have before. Hopefully, as many football superstars as possible will bring up the issue during the World Cup. ... The best thing about the World Cup at the moment is that the global public has become aware of the poor human rights situation in the country. ... It is to be hoped that this will bring real change for the better.”

L'Humanité (FR) /

Turn off the TV!

Anyone who values sport because it brings people together can take no joy in this World Cup, complains Jean-Emmanuel Ducoin, editor-in-chief of the leftist newspaper L'Humanité:

“We have every reason to turn our backs on this outrageous spectacle of communicative power and treat it as no more than disenchanted theatre. ... The battle over a popular sport has not been lost, of course. But Qatar is an insult to its future. As the legendary Liverpool coach Bill Shankly often repeated: 'Real socialism is where everyone works for everyone else and the wages are shared equally between everyone. That's how I see football and life.' For one month we will see exactly the opposite.”

Neue Zürcher Zeitung (CH) /

Don't be so hypocritical!

The Neue Zürcher Zeitung, on the other hand, takes issue with the selective moralism coming to the fore shortly before the World Cup kicks off:

“No matter what decision one makes, a certain joylessness and a sense of guilt are expected. ... Those who believe they should not watch the World Cup this year for reasons of conscience would have to boycott a lot more than this. Chinese products, for example, so as not to support the persecution of the Uyghurs. Or the Champions League, in which Qatar is also involved. And we should ask ourselves how we could watch the World Cup in Russia after Putin's annexation of Crimea. The current twitches of our guilty consciences seem so selective that they can hardly be taken seriously.”

El País (ES) /

Workers have paid a heavy price

Amnesty International Secretary General Agnès Callamard calls for justice in El País:

“Millions of migrant workers have paid a heavy price. Especially Tul Bahadur Gharti, a 34-year-old Nepalese man who died in his sleep in November 2020 after working on a construction site for more than 10 hours in temperatures of up to 39 degrees Celsius. ... All we are calling for at this stage is a cast-iron commitment from Fifa that abused workers will be compensated. ... If Gianni Infantino really wants the world to focus on football during the World Cup, he must start by making sure that the people who made this event possible get the justice and compensation they deserve. Time is running out.”

Star (TR) /

Show the enlightened side of Islam

The pro-government daily Star accuses the West of Islamophobia in its approach to the event:

“All this shows how the West uses football for its own purposes. It does this constantly, and has no qualms about publishing articles and statements that stir up Islamophobia at every opportunity. ... However, the World Cup, which is being held in Qatar, offers us a unique opportunity in this regard. Just as the West uses football as a means to spread Islamophobia, we should use it to highlight the enlightened side of Islam. ... And just as it uses the argument that 'football is not just football' to advance its own interests, we should use it to say that Islam is a religion of peace and prosperity.” (DE) /

This is what Fifa wanted can't understand all the fuss about the Qatar World Cup ambassador's comments:

“With his statements all he is doing is abiding by the homophobic legislation in the host country. It is and was known to all that same-sex relationships in Qatar are punished with up to seven years in prison. Queer people live in constant fear there. ... And Fifa? ... 'Let's concentrate on football', Infantino wrote. ... For months the Fifa president has been proclaiming that the upcoming World Cup will be the 'best World Cup ever'. Yes, this tournament and everything that surrounds it is shameful, but it's exactly what Fifa wanted.”

De Standaard (BE) /

Sorry but not sorry

Fifa has called on fans attending the World Cup in Qatar to only talk about football. How unrealistic can the football association be? De Standaard wonders:

“Sorry that we continue to denounce the poor working conditions of (mostly foreign) workers. ... Sorry that we keep asking questions about human rights and Qatar's claim that the World Cup will be climate-neutral. However, it is naive of Fifa and Qatar to think that human rights organisations and the media would not bring up these issues. If the country has the guts to host such an event, it must also endure being scrutinised.”

The Spectator (GB) /

Criticism could soon be forgotten

Despite massive criticism of the host country, Qatar 2022 could end up being a hit with the public, columnist Ysenda Maxtone Graham laments in The Spectator:

“Didn't we pour scorn on the eye-watering expense of the London Olympics during the seven-year run-up to them, and didn't we change our tune when they turned out to be marvellous? This might happen with Qatar. Desperately hoping for empty stadiums, I'm rather alarmed to see that tickets are in fact selling quite well.”

Bianet (TR) /

Human rights abuses are not "culture"

Bianet criticises Qatar for arguing that the world respect its conservative culture:

“It is beyond the scope of this article to discuss what culture is and how states hide behind the term 'culture' to violate fundamental rights and freedoms and to ban legitimate debate of rights violations. The fact that 'developed' countries accept such 'conservative culture' arguments as valid and wag their finger at citizens who raise their voices against violations of their rights provokes anger and frustration. Especially when seen from a country like Turkey, where these rights are increasingly threatened and restricted with each passing day.”

The Times (GB) /

No good arguments for such events

The Times debunks the arguments for holding major sports events in authoritarian states one by one:

“There'll be the Nobody's Perfect defence ... To which the answer, of course, is it must surely be a matter of degree. Then there's the Don't Bring Sport Into Politics argument, to which the reply must be: 'Too late, buster.' The use of sport and culture as instruments of state policy and PR for various regimes is too well established by now. Finally, Fifa's own favourite, the Hosting Will Lead to Reform assertion, has been blown apart by our experiences of China's crackdowns in the wake of the 2008 Olympics and an authoritarian Russia's double invasion of its neighbour in 2014 and 2022.” (CZ) /

Ideal opportunity to demand more rights

Instead of just lamenting the conditions in Qatar, critics should use the tournament to make clear demands, demands:

“Around 1.2 million people will come to the World Cup. Another five billion will watch it on television. It would be a sin not to use such a platform. Let's not be naive: Qatar will never be a liberal paradise. But a start would be to demand that workers be allowed to form trade unions. And it's not as if we don't hold any trump cards. The Qataris want easier options for getting visas for the European Union. Okay, let's ask them what they are willing to do in exchange.”

Der Spiegel (DE) /

One of the more sympathetic countries in the region

Der Spiegel finds it unfair that Qatar is always reduced to its negative qualities:

“Qatar is the first Arab, the first Muslim country to host a World Cup and the Qataris are proud and looking forward to it. ... Of course: Qatar is an autocracy. There is no separation of powers ... . But anyone familiar with the Middle East will notice that it is one of the more sympathetic countries there. ... The human rights situation does not meet our standards. Homosexuality is a criminal offence - although incidentally, the ban was brought to the Arab world mainly by Christian colonial rulers. But as far as anyone knows, it is not punished. ... The benchmark for equality with the Emirate of Qatar cannot be the celebration of a Christopher Street Day on the Doha Corniche.”

Le Soir (BE) /

Hypocritical Qatar bashing

Western countries should first clean up their own act, demands Georges Chebib, an entrepreneur active in Qatar, in Le Soir:

“Reading through all the figures and fuss surrounding this debate, one almost gets the impression that the planet will be two degrees warmer by December just because of Qatar. Without denying the urgency of climate protection or playing into the hands of the climate sceptics, it would nevertheless be helpful to have a semblance of coherence and above all humility when pretending to want to teach the rest of the world lessons on this issue. ... If the mayor of Paris really wants to save the planet, why doesn't she decide to restrict the growing number of tourists who visit her city?”