Everyone wants to go to Qatar. All? Oh well. Around the start of the World Cup qualification (Scotland-Austria today, 8.45 p.m.), the resistance to the Advent World Cup in 2022 boiled again. Reports of human rights violations and deaths of guest workers on the major construction sites – the Guardian reported 6,500 from official information alone – have rekindled the debate.
The Norwegian national team set an example at the beginning of the qualification against Gibraltar (3-0) and appeared in T-shirts with the inscriptions “Respect – on and off the pitch” and “Human rights – on and off the pitch”. Others – including well-known clubs, thousands of people who have joined a petition in Denmark that is to be dealt with in parliament, as well as fan representatives in France – are even calling for a World Cup boycott.
It is of course not realistic that any team that qualifies as a sport will back down. Even before the tournament in Russia 2018 there were similar demands that went unheard, with the Olympic Games in China in 2022 it will be similar. After all, the participants are concerned on the one hand with a lot of money – in Russia a total of 344 million euros were distributed to the participating associations – and on the other hand with the responsibility of the associations towards the sponsors and their players, for whom a major event is the best chance to win Dribble from flood to spotlight.
And thirdly, not only for the pragmatists of the sports organizers, who have no problem with awarding their tournaments to states and regimes that are questionable in terms of democracy, the question of whether calls for boycotts make sense. In the recent past, these have only had one success: after ongoing protests from players, countries and the EU Commission, Belarus was withdrawn from co-hosting the ice hockey World Cup this May. However, this was officially not due to international pressure, but to the unclear security situation in and around Minsk – a trick that was used to avoid tensions in sports politics.
Talks and reforms
Mostly, however, those responsible, who otherwise never miss an opportunity to proclaim the separation between politics and sport, rely on dialogue. Fifa President Gianni Infantino recently said again that calls for boycotts are “definitely the wrong way to go. It is always, always has been and will always be the only way to enter into dialogue and get involved to bring about change.”
While this is hardly surprising in the case of Infantino, who strictly follows industry practices that have been practiced for decades, even Amnesty International agreed with this argument. Expert Regina Spöttl attested Qatar’s willingness to talk and the initiation of reforms, for example with regard to the Kafala system, which is widely known as “modern slavery”.
Norway’s team boss Stale Solbakken called the evasive maneuvers “vague and cowardly” – but that his team would boycott the World Cup is out of the question for him. But it is about “what we have talked about, to focus on what has been discussed outside of the field”. The messages were to be understood as more, but also not less. But then you also want to go to Qatar.