If you were unemployed and without financial resources are there any jobs you would turn down?
It is quite a telling question in my view, because it gets to the heart of everyday morality.
It’s also a question that causes me to ponder – because I know there are two answers I would give. If the question had arisen when I responsible for feeding and housing my family, then the line would have been stretched much further. There were still things I would never have done even to feed my daughters, but that line is different from the line I would draw now that I don’t have those responsibilities.
So these days I take a higher stand, because if I turned down work the only person who would suffer would be me.
But supposing I was even more removed – supposing I worked for the FA, or supposing I was a mega rich footballer where any impact on me if I turned an opportunity down on moral grounds, would be small. What then?
Would I engage in anything to do with Fifa or Qatar? I’d like to think not.
Such thoughts crossed my mind when Fifa announced that that there was nothing it could do about the slave labour conditions that exist in Qatar – and there is no way Fifa will turn back from running its infamous World Cup in Qatar.
The Guardian, doing its political investigating (which is infinitely superior to what passes for a lot of its football reporting) revealed last year, that Qatar is a state based on slavery where numerous workers have died and been maimed in appalling conditions while or after working on the building sites in the country.
Theo Zwanzinger, Germany’s member of the Fifa’s executive has said that that human rights issues should be part of the decision making of Fifa and Uefa. But not yet. He added “This feudal system existed before the World Cup. What do you expect of a football organisation? Fifa is not the lawmaker in Qatar.”
The answer is simple – Fifa should not have awarded and should not award any tournament to any country that is feudal and/or is based on slavery. If it had made this clear to Qatar it might have stopped the all powerful Investment Authority in its tracks. Having done so, it should apologise to the world, and remove the contract.
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Likewise, had I been a supporter of PSG I like to think I would have walked away when they were taken over by Qatar. I like to think that if Arsenal were funded by Qatar (which is different from the Emirates, who in any case don’t fund the club in the way Qatar funds PSG) I would simply walk away.
Likewise I am not a Barclays customer, but if I were, I’d close my accounts and move elsewhere (Qatar Investment owns nearly 13% of Barclays Bank). I don’t have a VW but if I did I would sell it (Qatar owns 17% of VW).
And before you ask, I don’t shop at Sainsbury’s and I don’t watch Al Jazeera Sports..
It was, you may recall Qatar that held Zahir Belounis in the country for two years because he had a dispute with his Quatari team. He had no salary during that time, and was unable to leave the country. He was the victim of the kafala system in which the employer has ownership of employees. It is a system that English learn about in school, and which was part of our society during the Middle Ages. It is feudalism.
So I take my moral stance, which given that I am not involved and won’t be involved in anything to do with the world cup, means nothing at all. But still it is worth point out that the German member of Fifa quoted above said, “Pressure and threats won’t achieve much … We have a duty. The decision has been taken to grant the World Cup to Qatar, whether I like it or not.”
Which is rubbish – because pressure is all we have. By running the world cup in Qatar, by supporting any venture Qatar is engaged in, we given credence to their policy of enslavement. If the FA pulled out, it would shake the football world and embarrass a lot of other countries who would see that at least one football body will stand up against slavery.
Fifa says he can’t back out now. But the FA could – even if it means standing on its own, and never entering the world cup again. People would say, “should we deprive our footballers of the chance to play in Qatar?” and I would say, no – they can make up their own minds. Nationalities can be bought and sold these days, so they can go and play for other nations.
People would say, “should we deprive English fans the right to watch the world cup?” The answer is no – it should be a private decision. You could watch it on Al Jaz.
In the end, for me, morality still counts for something, and when the slave trade is an issue, morality counts for a lot.
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