By Tony Attwood
More news on the Norwegian protest against the world cup in Qatar – a country in which slave labour has been used to build the stadia. If you are a regular reader of Untold you’ll know we’ve been campaigning on this for years – now it is really coming to life.
With Martin Odegaard and other Norwegian players having taken the action of protesting against Qatar as a venue it is now up to the English media to decide if they will take up the protest over the use of slave labour, or whether they think taking the knee is ok, but actually protesting about slave labour is going to far. The reports in the papers in the days to come will tell us which side they are on. If it is quickly dropped we’ll know it is an embarrassment to them.
There has however been one interesting move already. Fifa’s rules state that players may not engage in promoting what they call political, religious or personal slogans”, but they have now said that no action against the Norwegian protest.
On Thursday the English FA issued a statement saying it intended to engage with the tournament in a “socially responsible” manner and that there was “still much more to be done” on human rights in the country. If the FA sticks to that, it will be the first proper engagement they have had in the affair.
They went on to say “We are working closely with all to ensure that, if we qualify, we approach our participation in the upcoming Fifa World Cup in a socially responsible manner. From those discussions to date, we believe that there is evidence of some progress being made by Qatar, however we recognise there is still much more to be done.
“Our view remains that change is best achieved by working collaboratively with others so that we can continue to ask the right questions, while always being mindful that we have our own challenges in this country.”
Well, yes, ok, but I am not sure we have that much modern slavery.
What we really need to heed are the words of Infantino who has said, “Our position at Fifa has always been, and will always be, engagement and dialogue is the only and the best way forward to make changes happen.”
And we need to remember that statement because had Qatar not won the world cup, those migrant workers would not have been tempted to Qatar with the promise of money and jobs that did not exist, and then kept in slave-like conditions. Those workers would not have died on the building sites of Qatar.
But those deaths are what engagement brings.
As the Guardian, getting itself back on track in my opinion, said at the end of its piece, “Following our moral compass and railing against obvious discrimination is all very well until it threatens to derail the possibility of travelling to and winning the World Cup.”
And that is exactly what Fifa wants.
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