By Tony Attwood
The fact that any delegate at the Fifa congress spoke out against Qatar and its appalling lack of human rights is amazing. The fact that most British newspapers failed to mention the speech tells those of us who live in the UK, a lot about our society.
The fact, as we have been mentioning of late, that debates of football are skewed toward causing and continuing controversy sits uneasily with this: controversies are welcomed in football reporting it seems, but only if they serve to turn supporters against their own club, or to justify previous wild assertions made by the media.
The one brave soul who stood up and called Fifa to account was the president of the Norwegian football federation Lise Klaveness, who told the assembled gathering, that the issues of migrant workers’ rights and the criminalisation of same-sex relationships meant that Qatar was not in any regard a fit and proper place for hold the world cup.
She stated that basic concepts such as “Human rights, equality, democracy, the core interests of football,” were not taken into consideration in the giving of the world cup to Qatar.
As Ms Klaveness concluded “How Fifa runs the game has so much to say for how football is perceived – in every confederation and in every association. Fifa must act as a role model. “My dreams are still about football. Football for boys and girls, all colours, straight and queer.”
The response of the secretary-general of Qatar’s Supreme Committee overseeing World Cup delivery, was telling in the extreme. He said, “The most important legacy of this World Cup will be to serve as an antidote to this criticism.”
And that of course is utterly true because Fifa has the media on its side – and this because any broadcaster or publication is likely to have its credentials removed and its journalists banned if it fails to support the “Fifa is wonderful, the world cup is wonderful, there are no problems” message.
In a further point Klaveness said, “There is no room for employers who do not secure the freedom and safety of world cup workers. No room for leaders that cannot host the women’s game.
“No room for hosts that cannot legally guarantee the safety and respect of LGBTQ+ people coming to this theatre of dreams. I pledge that the Norwegian FA and I personally will support every initiative which safeguards the core interest of football, human rights and promotes diversity and anti-discrimination. This is also supported by our friends in the other Nordic football associations.
“We have a brutal war in Europe now. As in wars on all continents, innocent people are being killed in meaningless fights for power. A previous World Cup host has invaded the country of one of our members. Initially, Fifa hesitated. International pressure forced real action. Rather than follow, Fifa must lead.
“I fear our stadiums will be empty in the future if we overlook the urgency of the current moment.”
It was a telling point, coming as it does as Russia has bid to host the 2028 Euros and is now planning to bid for the 2032 Euros as well. The Russian delegation were at the Fifa conference and the Russian flag was on full display at the conference.
In a singularly bizarre response to questions Chris Bryant MP, chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Russia, said, “I’m constantly mystified at sporting bodies who do not seem to watch the news, or take enough action, if they do.”
How can one be constantly mystified by this. IT IS WHAT THEY ALWAYS DO.
The response of Infantino, head of Fifa who, following legal action against him in Switzerland has moved himself and his family to Qatar, said, “we have to learn again to live together.
“My plea to all of those who have some power, in important political positions, please stop conflicts and wars. We must engage in dialogue even with your worst enemy. We have to learn again to live together. This congress is a testimony of that.”
The alternative view is that the congress is testimony to the fact that on human rights, those running international football don’t give a toss.
- Arsenal v Tottenham; the team and some rather jolly recent history
- We are running out of referees, and the reason is the PGMO.
- Arsenal v Tottenham: the key fact the media won’t to tell you – and why they won’t
- Arsenal v Tottenham: different clubs, different managers, different successes
- Arsenal v Tottenham with clubs now getting more cards than they put in tackles!