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Qatar? Why??

We are pleased to mark England’s opening game (sans the One Love captain’s armband) of the 2022 World Cup by republishing a thoughtful piece by TTG that was first published on Gunnerstown after a dialogue over the controversies that have surrounded this event since good ol’ Sepp tentatively pulled the card bearing the name Qatar from its envelope (https://gunnerstown.com/arsenal/2022/11/21/qatar-why-a-gooners-honest-take-on-fifas-controversial-world-cup/).

Let me introduce myself. I have been an Arsenal supporter since 1958 and a season ticket holder for over thirty years. Five generations of my family have supported Arsenal stretching back to my paternal grandfather who watched them play in Woolwich. I’ve written for the Gooner virtually since its inception and am now the Rewind correspondent because I’m so old I can remember games that no-one else can because they weren’t born!  Since his death in 2019, I’m one of a number of people trying to extend the legacy of that wonderful Gooner, Dave Faber on a website, Goonerholics Forever. 

I’m writing at Paul’s request because we have decided to put up a banner on our blog questioning the choice of Qatar to host the World Cup. You may be starting to get sick of the debate about Qatar, and are anxiously waiting for the fun and football to begin but I wanted to tell you why most of the Goonerholic fraternity are so opposed to what we believe to be a terribly flawed choice.

Can you imagine if the tournament had been awarded to Cyprus which is of a comparable size? What would be your first reaction? I suspect it would be that it was a very dubious choice because Cyprus is a relatively small island. Cyprus is of course divided into two different regions controlled by different countries but it has a strong football culture, a thriving domestic league and is improving as a force in international football. I suspect the size of the island would militate against it being chosen to host a global event where thirty-two nations were gathering. Could they be accommodated comfortably at reasonable prices? Well Cyprus has superb accommodation and a great tourist infrastructure.

Imagine that Cyprus had a very dubious human rights record. Imagine it banned people of an LGBTQ+ persuasion. Imagine if it had a very restrictive view of the rights of women. Add to that the fact that migrant workers were found to have died in huge numbers (human rights organisations suggesting that the total runs into thousands) and their families were subsequently treated with scant regard with very little compensation and who during their ill-fated period in Cyprus were housed in appalling conditions. 

I imagine the likelihood of Cyprus being chosen would be fading now. It might reduce still further if Cyprus was considered to be too hot to play the games in during the height of summer and virtually the whole global football programme would need to be disrupted with the consequent risk of burnout and serious injury for international players. I suspect their bid would be off the table now.

What could possibly persuade FIFA who have as their remit the stewardship of the biggest sport in the world to choose a country that is about 100 miles long, fifty miles wide with no ready prepared stadia and a country where human rights abuses persist on a significant scale according to Amnesty International’s latest report? Cyprus would never be considered to host the World Cup so in the words of our slogan: 

Qatar? Why??

A lot of information about the circumstances of Qatar’s  bid have emerged quite recently and were not available when the tournament was awarded to Qatar. Netflix’s excellent ‘FIFA Uncovered’ and the investigative journalist David Conn have demonstrated clear evidence of bribery by Qatari officials to obtain the rights to stage the tournament. It was an award that was made at the same time as Russia were awarded the 2018 competition. The acknowledged best bid for 2018 was England’s (it got two votes and one was ours!) and the USA bid was considered by most objective observers to be immeasurably superior to Qatar’s. Both successful bids appear to have been successful because the hosts bribed corrupt FIFA officials.

Expenditure on stadia in Qatar that will almost certainly not be used again is estimated to be £200 billion. Remember the large number of immigrant workers who have been brought in, in very primitive conditions for peppercorn wages to build the stadia which are unlikely to leave any meaningful legacy for the Qatari people who don’t have a domestic league which can utilise these stadia. 

The World Cup was conceived as a global football festival showcasing the best aspects of the game. There is no doubt that a Middle Eastern nation should be considered as a potential host but surely this should be one with an existing football infrastructure. The construction of these stadia which have to be air conditioned to make playing football in them remotely possible, is extraordinarily unsustainable in environmental terms, as is the need for spectators to fly continually from other states to watch the matches because Qatar does not have the facilities to house them. How can world leaders gather to consider anxiously the future of the planet at COP27 when a few weeks later the Qatar World Cup is allowed to proceed? 

Ordinary football fans from all over the world have been priced out of attending because of the cost of travel and accommodation. The topic of sportwashing is a controversial one but the strong inference is that FIFA have awarded the World Cup to Qatar simply because they were bribed to do so and turned down much better and more suitable bids which meet the criteria that FIFA set for hosts of the tournament.

We also feel the pressures on women and members of the LGBTQ+ community who might try to attend is an infringement of basic human rights that cannot be ignored and is again at odds with the ethos of a global football celebration.

Qatar, far from being a suitable host nation are about as unsuitable as a host nation could be and we feel it is important to draw attention to this now when there is maximum focus on the event. Football has too often turned a blind eye to circumstances which should have made fans think seriously about the moral background to the game. Qatar 2022 may well produce wonderful matches with brilliant players performing superbly but that still wouldn’t make it a viable or appropriate tournament. It is more likely that top stars possibly Bukayo Saka, William Saliba or Thomas Partey might suffer burnout come March or succumb to serious injury because of muscle fatigue. Multiply that situation across the world game and one really has to ask moral considerations aside, if it makes any sense at all to transport the world to Qatar in November and December so Qatar can buy a showcase for its dubious merits as a place to visit. 

But let’s return to that phrase ‘moral considerations aside’. The world of football can’t put moral considerations on the back burner while we watch a few football matches. Of course, one can object to all sorts of examples of sportwashing and there are other situations which must be highlighted, some of which exist in our own league. But the case against Qatar 2022 is so overwhelmingly strong that it may go down in history as one of the worst moments in the history of football.

44 Drinks to “Qatar? Why??”

  1. 1
    Countryman100 says:

    Having just seen England play, to the ills above can be added

    Poor ticketing and access to stadium
    Failure to appropriately apply concussion protocols
    Being pathetic about the OneLove armbands (but well done Alex Scott!)
    No beer

    Inter alia

  2. 2
    ClockEndRider says:

    The best, most concise exposition I have seen of case against the Qatar World Cup.

  3. 3
    scruzgooner says:

    excellent work, ttg. i am proud to see that on our site.

    i am also proud of the iranian national team. they’re taking their lives and their freedom in their hands, in support of women’s rights in iran: https://www.yahoo.com/sports/world-cup-2022-iranian-players-refused-to-sing-national-anthem-before-match-with-england-143927973.html

    21cg, your season review tallies with what i’ve seen, thanks for that. we’ve knocked over each milestone (excepting, perhaps, the manure game) along the way, and have come up with a passion and process that i haven’t seen before at our club (even in the invincibles era…there was a grimmer, more businesslike quality to those teams). if we manage to bring everyone back whole from this disaster in the desert, and buy judiciously in the january window, we could continue this all the way to the title (he says, looking around for the laughter that’s becoming fainter and fainter).

    and i can answer c1000’s #6 in those drinks with an emphatic yes, it was deafening. in fact, the lack of volume when we played psv the following week was relatively disappointing, though we were still loud. another favorite of the crowd (at least on those two days) was “tottenham get battered”.

    i heard saka scored a brace today. i missed the game; whom were arsenal playing?

  4. 4
    Gunnersaurus Stunt Double says:

    Cheers TTG. Well said.

    Today, for the first time in years, I did not watch England play a major tournament football match. I walked past the TV at 1.15pm, knowing we’d kicked off, but I did not turn it on.

    With ‘Emirates’ and ‘Visit Rwanda’ slapped across our shirts it has long required a level of cognitive dissonance to enjoy football. But the fact that I am used to putting these considerations on the back burner does not mean that there is not a line.

    For me, personally, this World Cup is over that line.

    I am not going to watch it or support it in any way. I consider it indefensible.

    I doubt I’ll be in the bar much until after Christmas when Arsenal return.

    I hope the tournament turns out as well as can be hoped, and that nothing goes seriously badly from a human perspective. And I hope everyone watching has a great time.

  5. 5
    Countryman100 says:

    Stick around GSD, we’ve got some great Arsenal related posts upcoming before Boxing Day. So keep poking your head round the corner to see who’s in.

  6. 6
    scruzgooner says:

    gsd, do keep visiting; i for one am always interested in reading your take. i usually would dvr all the games…but not only am i not going to do that, i won’t watch anything live that comes up.

    and, indeed, the line has been crossed. not least when fifa offer this: https://www.yahoo.com/sports/world-cup-2022-teams-scrap-rainbow-colored-armband-plan-after-fifa-threatens-sporting-sanctions-122751596.html

    i would love to have someone with real stones step up and wear it on the pitch, and see what happens. if a yellow card is given, and a second yellow disqualifies them from the game (and the next, i assume) the fallout and the push through the CAS or other bodies will be massive and illustrative.

  7. 7
    Countryman100 says:

    Incidentally if anyone hasn’t yet read 21CG’s great account of the season so far on the previous post, do step back and read it. If you’ve got any comments do like Scruzgooner and post them here. It’s a cracker!

  8. 8
    Gunnersaurus Stunt Double says:

    Cheers Scruz and C100. I’ll have a look in from time to time, especially for the upcoming Arsenal content.

  9. 9
    OsakaMatt says:

    Excellent piece TTG. Also the additional points from C100 and scruz. The confiscating of rainbow hats from female but not male Welsh supporters was another piece of nonsense.
    The German FA have already announced they will not support the increasingly unhinged Infantino’s re-election. The way FIFA is run that will not make a lot of difference but at least they have taken a stand and it is time for the like-minded to also stand up and be counted.

  10. 10
    bt8 says:

    Great piece, TTR. Infantino on the other hand is a walking disaster or timebomb. Take your pick, or select all boxes.

  11. 11
    OsakaMatt says:

    Sorry C100, I just noticed your comments on back reading the previous posts.
    Yes, the only away trip I have done in the last 10 years was to Stoke and the atmosphere with the away support was better than at any of the Emirates games I’ve attended until the Liverpool game this season. Crowd was brilliant this time, rocking and rolling all game long!

  12. 12
    OsakaMatt says:

    I’d lost my voice by the end – always a good sign 😉

  13. 13
    Las says:

    Thanks, TTG! Well phrased article.
    The whole world is in a sorry state. A WC like this is nothing more than a spit in the face of solidarity, sportsmanship and fair play. The writing on the wall is “money takes it all” period.
    All too bad.

  14. 14
    Bathgooner says:

    Why indeed, TTG?

    The writing on the wall pointed out by Las @13, may be a clue.

  15. 15
    North Bank Ned says:

    Fortissimo, TTG. A damning exposition.
    We live in saddening times.

  16. 16
    TTG says:

    So far I’ve avoided every game and intend to continue .
    Piers Morgan claims I’m ‘ virtue signalling’. Must be interesting not to have any principles

  17. 17
    scruzgooner says:

    fuck piers morgan. i’m in the same boat as you, ttg. though it’s easier with the games largely done with by the time i wake up…

  18. 18
    Bathgooner says:

    The Dippers were put up for sale last week and now Manure are up for sale.

    Are their American owners looking to realise their profits on a post-World Cup wave of football enthusiasm in the Middle East?

    Another sliding door?

    This does not bode well for the PL, particularly for clubs not funded by petrodollars.

    We had better take advantage of our position this season.

  19. 19
    Doctor Faustus says:

    An excellently articulated, finely calibrated exposé TTG!

    If I may dare to answer your (albeit rhetorical) question in a slightly different way: Why? Because they know they can get away with it. Because they have figured out that the entire football watching public — with the odd rare exception here and there — across the world are incurably addicted, and that despite the best intentions of putting up resistance the heady cocktail of nationalism and love of football, and the insecurity of missing out would drive an eventual success in terms of live and tv audience and hence commercially.

    Lest we easily forget, the last World Cup too was held in a no less questionable location and we all did our best to forget that for that summer month.

  20. 20
    Noosa Gooner says:

    So the European captains backed down on the threat of a yellow card. Yellow being the operative colour. Pathetic.
    Apparently, Spuds now have the largest club shop in Europe. Why would they bother? Perhaps they stole the space required from their trophy room?
    Little interest in this tournament although the Saudis tonking the Argies was good for the soul.

  21. 21
    Cynic says:

    fuck piers morgan

    No thank you, I have a headache and good taste.

    Popping in as can’t let the passing of the great man go unremarked especially on this ‘ere blog.

  22. 22
    North Bank Ned says:

    Bath@18: The price of clubs does not turn on the World Cup, but their relative scarcity and the media rights that come with. The Glazers will get a pretty price for what is still a trophy asset, albeit one that needs a good hosing down with Dettol. However, the fact that they are contemplating a sale of the OT and all that is in it may be a sign we are reaching peak team valuations for this cycle and they are looking to get out at the top.

    I do wonder, however, that, if this is the World Cup that breaks FIFA, a new football world order arises in which the leagues/clubs become more powerful than governing bodies and football is run more along the lines of US pro sports, where the major leagues are the de facto governing bodies of their sports.

  23. 23
    Bathgooner says:

    Hi Cynic. Zico would have appreciated that post. Never seen him in here though.

    Ned @22, I mentioned the WC as its very presence in Qatar reflects the Middle Eastern enthusiasm for the game and the resultant enhanced profile of Qatar (even bad publicity is publicity) will no doubt generate envy among their oil rich neighbours.

    Despite or perhaps even because they are currently offering shares in PSG, Qatar themselves may be interested in acquiring a PL club such as Manure or the Dippers. Dubai, though not as oil-wealthy as Abu Dhabi may fancy a club to raise their profile. If this comes to pass the PL may replace falconry contests, horse races, camel races or even the size of their limousines as the way in which the Emirs and Sheikhs can show thir parochial superiority.

    Keenos at She Wore (https://shewore.com) has an excellent piece on the possible thinking in Boston and Tampa that has led to this development.

    Whichever way it pans out, I don’t think it’s great news for us.

  24. 24
    North Bank Ned says:

    Bath@23: I fear your last sentence is on the money.

  25. 25
    OsakaMatt says:

    Thanks for the link @23 Bath. It’s an interesting article and I suppose that if I was a billionaire businessman I’d be tempted to sell. Of course if I had actually bought Manure I’d have just closed the club, knocked down the stadium and built a giant statue of Arsène Wenger.
    I don’t think Kroenke has ever sold any of his sports ventures has he?

  26. 26
    bathgooner says:

    Matt @25, no he hasn’t and his son seems to be committed to the project too, perhaps even more so. As Keenos concludes, it seems unlikely that a speculator like Stan would sell an asset whilst it is still appreciating.

  27. 27
    TTG says:

    Welcome Cynic
    May I wish a very happy Thanksgiving to all our American Holics . Peace and Joy to you

  28. 28
    North Bank Ned says:

    Cynic@21: good to see you popping in.

  29. 29
    North Bank Ned says:

    OM@25: Kroenke hasn’t sold anything. Moved a team, yes, but not sold. What he has done with So-Fi Stadium, his massive sports and entertainment development in Inglewood, California, is probably indicative of how he envisions sports team ownership. The team provides the stardust that enables the venue to generate revenue, much of it from non-sporting activities (shows, retail, hospitality &c.). Not sure how much of any scope there is for de novo development in N5 but I’d expect the stadium refurbishment to make it more suit for multi-use.

  30. 30
    Countryman100 says:

    Lovely piece on Gunners Town about one of our favourite Arsenal players, Bob Wilson.

    The Gentleman of ‘ The Arsenal’ – Bob Wilson, 75 Not Out!

  31. 31
    Countryman100 says:

    Happy thanksgiving US Gooners! Lots of them in this video.

  32. 32
    scruzgooner says:

    happy thanksgiving all, from deep in hahafornia’s central valley, from the house of my parents. i am thankful for this place and all of the holic denizens here and from dave’s site.

    ned, i lean towards your take. hopefully our success can breed success and that will keep us out of the clutches of the almighty petrodollar.

    c100, spectacular article and pics. i tried to put a link in the comments to our willow page but don’t know if it took…

  33. 33
    Countryman100 says:

    Scruz, the article is old (Bob of course is now 80 and a number of us wished him happy birthday on that august occasion). That may be why it’s not accepting further comments. But it popped up on Twitter and I hadn’t read it before so I thought it well worth the link. I knew the story because I won his (signed) autobiography in our auction last year, but I think the article is great. We won’t see Bob’s like again when he’s gone. My only regret is that he was never asked to join the Arsenal board. Hope you manage a few Negronis before getting stuck into the Turkey!

  34. 34
    ClockEndRider says:

    A few of Scruz’s Negroni’s is dicing with death! Happy thanksgiving to our US friends.

  35. 35
    Countryman100 says:

    Having tasted the wine from Scruz’s friend’s vineyard I’ve no doubt that will be delicious, though Turkey is a difficult meat to pair. A Pinot noir, slightly chilled?

  36. 36
    scruzgooner says:

    we are having malvasia bianca (alex’s) and rioja…well everyone else will be. and no negronis. i haven’t had a drink since our last night in london; i really don’t want to intentionally unmoor myself still fighting vertigo (that saga has not ended).

    on the plus side mrs. scruz says i’ve lost weight 🤢

    enjoy whatever you are doing today. i am thankful as hell for this place, and all of you. happy thanksgiving.

  37. 37
    scruzgooner says:

    c100 @33, i saw that date when i looked again. so, no commenting.

    great article!

  38. 38
    bathgooner says:

    C100 @35, Pinot Noir is a good call for turkey, though i would prefer room temperature. We haven’t had turkey in over a decade. For as long as I can remember we have had goose and a Pinot Noir or a fine claret are my regular go to’s, after a disappointing Meurault combo one Christmas.

  39. 39
    Countryman100 says:

    We have a Turkey but not for Christmas lunch. Cold Turkey and ham with pickles and bubble & squeak on Boxing Day is our preferred way. On Christmas Day , a rib of beef with a fine St Emilion is the countryman fare with a good dessert wine with the Christmas pud (my son who is too young to appreciate good things will drink Italian lager). Father Christmas may be bringing me a cocktail kit and book, so a Negroni at 12 noon with some appetisers may set the table.

  40. 40
    North Bank Ned says:

    Our Thanksgiving host served bogrinis—Negronis with Prosecco replacing the gin—and paired an excellent Malbec with the turkey. Goose will adorn the Christmas table at Castle Ned, where we hold the old customs on high days, and the cellars scoured for a decent Pinot Noir.

  41. 41
    bathgooner says:

    Invinciblog has written a very nice piece on FIFA and produced an extremely good image on Gunnerstown that ought to go viral:

    The Dark Side Of The Game – Pink Floyd classic album art re-imagined to protest FIFA’s anti-discrimination hypocrisy

  42. 42
    bt8 says:

    Negroni at Noon. Wasn’t that a Spaghetti Western?

  43. 43
    North Bank Ned says:

    You must be thinking of Buck’s Fizz at Tiffany’s, bt8.

  44. 44
    scruzgooner says: