Qatar 2022: Nuts & bolts of FIFA’s “The show must go on” shtick

Even before the first kickoff, Qatar 2022 has become arguably the most criticised FIFA World Cup ever. The tournament has been marred by issues pertaining to the host nation’s treatment of human rights and its stringent laws. The world football governing body FIFA and the tournament organizers have been put under pressure to provide answers and alternatives. The Indian Express lists down the cases, criticism, compromises and the chaos regarding the upcoming World Cup.

The World Cup jersey against host nation

“We don’t wish to be visible during a tournament that has cost thousands of people their lives,” were the words put forward by Hummel sport as they shared the World Cup kit of the Denmark National Team. A jersey with toned down sponsor logo, chevrons and team crest. A statement against the tournament hosts and their ‘human rights record’. Qatar has been under public scrutiny over reports of their treatment of the labor force involved in the construction of World Cup sites. And this was the first instance of a team and their kit sponsor involved in the sporting event stating the same. “We support the Danish national team all the way, but that isn’t the same as supporting Qatar as a host nation,” Hummel further added in their statement.

Rainbow on the arm, rainbow in the hands

FIFA and the Qatar 2022 organizing committee of the tournament have been put under pressure by as many as eight European teams, who joined the ‘One Love’ campaign. This, wanting to wear rainbow captain armbands and support LGBTQ+ rights while playing the pinnacle event later this year. The state law in Qatar criminalizes the LGBTQ+ community under Penal Code 2004 and the Sharia Law. “I think that by wearing the armband on the biggest stage and one of the most televised events in the world (the World Cup), will have an impact,” England captain Harry Kane had addressed the decision at a recent press conference.

Among the LGBTQ+ fans planning to visit Qatar for the World Cup, the safety concerns have been persistent given the stringent law. Speaking at the UN General Assembly, Emir Sheikh Tamim Hamad al-Thani had said, “The Qatari people will receive with open arms football fans from all walks of life.”

Among the LGBTQ+ fans planning to visit Qatar for the World Cup, the safety concerns have been persistent given the stringent law. (Twitter)

FIFA have also echoed a similar safety reassurance. After comments by Qatari officials earlier this year stating that rainbow flags will be taken from the fans to ensure their safety, the world governing body later clarified that those at the venues will be allowed to carry the flags representing the colors of the LGBTQ+ community.

No PDA, no knee display for the fans

Among the many things that the Qatar 2022 organizing committee chief, Hassan Al-Thawadi said at the Concordia Annual Summit in New York earlier this month, one phrase holds weight for all the visiting fans. “We don’t believe in public displays of affection….”

The mere mention of something that’s a basic freedom in any progressive country, was noteworthy, and the concession appearing to be a favour. “We (Qatar) have a set of values that we ask the world to respect. Of course, we don’t believe in PDA (public display of affection). But we are also ingrained towards welcoming everyone from all backgrounds.”

Homosexual and heterosexual couples can hold hands in public places but have been instructed against PDA. Per the Qatar Tourism Authority, “Showing overt affection and intimacy in public is frowned upon.”

The rules aren’t as rigid when it comes to clothing but the tournament organizers and the local authorities have let their preferences be known via the ‘Cultural Awareness’ section on the official website.

“People can generally wear their clothing of choice. Visitors are expected to cover their shoulders and knees when visiting public places like museums and other government buildings. Swimwear is allowed at hotel beaches and pools. Fans attending matches should note that the removal of shirts in the stadium is not permitted,” the cultural awareness note read.

The tussle for Beer

Right on the road to 2022 since 2010 when Qatar clinched the rights for the World Cup has been the uncertainty around how FIFA would tackle the demand of traveling fans for alcohol in a majority Muslim nation that restricts its sale. What made it even trickier was Budweiser being one of the tournament’s official sponsors. Clarity on the issue came around as late as August when FIFA, after consultation with the local officials, finally stated that the fans will be served with Budweiser beer “within the stadium perimeter prior to kickoff and after the final whistle.”

“Inside the stadium bowl ticket holders will have access to non-alcoholic Budweiser Zero,” football’s world body said. “At the FIFA Fan Festival, Budweiser will be available to purchase from 6.30 pm”

It will still be a cautious, non-negotiable act for the fans to access alcohol within the areas mentioned by the organisers.

World Cups & FIFA’s negotiations with hosts

Qatar 2022 isn’t the first time that FIFA have been tasked with negotiating with a host nation upon stringent state laws to address concerns among the fans. Russia’s human rights track record brought in criticism from fans and support groups around the host nation in 2018. A 2013 law in Russia that deemed homosexual ‘propaganda’ as a criminal offence was put under light. An agreement had to be reached with the local authorities to ensure the mere presence of rainbow flags at the tournament venues.

“The rainbow flag will be allowed in stadiums for example. Is it solving all the issues of Russia with gay people? No, but it is a step,” FIFA President Gianni Infantino had said.

For Brazil 2014, the language and the cause of concern was of a different tone.

“Alcoholic drinks are part of the Fifa World Cup, so we’re going to have them. Excuse me if I sound a bit arrogant but that’s something we won’t negotiate,” the then FIFA General Secretary Jerome Valcke had said.

The tournament organising body and the Brazilian Congress were in a tussle regarding the ban of alcoholic drinks at Brazilian football matches since 2003 as part of attempts to tackle violence between rival football fans. Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff later signed a bill that in principle allowed the sale of beer during the World Cup matches.

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