This is the side of the World Cup that Qatar would prefer you ignore

It is one of those regular moments of harsh reality that can dispel the illusion that this is the World Cup. As the taxi driver dropped off the ball, a sudden request was heard. It’s not for a five-star rating.

“Can you give me some advice?” – he asks. “I don’t have money to eat.”

The South Asian driver sends almost everything he earns back to his family. It should be a long-awaited period, such workers can earn income from the number of arrivals in Qatar, but here another person will die of hunger.

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This is the first week of the World Cup that anyone in Doha would have witnessed many similar events. According to the Business and Human Rights Resource Center on Sunday, six cases of violence against migrant workers were registered during that period.

This is a World Cup side that Qatar will want you to ignore, but it’s inevitable because they’re so important to hosting this tournament.

But a lot of it is due to the promising and bright presentation. To walk in a row means to be blinded by light and deafened by sounds.

Around the venue for the final match is a glittering view of the newly planned city of Lusail. To alleviate the lack of atmosphere, there is an “entertainment” stadium, but occasionally – as in Argentina-Mexico – it is suppressed. There are even birds singing in some public parks, one of which is air-conditioned in Al Gharraf.

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The waste of energy makes recycling plastic bottles a bit pointless. Such concerns underline almost everything about Qatar, at least when you stop to think about it during an emotional assault.

In many areas around Lusail, construction is still ongoing, plots of land are unfinished, and migrant workers are still languishing. The announced participants attracted a lot of attention, especially because of the large number of vacancies. It provided the message that Argentina-Mexico was the best-attended World Cup match since the 1994 final – 88,966 to 94,194 – requiring at least some reserve. Then there are the boastful claims that this will be the first carbon-free tournament. It’s a statement scoffed at by environmental groups like Greenlee, and seems completely absurd when you’re just walking around.

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The truth appears to be much closer to the assessment of academic Mike Berners-Lee, who said the World Cup would be “the highest carbon event of any kind, other than war, that humans have ever staged”.

Lusail Stadium during Brazil’s match against Serbia

(Getty)

And there are no team sheets or official programs because this is a “green” tournament. It’s just as fake as some circles. Even the Souk Waqif, which has the authenticity of being one of the few public places for fans to congregate, was rebuilt in the 1980s.

There are some real positives to this World Cup. There is deep pride in the first World Cup held in an Arab country, a Muslim country. It is important. Most of the locals are very hospitable and friendly, which reminds us of the difference between a country and its people. The subway is glowing. Issues of material and technical support were improved during the competition. Stadiums look good.

But, especially as regards this last point, much of it cannot be wholeheartedly commended, for it is all so immorally constructed. No matter how superficially impressive Qatar is, you can’t look at anything without thinking about the systematic abuse of the migrant workers it was built on.

It’s a spot that will never be cleaned, no matter how many times the same workers are ordered to mop the floor they can’t pick up. Discussing any of this has led to a growing backlash from Qatar.

“If you bring this up, they will call you a racist,” says a football official who works there. “We were told how humbling and enjoyable it would be, but in some cases we found the opposite.”

And now, as the tournament has progressed, it has become isolated in certain quarters. Reluctance to cooperate increased. Even FIFA president Gianni Infantino was barely visible after the tour de force’s opening press conference.

FIFA President Gianni Infantino before the match between Poland and Saudi Arabia

(Getty)

This brings into focus another major issue of the World Cup, which is the issue of image and fakeness. As a police state where the royal family has almost absolute power, with no free press, they are not used to having their views questioned.

He made the World Cup an exciting and instructive meeting of the worlds. This is not a sports event, but a geopolitical event.

Much of this is distilled in one of the main hotbeds of tournaments. The rainbow flag has greater symbolism than usual.

What it means in practice in terms of supporting the LGBTQ+ community, and then what it means as the tournament progresses, particularly FIFA’s relationship with Qatar.

The federations complained directly to the governing body when rumors gathered that the staff had removed their rainbow gear. They were told it wouldn’t be an issue until the World Cup. So FIFA contacted Qatar and the Safety and Security Operations Committee again, who in turn assured that this would no longer be a problem. The missives were sent around.

Admittedly, apart from a few genuine ‘local incidents’ – such as one operator being told to remove his rainbow watch – the missive was largely kept. Fans did not remove their rainbow items.

Germany fans wear rainbow wristbands in Qatar

(Getty)

Even more pressing, there was a sense of dread about it. FIFA officials emphasized that they cannot give guarantees to the federations themselves and that they are only passing on the guarantees received from Qatar.

One line said “we can’t make the police the police”. Certain figures within the governing body say what decisions can be made in one part of Qatar’s power structure, only someone with influence elsewhere can decide otherwise.

In other words, the world championship is at the will of the state. All this made one thing clear: the tail does not wag the dog here.

Therefore, the alcohol event was much more than selling beer in stadiums. It’s fair for a Muslim country to ban alcohol around stadiums, but why do they only decide two days before the tournament?

This left FIFA in a situation where it was not used to it. “It really shows that Qatar is hosting this tournament,” said one official. The Independent.

It also shows another complexity of this World Cup, beyond the layers of the state. There is a growing feeling in some European federations that FIFA is making the decision on Qatar’s terms rather than on Qatar’s demand.

This includes the controversy over the OneLove armband, particularly FIFA’s threat of what one source described as “unlimited liability” if England and other European nations wear them in Qatar. The Independent It was said that Qatar had nothing to do with it; it was all FIFA. I wonder why FIFA officials were willing to be so harsh when there was no precedent. For its part, FIFA says it has reminded federations of its regulations. The feds say potential sanctions are not covered by those provisions.

One cannot help but conclude that FIFA’s position is because it offends local sensitivities.

This is consistent with the accusations of Michael Posner, former assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor: “FIFA president Infantino is trying to protect the government of Qatar from legal criticism for the companies he hired to build the company. The infrastructure of the World Cup benefited mainly from poor migrant workers from South Asia.

England backtracks on decision to wear OneLove armband

(AFP/Getty)

That’s why the key line that suggested there was some calculation behind Infantino’s opening speech was about the “3000 years” of Europe. FIFA’s president appealed to a new power base that partially countered Western criticism of how the World Cup was structured.

Hence, a World Cup characterized by “external noise”, as Gareth Southgate calls it. Therefore, everyone throws everything into every discussion at the expense of the actual issues. It’s just that a World Cup built on “modern slavery” can’t be wrong. This is “oriental studies”.

Similarly, Iran coach Carlos Queiroz responded to questions about the Iranian state: “Why don’t you ask Southgate about Afghanistan?”

One of the greatest legacies of this World Cup may be how it reflected the growing divide between the global South and West. Then came the strange crossover dynamic of the Gulf blockade, where Saudi Arabia and Qatar softened to each other only to ban BeIn Sports from the kingdom again after Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman.

Infantino will no doubt claim credit for the meltdown, but his words have sparked controversy surrounding this new division in the game.

The same source said: “It’s disappointing that he didn’t defuse the situation.” “So this line of succession to the World Cup no longer has any credibility. While the original sin cost Qatar the World Cup, the problem now is how poorly they handle it, making a bad situation even worse.

There were also legal complaints against FIFA within Qatar. Some local residents, perhaps explaining some of the vacancies, found it difficult to work the resale system.

Another surprise is that this is the last World Cup with a local organizing committee. FIFA will then have 100 percent control.

At the same time, Infantino is not opposed to re-election with almost 100% support. Only a few federations, including Denmark and Germany, refuse to do so.

The Football Association of Wales and the Football Association plan to back him, but have repeatedly stressed that their support is not unconditional and comes with caveats. A lot depends on Infantino’s approach to Europe and especially the football calendar.

Officials are ready to change their minds.

Currently, football has not changed the discussion about Qatar. On the contrary.

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