HAS FIFA RUINED THE FOOTBALL WORLD CUP?
By Denis O'Sullivan
The FIFA World Cup is widely regarded as the pinnacle of Sport, the 2014 World Cup alone had a 3.2 Billion home television viewership. It is a tournament which enthrals billions, with incredible drama and inspires millions of children worldwide to pretend to be their heroes in their back garden. However due to the choices of the football governing body FIFA the beautiful game is becoming more and more tainted.
No matter how much debate there is, the 2018 World Cup will be held in Russia and I fear that there will be many issues with the largest sporting event of 2018. Firstly giving Russia a major sporting event has caused major issues in the past due to the fact it gives Vladimir Putin a major publicity win, which ultimately led to the invasion of the Ukraine after the Sochi Winter Olympics. Preventing him from using the World Cup as he did the Sochi Olympiad to boost his standing in the world would thus represent a continuation of the international condemnation and isolation of the Kremlin since its invasion of Ukraine. Furthermore, racism is a major issue in Russian football and is commonly experienced by black players in the Russian Premier League. Hulk, a former Zenit St Petersburg winger, has complained about constant racism in Russia describing fans as having “ignorance and a lack of culture". It is common in Russian football to hear monkey chants when a black player from either side gets the ball. The actions of thousands of Russian supporters has put the upcoming tournament in jeopardy with many black footballers contemplating a boycott of the tournament. Yaya Toure, an Ivorian midfielder for Manchester City, has expressed how vital it is that a solution is reached stating- “It’s very important, otherwise we are not confident coming to the World Cup in Russia. We don’t come.”
Furthermore homophobia is also a regular occurrence in Russia with the sight of two males holding hands, leading to verbal abuse, spitting and violence. This is coupled with prior acts of hooliganism at major football tournaments such as the 2016 European Championships in France, which nearly led to Russia being disqualified from the tournament. One fan who was interviewed after the Euros stated "The English always say they are the main football hooligans. We want to show that the English are girls.” The damage that these “ultras” caused was amassed by only a couple of hundred raucous fans out of the 15,000 Russians who travelled to France. A major fear is that on home turf surely numbers are only going to increase the chaos that they will cause. The “ultras” describe it as “a sport” in which they can “show their strength” suggesting that the 2018 World Cup is inevitably going to enter pure carnage.
To add salt to the wounds of football lovers the 2022 World Cup will take place in Qatar which arguably has more issues than Russia surrounding it. Stadiums are being built by workers who are forbidden to change jobs or even leave the country. In November 2013, Amnesty International reported "serious exploitation", including workers having to sign false statements that they had received their wages in order to regain their passports. Nepalese immigrant workers have been dying at a rate of one per day and many workers are living in labour camps with dilapidated and unsanitary conditions. Furthermore, homosexuality is illegal in Qatar with it leading to imprisonment of up to three years meaning that gay football fan’s safety is not assured.
Additionally there are many questions over Qatar’s footballing history with them being ranked 113th at the time of controversially winning the World Cup bid. The Qatari national team has been known to naturalize players from foreign nations and reports suggest that Qatar also hires migrant workers to fill their empty stadiums in the Qatar Stars League, paying them one dollar an hour to "sit in the stadiums and pretend to have fun.” Qatar will be the smallest nation to ever host a World cup and with an average daily high temperature in June being around 42 degrees there is great uncertainty whether the tournament will take place in the Winter. A winter tournament would cause massive disruption to the whole footballing calendar affecting TV deals, the transfer window and the whole tradition of a summer World cup.
It is important that FIFA takes the necessary procedure in ensuring that the proceeding World Cups are wholesome ones. Hopefully, all reservations are disproven and football fans get a tournament worth waiting for.