Football and Qatar

Qatar invested billions of dollars in infrastructure to host the FIFA World Cup 2022. Thousands of immigrant workforce were employed to build the infrastructure. There have always been concerns and questions about the rights and treatment of the immigrant workforce in Gulf countries in general. Therefore, since the build-up to FIFA World Cup 2022, Qatar came under increasing international focus on the treatment of its workforce and the Qatari government took steps to ameliorate the conditions, which could be further improved.
Qatar is the first Islamic country to host the FIFA World Cup, which is predicted to bring more than one million fans to the Gulf state. The opening ceremony of the World Cup beautifully reflected the culture of Qatar. However, instead of praising the efforts of Qatar for successfully holding one of the biggest sporting events in the World, western criticism shifted to issues such as LGBT, alcohol use, and dressing, which are in confrontation with the cultural values of Qatar-an Islamic state.
Initially, Western media and sports bodies maintained the mantra that sports and politics do not mingle. But this rule was first broken to isolate Russia and now to criticise the Islamic and cultural values of Qatar. Some channels did not telecast the opening ceremony of the World Cup because they were concerned with LGBT, women’s rights, and other issues. However, all credit to the Qatari government which maintained the stance that for the World Cup they cannot compromise on their Islamic and cultural values.
Further, there is a clear hypocrisy exhibited by western media and states. There is so much concern about human rights by European states but no focus on how their MNCs are exploiting labour in developing countries. Pakistan has again successfully exported footballs for the present world cup. An ordinary worker in Sialkot earns around Rs 160 for the FIFA World Cup, which is then officially priced at $165 at the international level. The majority of football workers in Sialkot are women who work in football to complement their household income. While working in these factories, women also have to attend to their household chores. Thus, there is a lot of noise on the rights of women in Qatar but no international focus on the plight of these women getting a meagre sum for their hard work. International pressure can force MNCs to share more of their profits with their workers in developing countries. Also, face veils are banned in France because France is a secular state, and the people coming to the country have to respect its laws. But why is it not applicable for tourists to respect Qatari laws? Third, alcohol is banned in many stadiums in Europe to control hooliganism, but then why is it an aberration for Qatar?
For the Islamic world, there are many positive takeaways from this mega sporting event, which is still progressing in the Gulf state. First, the international event has put the small nation on the world map. Second, sports bring people together: the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia draped the flag of Qatar around his neck and the Emir of Qatar also draped the KSA flag, spreading the message of unity. Also, Islamic world leaders attended the grand opening ceremony of the FIFA World Cup 2022. Third, the loyalty of Muslims—Arabs and non-Arabs—to the Palestinian cause, has been amply depicted by viral videos of Israeli media reporting on football surrounded by people cheering for the Palestinian cause. Therefore, Islamic countries should be working to host more international events which would promote brotherhood among Islamic countries and help them bring their Islamic and cultural values to the international audience.

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