Football World Cup in Qatar: When human rights take a back seat – podcast “important today”

Podcast “important today”
Football World Cup in Qatar: when human rights take a back seat

This temporary football stadium in Doha in the Ras Abu Aboud district is also being played

This temporary football stadium in Doha in the Ras Abu Aboud district is also being played

© Nikku / DPA

“One makes oneself almost ridiculous when one claims that sport is not political,” says historian René Wildangel. You can see every day that the World Cup in Qatar is highly political. Rarely has a sporting event been as controversial as this one.

There is now talk of a World Cup of shame, a World Cup of lies. Corruption in the awarding of contracts, miserable working conditions in the construction of the luxurious sports facilities, as a result of which an estimated thousands died, and a catastrophic human rights situation on site. Since the World Cup was awarded in 2010, in Qatar – apart from a few reforms – only changed to a limited extent, says the historian and author René Wildangel in the 403rd episode “important today”.

And despite all the criticism that Qatar is currently experiencing, he believes that the investments in the World Cup have definitely paid off for the Gulf state. It has managed to put Qatar on the map, found ways and strategies to create a positive image and solidified its economic influence. And “I’m afraid the day the World Cup is over, it will be difficult to keep up the debate on human rights violations,” says René Wildangel.

Sporting events in the desert: “A bizarre decision”

And even before that day comes, the next major events in neighboring Saudi Arabia are in sight: the 2029 Asian Winter Games and possibly even a successful bid for the Soccer World Cup 2030. A bizarre decision – agrees with René Wildangel. Not only do these sporting events take place there in the desert, “if you look at the human rights situation in Saudi Arabia, it’s significantly more difficult than in Qatar. We’re talking about political prisoners, torture and the terrible murder of Jamal Khashoggi.”

Binding standards: Fifa is blind in the discussion

For the historian it is now too late for a boycott with regard to the World Cup in Qatar, the big question now is how standards can be created at all to prevent major events from being held in such countries, only: “The FIFA is a shop not particularly known for its ability to reform. There is a certain blindness in this discussion.” That’s why other institutions and politicians are called upon to set binding standards. “The will is there, but not among the sports officials. Because these major events are associated with massive interests – quite specifically – extremely large sums of money that flow here.”

Football as a symbol of the struggle for freedom in Iran

“The Rebellious Game” is the title of the book that René Wildangel wrote together with the political scientist Jan Busse. It expresses what FIFA always wants to prevent: football has a political message – and it mobilizes. You can also see this very recently in Iran, where there has been a movement of women for years who were not allowed to watch football games in the stadium and who fought to make it possible for them to do so. “The football and the struggle of these women is a symbol of a much more important struggle that is going on right now, which is equality, to be able to lead a normal life in Iran.” And even now, football is being used as a stage. Some players of the Iranian national team had already shown solidarity with the protesters before the World Cup in Qatar, and many footballers had experienced repression. René Wildangel is certain: “He plays here too Sports a role. And Fifa and other international institutions in particular must participate in solidarity with the women and the people of Iran.”

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