16 NOVEMBER, 2022 - SHANK MEDIA, BY MATT HOOPER: WELL IT IS FINALLY HERE.
THE 22ND FIFA WORLD, IN THE YEAR 2022.
THE FINAL WORLD CUP TO FEATURE 32 TEAMS, BEFORE EXPANSION TO 48 IN 2026.
THE SECOND WORLD CUP TO BE PLAYED ON THE CONTINENT OF ASIA, 20 YEARS AFTER THE FIRST.
PERHAPS THE FINAL WORLD CUP TO FEATURE CRISTIANO RONALDO AND LIONEL MESSI.
WALES' FIRST WORLD CUP IN 64 YEARS.
AND PERHAPS ENGLAND'S BEST CHANCE OF WINNING A SECOND WORLD CUP, 56 YEARS AFTER THE FIRST.
THERE IS SO MUCH TO BE ENTHUSIASTIC ABOUT, AND SO MUCH TO BE EXCITED ABOUT.
BUT IT DOES NOT FEEL LIKE THAT.
AFTER CONTROVERSIALLY BEING AWARDED THE EVENT IN 2012, QATAR WILL HOST THIS WORLD CUP IN NOVEMBER AND DECEMBER, RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE OF THE EUROPEAN CLUB SEASON. THERE GENUINELY SEEMS TO BE LESS INTEREST AND ENTHUSIASM ABOUT THIS WORLD CUP THAN ANY BEFORE. AND WITH GOOD REASON.
QATAR IS THE SIZE OF PERTHSHIRE AND ABERDEENSHIRE COMBINED.
QATAR HAS NEXT TO NO FOOTBALL HERITAGE, AND IT HAS BUILT ITS INFRASTRUCTURE OFF THE BACK OF NEAR SLAVE LABOUR. IF ONLY THEY WERE THE ONLY ISSUES.
IN QATAR IT IS ILLEGAL TO BE GAY AND PROTEST OF ANY KIND IS SQUASHED BY THE REPRESSIVE AUTHORITARIAN GOVERNMENT. IN THIS DEEPLY 'CONSERVATIVE', AKA PREHISTORIC, SOCIETY ALCOHOL IS PRETTY MUCH BANNED OUTSIDE THE EXTREMELY EXPENSIVE HOTELS, AND EARLIER THIS WEEK FIFA ANNOUNCED ALCOHOL WOULD NOT BE SERVED INSIDE STADIUMS.
IF THIS DECISION WAS MADE CLEAR AT THE OUTSET THEN IT WOULD HAVE BEEN FAIR ENOUGH, IF THAT IS THE CULTURE OF THE HOSTS, THEN IT IS FAIR. BUT FOR THE LAST 10 YEARS THE QATARI AUTHORITIES HAVE CONSISTENTLY STATED IT WOULD BE AVAILABLE INSIDE THE STADIUMS, AND NOW AFTER FIFA SECURED A HUGE DEAL WITH BUDWEISER TO SPONSOR THE EVENT, THEIR OWN PRODUCT CANNOT BE SERVED TO FANS FROM ALL OVER THE WORLD.
LACK OF HOTEL ROOMS, LACK OF FREEDOMS TO ENJOY A WORLD CUP LIKE YOU WOULD IN ALMOST EVERY OTHER PART OF THE WORLD, WILL MAKE THIS A WORLD CUP WITH MANY CHALLENGES AND MAKE IT A WORLD CUP UNLIKE ANY OTHER, AND NOT IN A GOOD WAY. SEVERAL NATIONS, INCLUDING ENGLAND, WILL MAKE VISIBLE PROTESTS ON THE PITCH IN QATAR, BUT THIS IS NOT A SITUATION THAT ANY NATION SHOULD HAVE BEEN PUT IN.
IT WAS ALREADY A BAD SITUATION, BUT TODAY FIFA PRESIDENT GIANNI INFANTINO MADE IT EVEN WORSE.
IN AN EXTRAORDINARY PRESS CONFERENCE AHEAD OF THE BIG KICK-OFF ON SUNDAY, INFANTINO WENT ON A REMARKABLE RANT. He opened by saying: "Today I have strong feelings. Today I feel Qatari, I feel Arab, I feel African, I feel gay, I feel disabled, I feel a migrant worker."
it was an extraordinary speech from anyone, let alone the man in charge of world football. it was insensitive, offensive, out of touch and quite frankly unacceptable. he went on to say that he had been bullied as a child because of his red hair and freckles, comparing it to the discrimination of almost everyone in Qatar in this prehistoric society. in response to his series of crass comments I sent a letter via email to Fifa, addressed to infantino:
Dear Mr Gianni Infantino,
I AM English
I AM British
I AM European
I AM Disabled
I AM Offended
I AM Hurt
YOU ARE A DISGRACE
Your insensitive, inaccurate, and offensive speech ahead of the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar caused deep hurt and distress to many around the world, and as a lifelong fan of football I urge you to resign and apologise to every group you offended so blatantly on November 19.
I will address many of the points you made in your speech directly, but first I want to make it clear why so many people find it outrageous and unacceptable that Qatar is hosting the World Cup. Firstly, Qatar has absolutely NO football heritage whatsoever, and barely any infrastructure, yet it was chosen, by your corrupt organisation, over nations such as Australia, to host one of the two biggest sporting events on earth. Please do not bang on about legacy, because many of the stadiums will be dismantled or massively reduced in size after the World Cup. This World Cup will not have any footballing legacy for Qatar, and each of your corrupt, greedy executives know it.
Secondly, Qatar is the size of Perthshire and Aberdeenshire put together. and the country does not have the necessary infrastructure to stage a World Cup to the standard we have all become accustomed to. FIFA have broken their own rules about number of stadiums in one city, and you have caused tremendous disruption to the European club season by moving the event to November. If Qatar cannot stage the event safely in the summer, as it bid to do, then it should not host it at all.
But let me now address the most offensive and hurtful elements of your disgraceful speech.
I AM disabled. By you saying you “feel disabled” you have helped to minimise the impact of someone being disabled, you have belittled each one of us with your pathetic speech. You cannot feel disabled, it isn’t a feeling you absolute fool. My disability, along with everyone else who has a disability, affects me every day of my life.
There are over 2 million people in the UK alone who identify as being LGBTQ+. Being Gay is not a feeling, as you so crassly said in your disgraceful speech. Many of these gay people are football fans, employees of football clubs, and players. Whilst the number of openly gay footballers is very low, you have made it even more difficult for those players who are openly gay and indeed, those who are not open about their sexuality because of the prehistoric views of the host nation and the completely insensitive language of dinosaurs like you.
The treatment of migrant workers in Qatar, and across the entire Middle East, has been truly appalling.They live in squalid conditions and their working rights are nil. They are paid peanuts and worked liked slaves. How dare you compare your migration experience to theirs, it is not comparable, and for you to say “I feel like a Migrant Worker” when you earn millions is beyond the pale.
I was bullied at school. But come on Mr Infantino. For you to compare being bullied because of your red hair and freckles to the discrimination LGBTQ+, women and migrant workers face in Qatar is, again, beyond the pale.
And don’t come with the hypocrisy line.
In the West, if we don’t have workers’ rights, if we are discriminated against for our abilities or sexuality, we can protest, complain, and make change. In Qatar if you do this you face jail or even worse, and the likes of you know it.
You have made yourself look like an insensitive, homophobic dinosaur. You have brought the game of football into disrepute. When you became FIFA president you could have corrected many of the ills of your predecessors, and stripped this prehistoric, wretched country of the right to host the greatest event in Football. Instead, you have doubled down, and made a bad situation even worse.
Remove yourself and take others with you who continue to hold our great sport back with your awful views and corruption.
I WAS GOING TO GO ON TO TALK ABOUT MY HOPES OF NATIONS LIKE USA, CANADA, AUSTRALIA AND JAPAN HAVING A GOOD WORLD CUP, BUT MY HOPES FOR THIS WORLD CUP ARE ACTUALLY FOR IT TO BE CANCELLED DUE TO THE MAJOR NATIONS WALKING OUT AND FLYING HOME. I WILL WATCH SOME OF THE MATCHES WHEN I CAN, BUT I FEAR THIS WORLD CUP WILL BE A DISTRESSING EXPERIENCE FOR HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF FANS, AND I DO FEAR THAT MANY WILL FALL FOUL OF THE DRACONIAN AND PREHISTORIC RULES IN QATAR. PLEASE DO NOT COME AT ME WITH "THEIR COUNTRY, THEIR RULES". THIS IS ONE PLANET, AND HUMAN RIGHTS ARE UNIVERSAL.
THIS IS NOT THE SAME AS INVESTING BILLIONS INTO FOOTBALL CLUBS OR LAUNCHING A GOLF TOUR. THIS IS HOSTING AN EVENT WHICH HAS MILLIONS OF FANS COMING FROM ALL OVER THE WORLD. THIS IS AN EVENT BUILT ON THE BACK OF THOUSANDS OF MIGRANT WORKERS WHICH HAVE BEEN TREATED LIKE SLAVES AND MANY HAVE DIED IN THE PROCESS OF BUILDING STADIUMS, MANY OF WHICH WILL BE TORN DOWN AFTER THIS FOUR WEEK CHARADE IN THE DESERT.
FOLLOWING THIS WORLD CUP THE MAJOR NATIONS OF FOOTBALL MUST COME TOGETHER TO EXERT PRESSURE ON FIFA. THEY MUST CALL FOR INFANTINO'S RESIGNATION AND THEY MUST CALL FOR A COMPLETE OVERHAUL OF THE WORLD CUP. NO NATION LIKE QATAR SHOULD EVER GET NEAR HOSTING A WORLD CUP AGAIN.