Words by Cameron Gray

Following a World Cup build-up rifled with controversies, from the deaths of construction workers building the stadium, to Qatar – the host country – criminalising homosexuality, which is punishable by death when those involved are of Muslim faith, FIFA has now written a letter to all 32 qualified teams telling them to, “now focus on the football” asking for the nations involved to “not allow football to be dragged into every ideological or political battle that exists.” 

The FIFA 2022 World Cup kicks off this month, with the opening game set for the 20th November and England’s first outing the following day, the 21st November. There have been controversies surrounding this year’s World Cup since it was announced that Qatar would be the host nation. With Qatar seemingly lacking in terms of modern-day human rights, many have questioned whether they should be given the privilege to host the World Cup. However, it is now clear that the World Cup is most definitely going ahead in Qatar, no matter the issues surrounding their human rights.  

Amnesty released a report claiming that within Qatar, exploitation of human rights “persist on a significant scale.” The report finds that withholding wages of construction workers is still common, with migrant workers continuing to “face labour abuses” and a struggle to change jobs freely, combined with the authorities continuing “to fail to investigate properly the deaths of migrant workers.”  

Looking at women’s rights, the report also states that women continue “to face discrimination in law and practice.” It details the limited amount of freedom that women are allowed in Qatar, with it being typical for them to be “tied to their male guardian, usually their father, brother, grandfather or uncle, or for married women, to their husband.” These ‘guardian’s’ have to give permission for women to undertake “key life decisions” such as “to marry, study abroad on government scholarships, work in many government jobs, travel abroad until certain ages, and receive some forms of reproductive healthcare.” 

The report also confirms that same-sex conduct (only between men) is “punishable by up to seven years’ imprisonment” or possibility of the death penalty when those involved are of Muslim faith. In addition, Amnesty found that “leading, instigating or seducing a male in any way to commit sodomy or dissipation” is a crime. 

Many players and countries involved in the World Cup have already made their displeasure at Qatar’s human rights issues publicly known. Denmark have unveiled a new all-black kit which they will wear in protest to the human rights record of the country, with Hummel – Denmark’s kit manufactures – stating they chose the colour black as it is “the colour of mourning.” Current World Cup champions France saw many cities boycott the event, with multiple city officials opting out of any World Cup celebrations. England captain Harry Kane will wear a ‘One Love’ armband throughout the tournament, alongside the captains of many other nations. Australia’s national team made a collective statement protesting the World Cup hosts and their human rights record – this is following Australian footballer Josh Cavallo coming out last year to be the only openly gay top-flight male footballer in the world at the time. Numerous other players and countries have also protested regarding the hosts of the tournament. 

Following all these protests and the serious questions raised regarding the host nation, it has now been reported that FIFA has sent out a letter to all nations involved, urging them to just “focus on the football” and to “not allow football to be dragged into every ideological or political battle that exists.” The letter, suggesting everyone should just ‘get on with it’, seems rather misplaced. Perhaps a better approach would have been FIFA considering from the outset whether Qatar was a safe nation to host the World Cup before allowing them to do so… or maybe we should ignore all the human rights issues raised as FIFA have urged and just watch the football; obviously, that is far more important.