What you need to know:
That Qatar, host of the 2022 edition of the world’s greatest show, sporting or otherwise, is no poster boy for many liberal values is known
If there were any doubt that the politics of world football is a performance theatre, Fifa President Gianni Infantino laid it to rest 24 hours before the World Cup kicked off in Qatar. In an extraordinary 57-minute monologue to journalists assembled in Qatar, the president of Fifa, world soccer’s governing body, conflated 12 years of sustained and hostile criticism of the West Asian/middle eastern countries’ many failings with colonialism, Eurocentrism and Western hypocrisy. “I think for what we Europeans have been doing [for] the last 3,000 years, we should be apologising for [the] next 3,000 years before starting to give moral lessons to people,” he said. He had more than a point when he critiqued Western ‘hypocrisy’.
That Qatar, host of the 2022 edition of the world’s greatest show, sporting or otherwise, is no poster boy for many liberal values is known. But neither was the military junta-ruled Argentina which hosted the World Cup in 1978, or even Russia - the hosts in 2018 or 2008 Olympic hosts China. Nor were allegations of dirty political deals and backroom quid pro quo solely the feature of Qatar’s winning bid for this World Cup.
France, Spain and Scotland ban alcohol in football stadiums and there is no critical commentary – Qatar banned it and there were gasps around the West. That Qatar changed its mind on in-stadia alcohol at the last minute doesn’t reduce the validity of Infantino’s argument.
The fact is the world’s balance of power is shifting, although slowly. China is already sitting at the high table, and bigger emerging economies like India are perhaps a decade or so away from that status. You cannot talk about cricket financially now without India. It wasn’t the case 10 years ago with England and Australia always stifling India’s progress. But already, in global sporting bodies, the collective power of continents matter much more. The West’s accommodation of these realities has been somewhat grudging. And it gets worse; the way western elites pick and choose whom to let into their countries rekindles a lot of double-standards history. Some people are preferred over those from Syria etc. apparently because these people in NBC’s reporter Kelly Cobiella’s words, they are “Christian” and “white”.
Sports is about money, period! Consider the hundreds of millions of dollars European football teams have received as investments from Gulf nations and China in recent years. Not just Qatar-owned PSG, but Barcelona, Manchester City and Inter Milan, and other top European clubs have attracted vanity investments from the Middle Eastern/Arab countries. Money talks very loudly in running sports and those who have the cash will want their share of the limelight and chief Infantino has grasped this well.
Outrageous as it is, the hypocrisy European politicians show on so many issues and values of the people of the Middle East and Africa is nothing surprising!
Phillip Kimumwe, [email protected]