At the Football World Cup in Qatar, everyone is welcome

FIFA President Gianni Infantino, in a letter to all the 32 countries competing at Qatar Football World Cup, wrote that everybody is welcome in Qatar irrespective of religion, gender, sexual location, or nationality. The state on the ground has been somewhat different than the insight in the hospitality lounges that he occupies.

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At the Football World Cup in Qatar, everyone is welcome
At the Football World Cup in Qatar, everyone is welcome

You’ve perhaps seen that clip. You know, that videotape of Cameroonian football legend Samuel Eto’o trying to present the business end of his foot to a pesky fan’s torso after a hostility during the Brazil-South Korea game at the Football World Cup. After the video went viral, Eto’o offered something of a half-regret for his actions, which he said do not match his nature.

I had a violent argument with a person who was perhaps an Algerian supporter, Eto’o wrote in a statement he tweeted. As a matter of amplification of his violent argument the right word would be attacked since the fan in question never hits back, Eto’o stated how he had been targeted with relentless incitement and daily harassment from Algerian followers since Cameroon edged past their side to qualify for the Football World Cup on the away goals rule.

Eto’o is more than a former footballer. He’s the President of the Cameroonian Football Federation. He’s a Global Legacy Ambassador for the Qatar Football World Cup Organising committee. And he’s a part of the FIFA Legends program, which uses former footballers to endorse the sport. In short, he’s a man carrying substantial heft and social standing in footballing circles. Supposed Mamouni, the Algerian YouTuber who was assaulted, has supposed that he had listed a grievance with the police in Qatar. Nonetheless, would anyone be astonished if nothing came out of it? Does anybody imagine FIFA dropping Eto’o from the FIFA Legends program or Qatar World Cup organizers telling the former star that he will not be welcome anymore at games?

FIFA President Gianni Infantino, in a strange letter to all the 32 football federations which had sides rival at Qatar World Cup, wrote that everybody is welcome in Qatar irrespective of origin, background, religion, gender, sexual location, or nationality.

At the Football World Cup in Qatar, everyone is welcome
At the Football World Cup in Qatar, everyone is welcome

In Qatar so far, one instruction has been in play: everybody is welcome, but some are more welcome than others. That’s why while normal followers have been told there will be no alcohol in the stands in any of the stadiums at Qatar World Cup, those who have access to luxury hospitality areas can drink whatever they want to when they want to while they’re seated in their posh seats in a nation where public ingesting of alcohol is unlawful on religious grounds.

In that letter to the 32 sides, Infantino also went on to add: “At FIFA, we try to respect all opinions and beliefs, without handing out moral lessons to the rest of the world. No one people or culture or nation is ‘better’ than any other.”

What then, Mr Infantino, is the point of this Football World Cup if not to prove one nation is better than others? Over the last fortnight, FIFA, at the behest of Qatar world Cup organizers, has tried its best to promote the ongoing edition of the Football World Cup as a Good Vibes Only event. It was with this motto at heart that Infantino exhorted the 32 teams to focus on football and instructed them that they should not allow football to get dragged into every ideological or political battle that exists. FIFA showed it meant business when it fined the Croatian football federation for taunts their followers aimed at Canadian goalkeeper Milan Borjan, who has Serbian roots. Worldwide Tickets and Hospitality offers Football World Cup tickets for the Qatar Football World Cup at the best prices. Football fanatics and buy Football World Cup Tickets at exclusively discounted prices.

At the Football World Cup in Qatar, everyone is welcome
At the Football World Cup in Qatar, everyone is welcome

Football’s global governing body also fined the Serbian football federation for a banner in the locker room where the map included the independent nation of Kosovo as a Serbian territory and a slogan that read, No Surrender. FIFA, though, appears not to have seen the Moroccan players celebrating their shock defeat over Spain with a Palestinian flag. That the host nation of Qatar is one of the biggest allies of the Palestinian cause is purely coincidental! Scores of Iranian fans have reported that they were not allowed to carry banners and flags supporting the protestors against the Iranian regime back home. Some of these banners carried slogans like Woman, Life, Freedom, and Mahsa Amini, a tribute to the 22-year-old Iranian woman who died at the hands of the nation’s morality police.

FIFA later released a statement assuring Iranian fans that they could carry banners into stadiums after Iran had already been knocked out. Another likely coincidence: Iran and Qatar are known to share good diplomatic relations, with Iran being one of the first nations to recognize Qatar’s independence. It might also be pertinent to point out that while FIFA wants to make sure the Football World Cup is as apolitical as possible, it essentially threw out the Russian team from the qualifying tournament over the country’s invasion of Ukraine. And before FIFA starts to justify the ejection of Russia from the tournament by citing human rights violations, it might be prudent for it to run a basic internet search with the words Qatar Football World Cup and human rights together.

Political hot-button topics aside, FIFA has opened soundings into homophobic chanting by Ecuadorian and Mexican fans during group stage games. This is at a Football World Cup that FIFA gifted to a nation where homosexuality is a crime! This, at a FIFA World Cup where it almost arm-twisted seven European federations, which were planning to have their captains sport OneLove armbands, into dropping the idea with threats of multiple sanctions.

Qatar Football World Cup organizers, meanwhile, have selectively tried to stamp out symbols like rainbow flags and bucket hats in one instance, stadium authorities even got into an argument with a South American journalist carrying an even flag of Brazil’s northeastern state of Pernambuco that might symbolize support to the LGBTQI community.

At the Football World Cup in Qatar, everyone is welcome
At the Football World Cup in Qatar, everyone is welcome

Today, I feel Qatari. Today, I feel Arab. Today, I feel African, supposed to Infantino in a strange monologue in front of the world media just one day before the start of the Football World Cup. In his diatribe, he lectured Westerners and critics of the host nation and accused them of hypocrisy. A sense of irony was not among the list of things he was able to feel that day. Today, I feel gay.

Today I feel a migrant worker, continued the man who draws an annual salary that’s over $3 million but believed he could feel like men who had worked at building Qatar’s infrastructure in brutal conditions for as little as 50 or 60 pence an hour. Infantino has spent too much time in the stadium hospitality lounges you know; the ones where normal rules don’t apply to confuse feeling gay to make a point with really being gay in a nation where that carries criminal consequences.

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