The technological advancement of the past couple of decades has transformed the planet Earth into a Global village and vanquished the bounds of time and space, but has it bridged communities and cultures? FIFA World Cup branding 2022, marred by controversies, has endorsed the phenomenon and pronounced the ever-deepening abysm between east and west.
Soccer is a game that has an overwhelming fan base in all major regions as compared to other games. The international event, “FIFA”, is organized every four years and kicked off on 20 November 2022 amid controversies and much-anticipated excitement among soccer fans. The FIFA World Cup 2022, awarded to Qatar in 2010, is not the first FIFA event that has been subject to geopolitical controversies. However, being the first-ever FIFA event in the Arab world, it is more sensitive to controversies. The reasons for these controversies are embedded partly in geopolitics, but the events are also subject to the onslaught of global divisive political agendas.
FIFA World Cup 2022 and Arab Politics
The event presents a unique opportunity for Qatar and Arabs to exploit FIFA World Cup branding and introduce their culture to the world. The conduct of the FIFA World Cup 2022 in a more inclusive manner will do a great deal to shun misconceptions like the intolerant attitudes of Arabs and their alleged disregard for human rights. On the other hand, political activists, who affiliate themselves with ideas that are offensive to Arab traditions and culture, are exploiting the event to further their agenda. The intensity of political opposition is aptly evident from the term “Sportswashing”, coined in the mid-2010s by human rights groups to denote the efforts of governments to brush away human rights violations in the garb of sporting events.
Major Controversies Surrounding the FIFA World Cup 2022
Hosting the FIFA World Cup 2022 is an arduous edifice requiring investment in new stadiums, transportation, infrastructure, and accommodation to look after the needs of thousands of fans. Qatar relied on low-wage migrant labor to meet the requirements of the tournament. The system of “Kafala” has undergone a series of reforms since 2010, when it was awarded to Qatar. Human rights groups have acknowledged the initiatives of Qatar to improve labor rights, yet there is still a long way to go in protecting labor from systematic exploitation.
Human rights groups are also aggressively criticizing Qatar for laws curtailing the rights of LGBT people, freedom of expression, blaspheming against Islam, or spreading false news. Observers have claimed that hosting the World Cup is a measure of “sportswashing” the reprehensible record of human rights violations. The repressive attitude of Qatar’s government to punish citizens, silence dissidents, and target independent journalists is evident from the fact that it jailed social media users in 2021 for violating the laws of “false news.”.
The BBC didn’t broadcast the live coverage of the opening ceremony of the FIFA World Cup 2022 but focused on criticizing Qatar for its alleged violation of human rights, stance on the LGBT campaign, and social restrictions. Journalist fraternity and politicians criticized the decision and equated it with hypocrisy.
Surprisingly, Qatar has also banned the sale of alcohol in its eight stadiums, which damaged the $112 million deal of Qatar beer Budweiser with FIFA for the 2022 World Cup. Budweiser Qatar’s tweet regarding the ban on sales further fueled the buildup of controversies surrounding the FIFA World Cup 2022 and Arab politics.
Why it matters
The western masses hold a peculiar perception of the culture, traditions, and societal structure of eastern societies in general and the Arabs in particular. This perception has been crafted mainly by the media, where the West commands a monopoly. The other side blames the media industry for tarnishing the image of the eastern hemisphere despite its rich culture, traditions, and contributions to the arts and sciences in the past thousand years. However, squaring blame entirely on western media amounts to a superficial comprehension of the problem, leaving the fundamental reasons untouched. It is only through exposure to other cultures and the intermingling of people from varied backgrounds and ideologies that prejudices will be lessened and better understood.
In the cruel world of real politics, everything is viewed through the prism of power and is void of empathy. It has pushed us into an ebb of divisive politics. Pressure groups propagate the dark side of rivals, extending disrespect to culture, history, legislation, societal sensitivities, and traditions. It is contemplated as an onslaught on culture, religion, and traditions once powerful nations approach problems of poverty, corruption, law and order, etc. with their prism and put them under the purview of regressive attitudes and policies.
Controversies associated with the FIFA World Cup 2022 and Arab politics aptly ruminate on the attitudes perpetuating prejudices against the Arabs for the vested interests of global pressure groups. The critics are right in questioning hypocrisy, where multi-billion-dollar arms deals don’t raise an eyebrow while a sports event draws unparalleled aggressive media campaigns.
“Qatar Official Slams ‘Hypocrisy’ of World Cup Criticism.” Qatar Official Slams ‘Hypocrisy’ of World Cup Criticism | Qatar World Cup 2022 News | Al Jazeera, 4 Nov. 20224, www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/11/4/football-for-everyone-says-qatar-minister-to-world-cup-critics.
The light across the Horizon
Hosting the FIFA World Cup 2022 in Qatar opens a window of opportunity for the Arabs to introduce their soft image to the world. It can be instrumental in diminishing the grossly exaggerated misconceptions prevalent in the western population. The way Qatar has stood its ground and not yielded to global pressure groups will only strengthen its resolve to send a positive message to the world. The FIFA World Cup branding in the opening ceremony is most distinctive; it commenced with the recitation of the Quran and encased the performance of K-pop boy band BTS in the later stages of the ceremony. It successfully transpired the idea of the co-existence of cultures while staying respectful of each other’s sensitivities.
Qatar has made extraordinary efforts to put up requisite infrastructure in terms of Stadiums, hotels, transportation, and recreational facilities encompassing Art Galleries, Museums, Fun Zones, and musical concerts. In parallel, Qatar has also ensured to introduce its culture to visitors through various initiatives like Mosque museums. The whole idea will impact the tourists in a positive way, who will be visiting Qatar to witness soccer games. This bridging of cultures through a sporting event is the much-awaited light across a dark horizon that might help to promote harmony among people and defeat designs of divisive politics.