World Cup 2022: Qatar’s PR facade is crumbling at the start of the tournament

Most expensive World Cup ever
The world visiting false friends – Qatar’s PR facade is crumbling at the start of the tournament

Clapping from above: Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, Emir of Qatar and Fifa President Gianni Infantino at the World Cup opening game

© Tom Weller / DPA

The world has long squinted in the direction of Qatar, but now it is staring at the emirate in disbelief. For a long time, Fifa and the host country have made every effort to avoid debates. At the start of the World Cup, however, the high-gloss facade now shows deep cracks.

When Fifa President Sepp Blatter gave the emirate of Qatar the go-ahead to host the tournament in 2010, a murmur went around the world that hasn’t stopped to this day. In the years that followed, the organizers spared no expense or effort by building a highly polished PR wall around soccer festivals in the desert from the start. It’s the most expensive World Cup ever. According to the desert state of Qatar, the World Cup cost it more than 200 billion US dollars. This year’s tournament thus surpasses the most expensive World Cups in Brazil 2014 (approx. 15 billion) and Russia 2018 (approx. 11.6 billion) by a multiple.

But the partly absurd start on Sunday showed that neither hypermodern arenas nor marketing coffers filled to the brim can distract from the scandals away from the pitch. In the weeks before kick-off, the facade of the well-tempered oasis of well-being showed plenty of cracks. Below are just a few examples.

“One Love” captain’s armbands: yellow card for solidarity

The teams from Germany, England, the Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland, Wales, France, Denmark as well as Norway and Sweden (neither of which have qualified for the World Cup) announced a joint campaign in September: the team captains would be given multicolored armbands and the Lettering “One Love” in Qatar. Actually, it was just about setting a sign of solidarity. To stand up for the rights of homosexuals and against all forms of racism. We have repeatedly pointed out to Fifa well in advance that we want to wear this bandage, there was no reaction from Fifa,” said DFB President Bernd Neuendorf on Sunday.

Rarely has a bit of material sparked such a discussion. Because Fifa, which together with the organizers had designed their own captain’s armbands (with much vague messages), did until just before: nothing.

A few hours before England captain Harry Kane was due to appear with the armband in the Three Lions’ first game against Iran, the campaigners made a collective retreat. “Fifa has made it very clear that if our captains wear the armbands on the field, they will impose sporting sanctions,” they said in a joint statement. It is unclear which “sanctions” the world association had specifically threatened in addition to fines against the national associations. According to reports, the referees could have been instructed to show the captains a yellow card before kick-off should they come out with the ‘One Love’ armband. A repeated violation of the ban would probably have resulted in a ban.

Guest monitoring: compulsory apps for football tourists

Qatar had built entire cities around some venues, such as this US sports magazine “Sportingsnews” reports. Around the stadium in Lusail alone, north of Doha, 22 hotels, housing for 200,000 people, an amusement park, two marinas and two golf courses have been built. A land of milk and honey.

However, this has its price. Anyone entering Qatar is required to install two government apps. The Corona app “Ehteraz” is intended to be used for meticulous contact tracing, with the “Hayya” software visitors should be able to manage their game and local transport stickers. What sounds sensible in and of itself is extremely questionable when it comes to privacy and data security. Even the human rights organization “Amnesty International” warned against the apps. Because they can access all data on the smartphone, monitor WLAN or Bluetooth connections and read out the exact location. “Anyone who goes to Qatar for the World Cup must be aware that they are becoming transparent fans,” said “11 Freunde” editor-in-chief Phillip Köster in an RTL interview.

Toasted: alcohol ban in and around the stadiums

Alcohol consumption is severely restricted in Qatar, which is strictly Muslim. Public drunkenness is a punishable offense for Muslims here.

For many football fans, alcohol is simply part of it. Of course, the World Cup organizers know that very well. In earlier agreements with Fifa and the US brewery Anheuser-Busch (Budweiser), understanding was pretended for a long time. Three hours before and three hours after the start of the game, the sale of beer (albeit at horrendous prices) is allowed, it was said at first.

A few days before the start of the tournament, all hop lovers on site were shocked: the agreement was canceled unilaterally. Alcohol may only be bought and drunk in the evening hours and only on the fan mile in Doha. Shortly before the start of the tournament, Fifa is powerless and powerless.

Even at Budweiser one can only laugh about the (expensive) back and forth:

False openness: Danger for gay fans in Qatar

Outwardly, the emirate was almost desperately cosmopolitan. Football legend and Qatar’s World Cup ambassador David Beckham recently even described the tournament as a platform for “progress and tolerance”. Despite the words of the well-paid PR mascot, homosexual acts are still illegal in the state on the Arabian peninsula and can be punished with up to seven years in prison.

Regardless, Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani claimed that all people are welcome at the World Cup. However, not everyone adhered to this line of displayed tolerance. Less than two weeks before the start of the tournament, Qatar’s World Cup ambassador Khalid Salman called homosexuality “mental damage” in a ZDF interview. Human rights organizations are certainly not fooled by the supposed open arms of the hosts. There is a high risk that showing same-sex love “will be punished,” Human Rights Watch Germany director Wenzel Michalski said. at “Sky“Whatever Qatar promised beforehand, it doesn’t matter at all.

“Why can’t we film here?”: Danish journalist pressured

“They invited the whole world to come here, why can’t we film here?” Danish reporter Rasmus Tantholdt asked amid live reporting from Doha last week. Despite permission to shoot, local security forces wanted to prevent the team of journalists from working – and even threatened to destroy the camera.

As if Qatar hadn’t already made enough negative headlines just before the tournament started. The half-hearted apology from the World Cup organizers didn’t help either.

with dpa

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