Political statements we could expect at the World Cup

Political statements we could expect at the World Cup

The World Cup has never been far from controversy throughout its 92-year history. The second edition of the competition, in 1934, was hosted by Italy, at a time when fascism was at its height in the country. The 1978 World Cup in Argentina took place against the backdrop of a military coup, which had taken place two years before the tournament, and developed into an oppressive and brutal regime.


However, this year’s World Cup has been controversial on multiple levels, in an era when awareness of human rights is stronger than it has ever been. While soccer authorities look forward to the competition, and sportsbook sites such as 22.bet do a brisk trade in betting on the tournament around the world, others are contemplating using the tournament itself to make public protests.


FIFA has written to all the nations at the World Cup, asking them not to make political statements at the competition. There is also a long-standing FIFA rule against teams wearing political symbols or statements on their shirts – a sensible policy given the range of local and regional conflicts that have existed around the world. However, in the case of Qatar, it has been a lot harder for FIFA to hold the line.


Source of controversy


Initially, much of the controversy over the Qatar tournament focused on allegations of corruption and the fact that it is not viewed as a traditional soccer nation.


Over the last few months, however, the focus has sharpened to a couple of issues. The first is the treatment of the, mainly migrant, workers who have built much of the infrastructure that has made the World Cup possible. Estimates of how many workers have died in the construction process vary, but some have suggested that the total number of workers injured or killed may be into five figures.


Although there have been some reforms of the employment system in Qatar, there are still many problems, including a ban on unions, and the detention of workers who speak out.


The second issue is the treatment of LGBT people in Qatar. In theory, gay men can face a prison sentence or even the death penalty. While there have been assurances from Qatar about the safety of LGBT fans travelling to the tournament, many players, fans and journalists feel that this is an opportunity to put pressure on Qatari authorities to stop persecuting the community.


Denmark’s shirts


One of the most high-profile protests will be made by the Denmark team. Their shirts, created by Danish company Hummel, feature toned-down logos and are almost plain, including the stark all-black uniform that was designed to represent the color of mourning, in memory of the victims of the Qatari regime. FIFA has, however, prevented Denmark from wearing uniforms that featured pro-human rights slogans.


Captain’s armbands


England captain Harry Kane will be leading another high-profile protest during England’s World Cup matches. He will be wearing a rainbow armband to support the OneLove campaign against LGBT discrimination. In fact, he is one of nine captains at the tournament who will be wearing the armbands. Kane has spoken about the importance of players standing together against discrimination and sending a clear message against division at a time when the whole world is watching.


Australia’s video


Australia qualified for the tournament by winning two playoff games in Qatar, but many Australian players have also been outspoken in their criticism of the policies of the Middle Eastern state. A group of 16 Australian players took part in a video that called for the end of the ban on same-sex relationships and for the government of Qatar to provide what they described as an ‘effective remedy’ to the migrant workers who had suffered during the construction of the tournament locations and infrastructure. The video has been criticized by many in Qatar, but the Australian players seem determined to make sure that their voices are heard on the subject.


Iranian protests


It is also possible that protests of another kind may take place in Qatar. Iran have been drawn in a group alongside England, Wales and the USA, but the ongoing upheaval over women’s rights in the country has made global headlines. Many players may want to take the opportunity to protest their government, a development that would put both FIFA and the Qatar authorities in a difficult position.




Although many soccer people may want to focus on the sport, history tells us that it is impossible to separate soccer and politics. Given the controversial nature of this tournament, we can expect more protests over the weeks ahead, posing a tough challenge for the Qatar government at a time when the nation is hoping to portray itself to the world in a positive light.

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