I will be watching the World Cup – DW – 11/19/2022

Photo of footballers on skyscrapers
Qatar World Cup is the most expensive World CupImage: ORF

Do you watch the World Cup? This seemingly harmless question has become one of the most divisive questions today. Where it was once taboo to talk about politics and religion at the dinner table, now it’s football that’s off limits. Relatives, friends and co-workers are divided on the matter – wondering whether they should watch the matches, skip the whole match or even go outside to protest.

Is the World Cup still good to watch despite all the controversy? Is it morally wrong to encourage players?

Pascal Yochem from DW
Pascal Yochem from DWImage: DW

German football fans rejected the World Cup

It seems that public opinion in German stadiums is unanimous. The Qatar World Cup has been rejected altogether. In recent weeks, many supporters have drawn attention with banners and posters denouncing the deaths of migrant workers and homophobic laws in Qatar. This is absolutely true.

For many critics, Qatar is a symbol of more than that: the dangerous path modern football has taken. Sheiks and sports launderers, suspicious investors, corruption and selling the spirit of football. There is good reason to reject all of this, and I understand that.

But to completely ignore football? As if the biggest sports event in the world was not held? There were whispers in the media before the last World Cup four years ago in Russia, but there were no calls for a boycott.

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At the same time, however, the Russian Air Force was dropping bombs on Syria and North Korean migrant workers were being systematically exploited on stadium construction sites. The headlines talked about the “slaves” of St. Petersburg.

Wasn’t the red line crossed a long time ago? Can TV bans really make a difference? Each and every fan can make up his own mind, and poor TV ratings will also affect FIFA, the international governing body of football associations.

But even if there is a poor rating in Germany and perhaps in Northern Europe as a whole, other regions will make up for it. FIFA has been looking for new markets for a long time – and it would be a mistake to blame it too much for this.

Is Senegal one of the secret favorites to win the World Cup?

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The Arab World Cup is too late

Finally, the time has come for the World Cup to be held in the Arab world. It took more than 90 years for FIFA to decide to hold the tournament in this region. Criticism of the “Winter World Cup” and the fact that there is no real soccer tradition in Qatar is Eurocentric and, for some, even a sign of Western hybridity.

But although this region deserves the World Cup, should it really be in Qatar? I am not happy with this decision, but I will definitely turn on the TV and watch the matches. I already know it will hurt. I’m not looking forward to it. Reports of “fake fans” celebrating in the capital, Doha, have left me speechless. I’m also not happy about the prospect of countless messages of peace from FIFA president Gianni Infantino over the next few weeks.

But I’m clinging to my childhood memories, back to 1994, when I was a young boy sitting in a dark room with only the TV on and I was riveted to it. Nigeria, who participated for the first time, played magnificently! And Bebto from Brazil shaking the imaginary baby every time he scored left an indelible impression on me.

Every fan has a story to tell about what sparked their interest in football. And in the end, it is the love of the game that we will see many televisions turn on this year.

This may be a bit of a balancing act, but there are many questions that need to be answered: How far will African champions Senegal go? Will Messi’s last chance be successful? How will Hansi Flick and Germany be? Of course, these sports stories need to be told, but personally, I’m more interested in what happens off the field.

Will FIFA orchestrate a tournament it has already announced will be “the best World Cup ever”? Will international pressure lead to the creation of a compensation fund for migrant workers? How do Qataris feel about press freedom? What is the opinion of South American and Asian football fans about this World Cup and the issue of human rights that is so much in the western media? Will Germany do anything to “represent our values” as team captain Manuel Neuer has declared? Will Qatar have something of the “luck” that Neuer’s predecessor, Bastian Schweinsteiger, hoped for in a recent interview with Deutsche Welle? And how do very good PR figures like Qatar World Cup Ambassador David Beckham deal with criticism?

This is what I want to know and talk about, at the dinner table, diner or bar. All this needs our attention. That’s why I’ll be watching.

This article was originally written in German.

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