The FIFA World Cup kicked off yesterday, signaling the start of this four-week-long event. Though this is the world’s most watched sporting event, in recent weeks, it has received nothing but scrutiny as the games are being hosted in Qatar, a nation that to this day denies basic human rights to its citizens, particularly those who identify as being LGBTQ+ members. Restricted human rights, as well as the abuse of migrant workers who built the structures for the World Cup, have prompted an immense backlash. The country was supposed to fulfill a pledge it made when it won the right to host the World Cup prior to the tournament but has yet to do so, and instead has sought ways to repress the voices of those disturbed by the country’s stance on human rights.
Many of the European teams have sought ways to peacefully protest the human rights abuse in Qatar. One unsuccessful case of this was pursued by the Danish team, who sought to wear jerseys that read, “human rights for all.” Their uniform request was denied by the organization on the grounds that it sported a “political message,” something which FIFA prohibits during the World Cup. Jakob Jensen, the Danish Football Association’s chief executive, retorted to the organization’s uniform request denial, stating, “We believe the message ‘human rights for all is universal and not a political call, but something everyone can support.” Despite this argument, though, the organization has still refused to allow the team to wear their jerseys.
Other teams, including the English and German teams, are also seeking uniform requests on similar grounds, though a bit more subtle. They are planning to wear multicolored “One Love” armbands as a nod to the nation’s treatment of LGBTQ+ people. Bernd Neuendorf, president of the German Football Federation, defended the armbands, taking a similar stance to Jensen, stating, “Personally, I would be quite prepared to accept a fine. This is not a political statement, but a statement of human rights.” These remarks have come just two weeks after Gianni Infantino, president of FIFA, sent a letter out to teams encouraging them to “focus on the football,” leaving politics out of it.
Many teams are appalled by FIFA’s blatant refusal to acknowledge the faults and continued placating attitude. Beyond the participating teams mentioned, LGBTQ+ and human rights groups also plan to protest the tournament. Qatar has responded to the flood of controversy by offering to pay fans with free travel and lodging to promote the World Cup on social media. In other words, the nation is bribing fans into spreading pro-FIFA propaganda online.