This is why I am boycotting the Qatar World Cup - opinion

Sadly, this year’s tournament has robbed us all of the World Cup as we know it, and left many with no choice other than to boycott the beautiful game.

 PASSENGERS CHECK in on Sunday at Ben-Gurion Airport for the first commercial flight from Israel to Doha, ahead of the World Cup tournament (photo credit: TOMER NEUBERG/FLASH90)
PASSENGERS CHECK in on Sunday at Ben-Gurion Airport for the first commercial flight from Israel to Doha, ahead of the World Cup tournament
(photo credit: TOMER NEUBERG/FLASH90)

As the mother of three lads, born and bred in Manchester, the “beautiful game” has always featured prominently in our house. Making aliyah has had very little effect on that, although weekly trips to Old Trafford are now all but a distant memory. 

You won’t be surprised, therefore, to learn that the World Cup has always been one of the main highlights of our lives. Until now. 

World Cup nostalgia

When the boys were little, in the run-up to the tournament, negotiations took place between them and us, about staying up late on school nights, so they wouldn’t miss important matches.

Months in advance of each World Cup, before a ball had even been kicked, pull-out wall charts from various newspapers were stuck on the walls – England’s path to glory neatly mapped out before us (don’t laugh).

Bets, too, were placed, as the odd piece of England “merch” – mugs, T-shirts, etc. – slowly appeared around the house. 

 Participants display placards as LGBT+ associations protest in front of FIFA World Football Museum, as Qatar is set to host the 2022 World Cup, in Zurich, Switzerland November 8, 2022 (credit: REUTERS/ARND WIEGMANN) Participants display placards as LGBT+ associations protest in front of FIFA World Football Museum, as Qatar is set to host the 2022 World Cup, in Zurich, Switzerland November 8, 2022 (credit: REUTERS/ARND WIEGMANN)

“Three Lions,” the famous World Cup song, could be heard from the other end of the street, as we’d all join in with its well-known chorus, “it’s coming home…”

Which brings me to “hope,” something that all beleaguered England fans cling to from one World Cup to the next. Before each tournament, we all try to convince ourselves why, this time, things would be different. 

Well, things really are different this year; there’s no doubt about that

Different for all the wrong reasons, sadly.

The general indifference toward this year’s World Cup has made it almost impossible to muster any excitement whatsoever. 

For many England fans, the winter months go hand in hand with Premier League football. The World Cup is that special treat that comes around once every four summers. A winter World Cup just doesn’t seem right.

In the words of Daniel, an old friend from Manchester: “I couldn’t be less excited this time – it’s mid-season. It feels like an interruption to real football.”

Another problem is Qatar

To say that it was woefully unprepared to host the tournament – when it was announced that it had won the bid in 2010 – would be a gross understatement. 

In other countries where football is part of the very fabric of society, a state-of-the-art stadium in each city is not uncommon. But Qatar had almost no facilities. 

According to the BBC, “Qatar has built seven stadiums for the World Cup finals as well as a new airport, metro system, series of roads and about 100 new hotels,” all of which came at a very heavy human cost. 

Another factor that militates against Qatar hosting the World Cup Finals is the weather. With temperatures regularly exceeding 45 degrees Celsius in the summer months, it is wholly unsuited to outdoor events – let alone those of a sporting variety. Unsurprisingly, a decision to move the games to the winter months was taken. 

All well and good for the teams and the fans who would be attending, but what of those migrant workers tasked with building the infrastructure for the tournament? Soaring temperatures, among other things, have led to their deaths in the thousands.

“It’s no secret that some 6,500 foreign workers lost their lives building the impressive stadiums, in what has been described as conditions of modern slavery in the often merciless heat,” The Jerusalem Post reported.

Concerns surrounding Qatar’s treatment of the LGBT community is also a significant concern for many. Homosexuality in Qatar is illegal and punishable by up to three years in prison. 

CNN confirmed that “a report from Human Rights Watch, published last month, documented cases as recently as September, of Qatari security forces arbitrarily arresting LGBT people and subjecting them to ‘ill-treatment in detention.’”

The following statement by a Qatari government representative has done little to quell the fears of the gay community,

“Everyone is welcome in Qatar, but we are a conservative country and any public display of affection, regardless of orientation, is frowned upon. We simply ask for people to respect our culture.”

For some football fans, boycotting the tournament altogether is the only logical conclusion.

The appalling treatment of migrant workers, coupled with human rights abuses, and the vast sums of money that have likely greased numerous palms in order to make it happen there, have led to many turning their backs on Qatar. “It’s well known that the process of choosing Qatar to host the games was faulty at best and more likely, downright corrupt. The term kickbacks comes to mind under the circumstances,” The Jerusalem Post wrote.

AS JOSEPH Millis, a lifelong England fan said when I asked if he’d be watching the tournament: “I’m boycotting it; I won’t watch a World Cup for the first time since ’66. It should never be played in Qatar and never in November-December.”

Hilary Lucas, another disgruntled England fan, explained how in previous years she’d held parties in which food and beer from various countries were served. This time, however, she is taking a stand. “I haven’t even got a pull-out wall display that I can fill in religiously throughout the competition. It’s not coming into my home this year at all,” she lamented.

David Graniewitz is settling for a halfway house. “I’m not actively boycotting it, but I am not going to set time aside to watch games as I have done for every tournament since 1970,” he explained.

While some are “conflicted and undecided” about whether to watch, others admit to wanting to take a principled stand but recognize that it may be hard as the tournament progresses. “Boycott – but to be honest, if we get to the later rounds I may crack,” said Colin from London.

Although I’m not a huge football fan, I am somewhat saddened by all of this as the World Cup is something with which most Brits have grown up. 

This quadrennial tournament represents different milestones in our lives, each marking the passage of time in a unique and wonderful way. 

Those who are old enough to remember, will know exactly where they were when England won the tournament in 1966, for example. Others will remember the cruel loss against Argentina in 1986, owing to Maradona’s “hand of God.” 

We’ll always remember 2010, the year of the vuvuzela World Cup in South Africa. For the duration of that summer, the house was filled with the sound of those dreaded horns, leaving us all thankful when the whole thing was over. 

So many enthralling, bittersweet and painful memories for millions of fans across the globe have charted the wonderful World Cup since its inception in 1930. 

Sadly, this year’s tournament, which began last Sunday, has robbed us all of the World Cup as we know it, and left many with no choice other than to boycott the beautiful game. 

The writer is a former lawyer from Manchester, England. She now lives in Israel where she works as a journalist.