2022 World Cup: players’ timid initiatives in support of human rights

The day after the start of the controversial FIFA World Cup in Qatar, several European teams announced on Monday, November 21, that they were giving up wearing a “One Love” armband adorned with a multicolored heart. A sign that was intended to support LGBT + people and other minorities whose rights are not recognized in the emirate.

The initiative proposed by the Dutch federation at the beginning of September will therefore not be followed. A setback that comes after Fifa forbade them, Sunday, November 19, preferring to the multicolored armband slogans like “Football unites the world », “save the planet” or “protect the children”.

A ” Good choice “ according to Noël Le Graët, president of the French Football Federation (FFF), whose players had initially planned to wear the armband before backtracking. Hugo Lloris, the tricolor captain, again assured Monday that he would follow the recommendation of the international federation, preferring ” stay “ in his ” frame “, “that of player and competitor”.

Yellow card

Several team captains, including that of England which begins its competition against Iran on Monday, Harry Kane, or the Dutchman Virgil van Dijk, had however reaffirmed Monday morning their desire to display this symbol of inclusion and of diversity. The captain of the German team, Manuel Neuer, had even assured to be “willing to pay fines”, financial sanctions having been brandished by Fifa.

This was without counting the announcement of sporting sanctions. Captains who wear the armband would be penalized with a yellow card, threatened the institution that governs world football. A measure that decided the seven refractory to give up.

“As national federations, we cannot ask our players to risk sporting sanctions, including yellow cardswrote the federations of the seven countries in a joint press release published on Monday. We were ready to pay fines (…) but we cannot put our players in the situation where they could be warned, or even have to leave the field. »

FIFA assured that its official armbands would be flocked with the message “No to discrimination”its president Gianni Infantino assuring that ” Everyone is welcome “ in the country.

Jerseys sold at auction

Other teams have carried out their own “initiatives” to support minorities or immigrant workers, on the margins. The German team, for example, made the trip to Qatar with a plane bearing the slogan “Diversity wins”. On the American side, the Football Federation has replaced the colors of its logo with those of the rainbow, in support of LGBT + people whose rights are violated in Qatar.

In the Netherlands, the jerseys of players worn during the World Cup will be auctioned off and the proceeds will be used to help the families of migrant workers who died on stadium construction sites. As for Denmark, the leaders have given up sending an official representation of the government or the royal family to Qatar. The Danish players wanted to go further, wearing a flocked jersey with the inscription “human rights for all” but Fifa rejected their request.

Failing to defend the “One Love” armband, the Blues have committed themselves to “support NGOs that work for the protection of human rights”. They will feed, for an unspecified amount, the Génération 2018 endowment fund created by the world champions in order to finance social actions.



Human rights in Qatar: should players take a stand?

► Strong gestures in terms of communication

Jean-Claude Samouiller, President of Amnesty International France

On the side of Amnesty France, we would have liked there to be a strong sign from the players through an official declaration on the catastrophic situation of human rights. Otherwise, we would have liked them to wear the armband in support of the LGBT minorities who are persecuted in Qatar, but this highly symbolic act was obviously refused by the captain of the Blues, Hugo Lloris. In terms of communication, it would obviously have been very strong for the players to express themselves.

But, in reality, one can hardly ask them to boycott a competition for which they have sacrificed themselves for years and which undoubtedly represents the peak of their career. It’s buying a conscience on the cheap to ask our Blues to take a stand when we close our eyes to many other scandalous dealings, such as the companies that sell Rafales in Qatar. For the players, it is obvious that keeping quiet means ensuring a certain peace of mind. For example, it is difficult for a player like Kylian Mbappé, who is paid by Qatar within Paris Saint-Germain, to criticize his boss head-on.

Finally, at times, certain positions taken by the players of the France team have also been criticized. Some wondered why players were taking a knee to fight racism by specifically choosing one fight over another. There are always those who think that the French team is doing too much and those who think it is not doing enough. But basing that on 26 young people, aged between 20 and 30, is unreasonable. The players, who were barely 15 on average when the World Cup was awarded to Qatar, must not answer, coerced and coerced, for decisions made by others many years ago.

A reaction from the governing bodies

To be honest, beyond the players, we expected a lot more from Fifa and the French Football Federation (FFF). At Fifa, we have asked for the allocation of a fund of 440 million dollars to compensate the families of the workers who died during the construction of the stadiums. We will be vigilant about this. From the French Federation, we wanted proof that it was also vigilant on this point with international bodies and not with a view to permanent communication.

Many sections of Amnesty around the world, particularly in the countries of the North, have had contacts with the national federations of their countries, to obtain a symbolic gesture or a position. In France, our demands have remained a dead letter. There have been meetings but which have yielded nothing and it is clear that the staff of the France team and the players are padlocked today, if indeed they really wish to express something.

► Protesting is not in the tradition of French football

Francois da Rocha Carneiro, doctor in contemporary history and historian of the France team

Noël Le Graët, the president of the French Football Federation (FFF), seems to have a familiarity with the players. This can allow him to avoid a scandal and suggests a possible controlled silence on the part of the France team. But, to be honest, it’s not particularly in the tradition of French football to have players who rise up.

Generally, they only do so if they themselves are implicated. They are indignant or react to defend their image. This was the case of Raymond Kopa, in the 1960s, who left the selection in reaction to attacks from the coach and to protest against the status and image of the players, who were then in the hands of club leaders. We also remember the anger aroused by the remarks of Jean-Marie Le Pen, in the mid-1990s, who took the French team to task by evoking the “naturalization of convenience” of some players.

More recently, everyone remembers Knysna in 2010, during the African World Cup. We tend to see this event only from the angle of scandal – which suited politicians well that year – but in the end it was only a social movement towards a player who , after insulting his coach, had been sidelined.

Young players

For Qatar, remember that it was not the players who decided on the award. We identify footballers with stars having an opinion on everything, while we must also understand that they are employees. Even if their employers are the clubs, as part of the France team, Fifa remains their authority. Should they put themselves at odds with these authorities? In the name of values ​​that we certainly all share, should they risk sacrificing their careers?

Finally, we tend to assimilate the sportsman to an artist who must take a stand, but the sportsmen are generally very young. Thus, if Hugo Lloris is one of the oldest in the selection, with one of the biggest experiences in the France team, he must, as captain, remain vigilant not to put his younger or less experienced teammates in a delicate situation.

For the players, not taking a position will not particularly affect their image. It all depends, in reality, on what they will show on the pitch. If Karim Benzema and Kylian Mbappé send France to the final and score a hat-trick on D-Day, no one will blame them for not taking a stand. If, on the other hand, the French team is eliminated in the first round, we will hear: “They didn’t even dare to speak. »



“If Qatar is unbeatable, it’s not just the World Cup that we have to boycott”

On November 20, the World Cup will open in Qatar. And already the controversy is launched: should we boycott it or not? What is being talked about is not the sports boycott, that is to say the fact that a qualified team does not go there, but rather the boycott by spectators or television viewers.

The argument of the host country which has no sporting tradition, used today against Qatar, has often been used in the past: this was the case against the United States in 1994 or Japan and South Korea in 2002. The choice of South Africa for the organization of the 2010 World Cup was accepted: it was time for an African country to host the competition.

Air-conditioned stadiums

Fifa wants to expand its empire. Awarding the 2022 World Cup to Qatar allows for the first time an Arab and Muslim country to organize the competition. Everyone now knows Qatar and, in this, the organization of the World Cup is a real success for Doha. But this visibility has also drawn attention to the less glamorous aspects of the country. The criticisms focus mainly on two issues, the climate issue and the situation of immigrant workers.

The stadiums are air-conditioned. In addition, many air travel will be necessary, some spectators being accommodated in neighboring countries. Such a situation is obviously open to criticism in view of the climatic situation, and the next competition to be co-organized by Mexico, the United States and Canada will be even more problematic. Concern for the environment has recently appeared with regard to the organization of sports competitions. This was not the case in 2010 when the World Cup was awarded to Qatar.

The situation of foreign workers

The other controversy Qatar is facing concerns the situation of immigrant workers. Qatar did not imagine, when it obtained the organization of the World Cup, that this subject would come to the forefront of the news. Undeniably, Qatar was slow to react. He finally made decisions that are visibly struggling to be fully implemented. Nevertheless, the kafala – system of guardianship of foreign workers – has been abolished and a minimum wage has been introduced. If the situation is still not satisfactory, it is, according to the International Labor Organization (ILO), better than in the other countries of the region.

On this subject, the World Cup has served as a lever, in particular for NGOs such as Amnesty International or Human Rights Watch, which have focused media attention on the plight of immigrant workers and continue to put pressure on Qatar.

Thousands of deaths over 10 years

the Guardian published a resounding article in February 2021 claiming that 6,500 workers had died at construction sites in Qatar. This is 6,500 deaths over ten years, not just on World Cup construction sites, but on all construction sites in Qatar. Without being really documented, this figure was taken up by a number of international media. For its part, Qatar recognizes that there were 38 deaths. This figure seems to greatly underestimate the reality. The ILO mentions the figure of 50 deaths for the year 2020 alone, but does not have statistics for previous years.

If we must obviously protest against the fate of immigrants in Qatar, we must also protest against their fate in the other Gulf countries and elsewhere. And, in the Qatari case, why only call for a boycott of the World Cup since the deaths on construction sites are not only linked to the work of the World Cup, but also to the construction of other infrastructures in the country, involving foreign companies elsewhere.

Stop selling him Rafale

If Qatar is an infrequent country, then it is not only the World Cup that must be boycotted. We should also stop selling it Rafale, Airbus and suspend the construction of infrastructure by Western companies in this country or even stop buying gas from it… Why are the calls for a boycott limited only to sport? The latter is systematically used as an adjustment variable for moral protests.

Everyone is free to watch World Cup matches or not. But it seems perfectly hypocritical to focus attacks only on the World Cup and keep quiet about the rest. Qatar is far from being a perfect country. It has a lot of progress to make, particularly with regard to human rights and environmental protection. The World Cup must be the way to push for this improvement rather than stigmatize the country. Especially when it comes to finding new gas supplies, having an intermediary in discussions between the various Chadian factions to negotiate a peace agreement or finding support in the evacuation of Western nationals from Kabul , Qatar appears to be a reliable partner.



Paris, Marseille, Lille… These French cities which will not install a screen for the 2022 World Cup

The city of Paris will not install fan zones or giant screens in public space to broadcast the matches of the FIFA World Cup in Qatar, announced the deputy in charge of sport, Pierre Rabadan.

“For us, there was no question of setting up match broadcast areas for several reasons: the first is the conditions for organizing this World Cup, both in terms of the environment and the social aspect, the second, it’s the temporality, the fact that it takes place in the month of December”he explained Monday, October 3 in the evening.

Marseille, Bordeaux, Nancy and Reims had previously made the same announcement. “This competition has gradually turned into a human and environmental disaster, incompatible with the values ​​that we want to see carried through sport and especially football”explained the Marseille municipality, led by the socialist Benoît Payan at the head of a broad left-wing and environmentalist coalition.

“Humanitarian aberrations”

“Marseille, strongly attached to the values ​​of sharing and solidarity in sport and committed to building a greener city, cannot contribute to the promotion of this 2022 Football World Cup in Qatar”the city insisted in a press release.

“I would really have the impression, if Bordeaux were to welcome these fan zones, to be an accomplice” of “this sporting event which represents all humanitarian, ecological and sporting aberrations”had declared for his part the ecological mayor of Bordeaux Pierre Hurmic.

Many dead workers

Among the reasons for this boycott include the treatment of immigrant workers and the number of deaths in the construction of the eight stadiums of the World Cup. While the official toll is only three dead, the International Labor Organization (ILO) reported in a report that 50 workers died in workplace accidents in Qatar in 2020, and 500 were seriously injured, a figure that could be higher according to her due to shortcomings in the accident recording system.

Besides the question of human rights, the mayor of Bordeaux Pierre Hurmic also refused to be“incoherent”in relation to the efforts requested of the population in terms of“energy sobriety”. “You cannot call your fellow citizens to sobriety and yourself be complicit in energy aberration of this nature” he defended, adding that “Those who awarded the World Cup to Qatar in 2010 were light years away from energy sobriety”.

The FFF is not worried

On Saturday, the socialist mayor of Lille Martine Aubry also announced that no giant screen would be installed, denouncing a“Nonsense with regard to human rights, the environment and sport”. A decision also taken in Rodez and Strasbourg, in particular.

On the side of the French Football Federation, we do not fear such a decision: “At this stage, the FFF will not communicate”, says a source close to the Federation. “It’s a decision that is in tune with the times, full of demagoguery. It’s always more surprising for a city like Paris which is happy to have Qatar in support of its football club.

“If ever France wins the World Cup, it will be interesting to scrutinize the Twitter accounts of the big cities, which will undoubtedly find a parade to congratulate and celebrate the players of the France team, as it should be”, quips the source close to the FFF.