By Gerry Chidiac
It is said that when you point the finger at someone, there are three fingers pointing back at you. The 2022 Men’s World Cup has been characterized by a lot of finger-pointing.
Statements made by Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) President Gianni Infantino in defense of the host country Qatar before the start of the tournament were harshly criticized in the Western media.
Some of these criticisms were justified. There is no reason why a country as rich as Qatar should have treated the workers who built the infrastructure for the tournament unjustly. Estimates of the number who died in this effort vary from 37 to 6500. Regardless of the exact number, knowing that anyone lost their life and that organizers have lacked transparency on this issue certainly puts a damper on enthusiasm for the tournament.
However, other criticisms of the host country from the Western media are quite disingenuous.
A great deal of attention has been drawn to the draconian policies regarding homosexuality that exist in Qatar. Need we be reminded that homophobia was well entrenched in the laws of the countries that criticize Qatar until very recently? The fact that members of the rainbow community still fear random attacks in much of the world is certainly an equally important issue.
While it is true that women are oppressed in Qatar, it would also make sense to focus on sexism in other countries. We need to look no further than the lack of pay equity in Canada to recognize how far we still need to go.
Journalists have criticized the lack of freedom of expression in Qatar, but do we truly have freedom of the press when corporate sponsors have as much influence with our media as they currently do?
In addition, it is important to admit that some brilliant ideas have been put into practice in the Qatar World Cup. Why is it assumed that the consumption of mind-altering, carcinogenic beverages needs to be part of our enjoyment of sports? The banning of alcohol sales may not be popular with large breweries, but it is certainly good for our health.
The elephant in the room is that many critics in Western countries do not believe that Qatar should have been allowed to host the Men’s World Cup in the first place. This, however, has much less to do with Qatar than with the level of corruption in FIFA itself. Going deeper, this causes us to recognize that we need a much clearer definition of the word “corruption.” Why, for example, do we allow wealthy donors to give copious amounts of money to our political parties? Doesn’t this draw the focus of elected officials away from what is in the best interest of ordinary citizens? Isn’t that also corruption?
The fact that this tournament is being hosted in the Middle East is also thought-provoking. As one who studies human rights abuses in the region, I cannot look at the cartoon shown on Canadian sports channels showing Middle Eastern children playing soccer without thinking of how many innocent people have been killed by drones controlled by far-away military personnel. Given this reality, can we imagine how fear-inducing it is for parents to simply allow their children to play outside in this region?
The 2022 Men’s World Cup is about a great deal more than soccer, and perhaps it is good that Qatar was chosen as the host. I would not go as far as Gianni Infantino and say that we have no right to criticize human rights abuses in the host country because they clearly exist. What is perhaps more important, however, is that we recognize all the fingers pointing back at us and courageously address the injustices that we need to remedy.
Gerry Chidiac is a Canadian educator and a columnist for Troy Media.
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Episode #27 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Kids’ Sports: How We Can Take Back the Game and Restore Quality Family Time In the Process – Linda Flanagan is author of “Take Back the Game: How Money and Mania Are Ruining Kids’ Sports and Why It Matters.” We discuss how commercialized and professionalized youth sports are hurting kids and their families. Linda writes extensively about how youth sports can hijack families, and family outings, non-sports activities and bonding time are lost in the pursuit of the next club team game or travel tournament.
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Episode #26 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: How Can We Fix Youth Sports? – John O’Sullivan is Founder and CEO of Changing the Game Project and author of “Changing the Game: The Parents Guide to Raising Happy, High Performing Athletes and Giving Youth Sports Back to Our Kids.”
Episode #25 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Physical Education Should Be a Critical Component of K-12 School Design – Michael Horn is co-founder of the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation.
Episode #24 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Mental Health and Athletes: Ending the Stigma – Nathan Braaten and Taylor Ricci are the founders of Dam Worth It, a non-profit created to end the stigma around mental health at colleges and universities through sport, storytelling, and community creation.
Episode #23 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Olympian Benita Fitzgerald Mosley Talks Title IX, Youth Sports and the Olympics.
Episode #22 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Rethinking Sports Fandom with Author Craig Calcaterra – We discuss Calcaterra’s new book “Rethinking Fandom: How to Beat the Sports-Industrial Complex at Its Own Game” and explore new ways to be a fan.
Media"How We Can Save Sports" author Ken Reed appears on Fox & Friends to explain how there's "too much adult in youth sports."
Ken Reed appears on Mornings with Gail from KFKA Radio in Colorado to discuss bad parenting in youth athletics.
“Should College Athletes Be Paid?” Ken Reed on The Morning Show from Wisconsin Public Radio
Ken Reed appears on KGNU Community Radio in Colorado (at 02:30) to discuss equality in sports and Title IX.
Ken Reed appears on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour (at 38:35) to discuss his book The Sports Reformers: Working to Make the World of Sports a Better Place, and to talk about some current sports issues.
- League of Fans Sports Policy Director Ken Reed quoted in Washington Post column titled "What happened to P.E.? It’s losing ground in our push for academic improvement," by Jay Mathews
League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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