I might be a lone voice... but I can’t wait for the World Cup!

Since when did watching an event get twisted into becoming an endorsement by the viewer of all that host nation’s actions, asks John Dolan
I might be a lone voice... but I can’t wait for the World Cup!

A man takes a picture of a FIFA World Cup trophy replica in front of the Al-Bayt Stadium in al-Khor ahead of the Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup football tournament. Picture: KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP via Getty Images

THE first ever soccer World Cup took place in 1930 in Uruguay - but I think I’ve uncovered a few issues surrounding it that may make it, in modern parlance, ‘problematic’.

A new stadium built especially for the event was erected in an incredible nine months, mainly by immigrant workers. Those poor fellas must have been worked to the bone. How many died during its construction?

Furthermore, homosexuality was illegal in the South American country - it was another four years before this affront to human rights was addressed and it was legalised in Uruguay.

If the present heavily-policed liberal climate had existed then, I can only imagine the weight of calls for it to be cancelled. Indeed, I am surprised there haven’t been calls for it to be expunged retrospectively from the record books.

Four years later, in 1934, Italy hosted the second World Cup, a country presided over by a dictator in Benito Mussolini who had already killed tens of thousands of people and committed war crimes in Libya and Corfu.

There have been plenty of World Cup hosts since whose record on human rights is more Pol Pot than Nelson Mandela.

The first World Cup I can remember - in 1978 in Argentina - took place at a time when a military junta with blood and atrocities on its hands was in charge, while the last World Cup was held in Russia, at a time when Vladimir Putin had already invaded Crimea.

The next Word Cup is about to kick off tomorrow week - and many people are so uncomfortable with the choice of host country Qatar that they say they will boycott it and ignore it.

And I can see where they are coming from, I really can.

My intention isn’t to make light of the actions of the host countries above - nor to make light of Qatar’s stance on various issues, from gay rights to the allegedly appalling treatment of migrant workers who built its stadia for the event.

I just don’t see the point in refusing to acknowledge the World Cup, out of some misguided hope that your stance - even joined with the objections of millions of others - will change Qatari life.

I also love soccer, and adore the World Cup. I wonder how many of those calling for a boycott have never watched a match anyway?

I sound cynical, I know, but the truth of the matter is, the World Cup is the greatest event in the history of mankind, and you only get to enjoy so many of them in your life span. The event is for the people, not for the politicians.

I have no intention of missing out on this one and waiting four more years until the USA gets to host it... and if Donald Trump is in power then, imagine the siren cries to boycott that too!

If the liberal, virtue-signalling foghorns on social media, and the luvvies and celebrities who rally to their beck and call, had their way, every country in the world would be boycotted in the vain search for a golden Utopia.

I really don’t think my decision to watch and enjoy the World Cup is difficult to grasp - nor should it be viewed as controversial: I abhor the world soccer governing body FIFA and the process that led it to choose Qatar for its showpiece; I profoundly disagree with the views of Qatar and many of its Middle Eastern neighbours on a range of issues. But... I cannot wait for the event to kick off.

Because it doesn’t really matter where the event is held, does it? I don’t see it as an endorsement of all that country’s wrongs by me, and every other soccer player and fan around the world. Far from it.

Yes, it’s great when you have a host nation such as Germany or Brazil, which gets to share the joy and experience of the event with its people - but if that doesn’t happen in Qatar, so what?

In many ways, and certainly in the case of this year’s World Cup, which barely has a fan base to speak of, a host nation is pretty much irrelevant.

At heart, the World Cup is a celebration of the greatest sport in the world, and the people who play it and coach it to an elite level. It is a celebration too of the fans who travel to the games, and those glued to the matches at home, in pubs and bars and sitting rooms.

A World Cup is a celebration of sport and life, of patriotism and love for your country, but also where you get to share the love with other countries.

If Lionel Messi scores a wonder goal in Qatar, all praise to him, his team-mates, his fans, and to the beautiful game. Qatar? It merely played host to his genius. It might just as well have been Quebec or Quito.

Since when did watching an event get twisted into becoming an endorsement by the viewer of all that host nation’s actions?

Thousands of footballers, backroom staff, media, and spectators are about to converge on Qatar from nations all over the globe, and pressure is growing on all of them to make some kind of stand, some kind of statement about the country’s treatment of women, minorities or human rights.

Spare us,

The fact they have made the decision to go merely makes any such action performative; having your cake and eating it.

Nobody is asking them to endorse or condemn every law and transgression in Qatari history, but that is the bizarre world we now inhabit. I would prefer them all to just let the football do the talking.

A problem certainly arises when somebody like Gary Neville tries to run with the hare and hunt with the hounds in this way.

He has been outspoken in his criticisms of Qatar, but is also being paid a hefty sum to go out there and commentate on the event. It is difficult to ignore the accusations of breath-taking hypocrisy being levelled at him.

Either have the courage of your convictions and don’t go or watch it, or decide, like me, to bite the bullet and enjoy the (hopefully) once-in-a-lifetime thrill of a World Cup in the depths of our winter.

Now, all that is left for me to say is: ‘Come on England!’

For heaven’s sake, what now?

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