Nov. 21 marked the beginning of the most-viewed sporting event: The World Cup. This soccer event occurs every four years, with France taking home the trophy in 2018 and Germany in 2014. The World Cup is typically a time of unity among the global community, where countries come together to support their respective teams and watch the great game of soccer (fútbol).
This World Cup is notable for several reasons, the first being that social issues have become involved in the game itself. Soccer is an important and unifying sport that has become more than just a game, as a result many important world issues have become intertwined with the sport. In this year’s World Cup, there have already been examples of this. From players showing their frustration at being banned from wearing “one love” armbands in support of the LGBTQ+ community to Iranian protests regarding their countries lack of women’s rights, the global platform has been used to spread awareness of
England, Wales, Germany, Belgium, Netherlands, Switzerland and Denmark were all prevented from wearing the bands in support of the LGBTQ+ community.
Fans along with players have protested the severe human rights violations taking place in Iran. One woman was seen holding a sign with the name “Mahsa Amini,” a Kurdish woman who was killed by the Morality Police for wearing a hijab improperly. Later, this protester was escorted out of the game. However, the Qatari government has recieved backlash from the Iranian team who kept silent during their
country’s national anthem in solidarity with Amini and the protesters.
However, this year’s games are also set in Qatar, which has committed human rights violations of its own.
Qatar had promised the Federation Internationale de Football Association, otherwise known as FIFA, that they would be tolerant of the beliefs and morals of the organization, but the country does not seem to be making many allowances. Qatar has banned many teams from wearing their rainbow armbands and have kicked out many fans for wearing anything rainbow related. This has caused even more protests, with one instance being the German team covering their mouths for a photograph in reference to being silenced.
Another topic that has sparked a lot of controversy regarding the host country and its conduct was the construction of the new stadiums. Qatar has reported that between 400 and 500 workers died during the construction. However, The Guardian places that figure at 6,500. In addition, Qatar outsourced this
labor to South-East Asian agencies. A contract with a Filipino agency was initially set at $400 per month, but upon the workforce’s arrival was reduced to $250. This comes amid other allegations of unsuitable living conditions, unpaid wages and forced labor from Human Rights Watch.
This year’s World Cup will continue to remain the most watched sporting event from a global perspective. In light of the social issues surrounding the tournament as well as competition between some of the greatest players, this year’s competition involves plenty of intrigue for fans to rally around.