Qatar 2022 – Woman. Life. Freedom. Football.

Keep politics in sport. The World Cup has reminded us that human joy depends on human rights.
Life is full of irony and poetry.
The Fifa World Cup 2022 is well under way. And already the beautiful game is proving to be beautiful for more than just the dribbling or shooting skills of its talented players. It’s beautiful because, try though Fifa might, you can’t suppress the humanity or solidarity of the people who play it and watch it.
When Qatar bought the World Cup from Sepp Blatter and greedy Fifa officials back in 2010, somewhere in the small text they probably also included a promise that politics and public scrutiny of the host country would be suppressed. For the hereditary, ultra-rich monarchy which routinely violates human rights, this was supposed to be a World Cup sans freedom of expression, without politics or protest.
Sportswashing perfected.
The irony, however, is that it’s fast becoming one of the most political of World Cups. Although they are not on the field, the media and human rights activists have teamed up to shine a light on the brutality of regimes like Qatar, and the grand corruption of bodies like Fifa. Watch, for example, satirist John Oliver drawing on reports from Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, castigating the “atrocity stadiums” that have been built at the cost of an estimated 6,000 migrant workers’ lives: Qatar World Cup: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO).
Although counterintuitive, this may be a reason that we should take big global events – and all the media that accompanies them – to the least democratically hospitable corners of the world. Perhaps it’s a reason that, despite the justifiable discomfort of climate activists, COP28 should be held in the United Arab Emirates, one of the world’s leading oil guzzlers and producers?
Iran’s team wins
In 2022, long before the final has taken place, the World Cup has been won by the players and people of Iran.
First, in their opening match, the Iranian team kept silent as their national anthem was played. In their second game after threats and intimidation from the government at home (including the chilling arrest of one of Iran’s most famous football players) the team sang the national anthem. But their muted voices gave literal meaning to the words “lip service”.
With their players “silenced”, it was the Iranian fans who picked up the baton. One woman held up a football shirt bearing the ...