World Cup in Qatar: Dictatorships 1 – Democracy 0

The soccer World Cup was one big victory lap for authoritarian regimes.

“I don´t give a shit! I’m here to watch soccer,’ the Danish soccer fan said on TV.

He was in Qatar to watch the Danish national team play and was asked by a journalist how he felt about the debate about human right violations in the autocratic desert state.

To the democratic-minded journalists who focused on the atrocities – thank you. The Western World Cup journalists who focused on the conditions in Qatar did their best to shine a light and raise awareness, but unfortunately they lost the debate. The rest of the world doesn’t seem to care. The western values have lost, helped by FIFA, who lashed out at Europe and the West, accusing us of double standards and hypocrisy. In the Arab part of the world, that announcement was received with gloating smocks.

If we roll over and denounce our values to enjoy 90 minutes of yelling, high adrenaline, and testosterone-filled roars over 22 young men running around a field, I worry for our democracies in the future.

Sports and politics have always been inextricably intertwined. But focus have changed. Now, the focus is not on money for underprivileged states. Instead, identity and an awareness of privilege. FIFA signaled that it is time for Europe to have a diminished role and that the arrow of influence and power should be pointing elsewhere. Europe was once, due to its colonial empires etc., the villain and must apologize for thousands of years before it can allow itself to criticize the conditions in non-democratic states. So, FIFA is turning its interest towards authoritarian states – I would be suprised if Saudi Arabia doesn´t get to host the World Cup in 2030.

There has been a shift in the debate. Democracy versus autocracy has become the overarching theme and FIFA seems to have picked sides – in favor of autocratic states. Democracy-minded states are facing resistance when trying to focus on human rights violations, and Qatar’s PR machinery have succeeded in bringing together large parts of the Arab and Muslim world and dominate the narrative. Even sports journalists initially concerned with human rights ended up writing more about soccer and less about human rights at the end of the World Cup.

If we roll over and denounce our values to enjoy 90 minutes of yelling, high adrenaline, and testosterone-filled roars over 22 young men running around a field, I worry for our democracies in the future.

Europe’s values were attacked and tested during this World Cup final. Should it have escaped anyone’s attention, democracies are under attack. Apparently, most people in the free Western democracies are indifferent to the conditions women and children and critical voices have to endure, as long as it does not affect their everyday life. We seem to be confident that we will never have to fight for our democratic values in our part of the world. But we are wrong. Meanwhile, thousands of innocent people lose their lives far from our hemisphere, but we don´t care as long as we can gobble down hot dogs and chuck IPAs, and feel entertained.

It’s that easy – if you choose to close your eyes. But doing so is ignorant, selfish, and not particularly far-sighted. The stakes could hardly be any dirtier. History repeats itself – Berlin should never have had the Olympics in 1936, despite a heated public debate in Denmark at the time about the conditions in nazi Germany. Clear minimum requirements should be in place for who is worthy of hosting major sporting events – and in that context, authoritarian states have to be left off the ranking list.

So what does the future look like for major sporting events? – Belarus, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar have already been granted major sporting events in the near future. So cheers! – sporting events are on their way to take place in dictatorial autocratic states with arenas of human life on these countries conscience.


VM i Qatar: Diktaturstater 1 – Demokrati 0

VM i fodbold var én stor sejrsrunde for autoritære regimer.

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