So here we are, barely two weeks before the World Cup and FIFA president Gianni Infantino and general secretary Fatma Samoura are making their call to arms, falling into the laps of the football federations competing in the tournament in Qatar.
The email arrived at 7pm (UK time) on Thursday night and within three hours it had found its way onto the Sky News website.
“Please, let’s focus on football now!” Infantino and Samoura requested.
He continued: “We know that football does not live in a vacuum and we also know that there are many difficulties and challenges of a political nature around the world.
“But please don’t let football be dragged into any ideological or political battle that exists.”
So the message was clear. Keep your head down, know your place, keep quiet and stand your ground.
For those lucky enough to follow Infantino for life, the new limits of football’s transformative power may come as a surprise.
For example, it is in contrast to a time earlier this year that can only be described as Peak Infantino. The stage was Davos, the Swiss alpine resort, and the World Economic Forum in May. For the uninitiated, Davos is a kind of self-important hell designed for Infantino, where the richest and most privileged think about their potential to rid the world of all ills and diseases.
FIFA’s website followed Infantino’s appearance with a report titled “FIFA President: Football can change the world.”
Infantino said: “(Nelson) Mandela said that sport can change the world, it can inspire, unite, and he was right. Football, as the most popular sport in the world, has an incredible achievement.”
More than five months later and Infantino’s revolutionary zeal appears to have left him behind. The letter Thursday night did not directly address any of the most controversial aspects of this year’s World Cup in Qatar, notably the treatment of migrant workers who built stadiums, homophobic laws that threaten the safety of LGBT+ Qataris and visitors, as well as calls for FIFA to take a stand on Iran, whose drones support Russia in its invasion of Ukraine, without mentioning the current protests in that country over women’s rights.
But the letter appeared to strongly suggest that it would be unwise for the federation to dwell on such matters.
In the continuation of the letter, it was said: “At FIFA, we try to respect all opinions and beliefs without giving moral lessons to the whole world.
“One of the world’s great strengths is indeed its sheer diversity, and if inclusion is anything, it means respecting that diversity. No people, culture, or nation is better than any other.
“This principle is the cornerstone of mutual respect and non-discrimination. And this is one of the basic values of football. So please let’s all remember this and let football take center stage.”
It might be useful at this point to remind Infantino how the world works. When he asks that football not be “drawn into any ideological war”, he might be told that homosexuality is not an ideology. It is the way of human creation; it is in us, who we are, who we are. If we accept a person’s sexuality as natural, that it is a matter of nature rather than nature, then we also know that criticizing or blaming someone for their sexuality is patently absurd.
However, Infantino’s words make it clear that “inclusion” in respecting homosexuality is the same value as “inclusion” in respecting the criminalization of homosexuality.
This argument seems to imply that true tolerance means being opposed to extreme and harmful intolerance. It means that the worldly value of two women in love, married and raising children together, is the value of her like Salah Al-Yafei. This man describes himself as a “training consultant” at Qatar’s Aspire academy, which houses Qatar’s most talented young sports stars. He has 60,000 Instagram followers and a recent video said: “As opposed to openly expressing homosexuality, not accepting it in your expression and behavior has a huge impact on children because it sends the message that it’s a verbal thing and we have to bin. ‘accept.’ This is the life of shame inflicted on gay people in Qatar, where homophobic rhetoric treats a person’s natural state as a disease to be suppressed at best or, at worst, treated.
A few weeks out from the tournament, Infantino’s words hit like a cold sore to those who believe broadcasters, media, federations and journalists should have the freedom to target the hosts of the world’s most popular sporting tournament. As such, it’s not only disappointing content, but also a clumsy strategy, alienating those who FIFA may want to keep on the sidelines for the next few weeks.
The reality, however, is that Qatar’s strongmen, so eager to protect their ties, often do more harm than good to the state. For example, British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly, who recently told a radio station that British LGBT+ people traveling to Doha should “come up and get along” if they visit during the World Cup. It’s hard to resist the conclusion that Cleverly’s modest apology is the result of British business interests closely tied to Qatar, whether it’s the £1.5 billion ($1.7 billion) British contracts linked to the tournament. or British RAF aircraft. defense of the skies, or the Typhoon planes that Britain has sold to Qatar in recent years, worth 6 billion pounds. In that context, the LGBT+ issue in Qatar seems like an afterthought.
And the truth is that it remains a pen for the sport itself. We must remember, for example, that when Qatar won the competition in 2010, the Premier League was still a few years away from its annual Rainbow Laces campaign, only after the competition was kicked off with a kick and a shout by An advertising campaign was launched. from bookmakers Paddy Power. In recent years, as the World Cup has approached, most national federations have done little to raise concerns about the status of LGBT+ Qataris and traveling fans. The Football Association of England, for example, signed a Memorandum of Understanding in 2018 with both the Qatari FA and the Orwellian High Committee on Handover and Legacy. The then chairman Greg Clarke announced these links when he posed for the English FA “Football”. For All” logo – following zero consultation with English LGBT+ football supporters. Those memories live on to this day.
Since then, Qatari authorities have offered very little on record for years to reassure LGBT+ citizens or visitors. They often say vague phrases like “everyone is welcome,” but always convey the message that visitors must respect Qatari culture, which makes people like me, a tournament traveler, wonder about the state’s meaningful stance. Do not be confident in the main subjects. What will happen, for example, should I write about LGBT+ issues while on the ground in Doha next month? In the absence of transparency from Qatar, we are in the absurd position of football managers speaking on behalf of a legal entity of a different state than the English FA.
Thus, we heard from Mark Bullingham, the chief executive of the English FA, who announced at the end of September that LGBT+ couples holding hands in Qatar would not be prosecuted. “They’ve given us absolutely the right answers to everything we’ve talked about,” Bullingham said.
Stepping back from the surrealism of this tournament, isn’t it completely strange that a football organization is telling us how a country wants to enforce its penalty law when that country is so reluctant to take these things for granted? do Then we have the folly of this confidence that in September, eight weeks before the tournament, just as English gays have been waiting 12 years for a Qatari winner for a dignified FA change, to start the following month before the competition register and issue tickets. The World Cup begins.
And if Bullingham is so confident of the hosts’ welcome, why did the English (and other European nations) propose a statement in support of LGBT+ people at the tournament consisting of only one side with the slogan “One Love”? This colorful design that is often recognized as a symbol of the LGBT+ community does not appear to be colorful. If the hosts are so generous, so open and open to dialogue, why don’t they mention “gay rights” or invoke Qatar’s anti-homosexuality laws? Why will these liberal federations not clearly identify those who say they want to resist?
Perhaps an answer to this outrage came in Thursday’s I newspaper, where a gay man in Qatar revealed that he was tricked into a hotel room through a dating app and found Qatari officials waiting to attack him upon his arrival. The report said that they raped him before arresting him.
However, as Gianni says, everyone comes back to football.
(Top photo: Stephen McCarthy – FIFA / FIFA via Getty Images)