World Cup and the Many Controversies

by Darya Ebrahimi

The world cup began earlier this month, and from the start, it was riddled with controversy and concerns made by predominantly football fans and federations in the west. To begin, a handful of UK-based news outlets criticised the country for its treatment of the LGBTQIA+ community, inciting human rights violations on behalf of the country. Further, they have consistently raised questions about labour laws and the unfortunate loss of thousands of workers that built the stadium hosting some of the world's best football teams.

Photo by Rhett Lewis on Unsplash

Qatar has denied all accusations and urged international teams to respect their culture regarding their alleged treatment of the LGBTQIA+ community. They have subsequently insisted on a zero-tolerance policy for political statements during the games. Many teams, such as Germany and England, had initially planned to wear rainbow armbands to show solidarity with the community but were firmly advised against doing so. Germany then posed for a photo-op where they held their hand over their mouths to symbolise the silencing of marginalised groups.

This World Cup series has been like no other, despite the strict rules on activism for football teams and fans alike, many have expressed their opinions, from standing in solidarity with the families of lost workers to general statements against discrimination laws worldwide. This has resulted in many being removed from games or denied entry into the stadiums. The current world cup debate is far removed from just football but has adopted a political aura. Many argue that football is football, and politics has no place in a world event meant to bring countries together and exude a sense of unity. But let's look a little deeper to unveil the possibility that politics may have a place in football.

Photo by Rowen Smith on Unsplash

Many have argued that as popular as football is, it makes the sport a mirror for society and reflects the problems facing our world in such a way that other institutions may fail to. Hence, this level of investment into football by not just fans but large corporations lends the field a strong voice for change. Fans all around the world, however, believe that football players should stick to the game and refrain from expressing their political views, to that, some may say, why should they? They, too, are members of society who are, to varying degrees, affected by political decisions and changes. Many football clubs worldwide have political roots that are often overlooked but nonetheless remain true. During this world cup, the Iranian national team refused to sing the national anthem in their opening game against England. Now, it can be said that politics has no place in football. But, these players are directly affected by the atrocities at home, and their defiance puts them in even more danger. Could it be that fans refuse politics to exist within football because they are ignorant of issues that do not affect them? The position of politics in football has been debated for decades, but what do you think? Should football players and fans be allowed to politically express themselves or keep to the game?