#1528 The Ugly Underbelly of The Beautiful Game (Qatar World Cup) (Transcript)

Air Date 11/30/2022

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JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: We've collected all of our favorite ways that you can help support the show while doing any holiday shopping this year into one place, at BestoftheLeft.com/Holiday. I'll have more to say about that during the show, so hear me out on those details a bit later.

But for now, welcome to this episode of the award-winning Best of the Left podcast, in which we shall take a look at the context of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, including the labor abuses endemic in the construction of the facilities, the authoritarianism and anti-LGBTQ policies of the Qatari government, and the corruption fundamental to the inner workings of FIFA that brought the tournament to Qatar in the first place.

Clips today are from Front Burner; Pro Revolution Soccer; Burn It All Down; Today, Explained; Channel 4 News from the UK; DW News from Germany;, France 24; Last Week Tonight; and Global Dispatches, with an additional members-only clip from Vox.

[00:01:00] And stay tuned to the end where I will be dissecting a masterclass in whataboutism propaganda.

Qatar and a World Cup controversy - Front Burner - Air Date 11-10-22

JAYME POISSON - HOST, FRONT BURNER: Take me back to 2010. FIFA President Sepp Blatter announces two World Cup hosts at once. So for 2018, that ended up being Russia, of course, and right after we find out that Qatar won the bid for 2022. And what kind of reaction did that set off in the football world?

ROGER BENNETT: Jamie, even hearing you say that I still can't believe it happened , or that it happened and 12 years later we are now on the cusp of it becoming a reality because it is that insane. Yeah, there were two and Russia was a shock. This is Putin's Russia.

SEPP BLATTER: So the 2018 FIFA World Cup 2018 FIFA World Cup, ladies and gentlemen, will be organized in Russia.

ROGER BENNETT: But the moment of shock was [00:02:00] Qatar.

SEPP BLATTER: The winner to organize the 2022 FIFA World Cup is Qatar.

ROGER BENNETT: This nation with no footballing pedigree. They never qualified for the tournament before. A state that's smaller than Connecticut, which FIFA's own analysts, they take all of the bids and they analyze them, had given red flags all over this bid that the nation was so unprepared for the tournament. Their stadia. One of them was proposed to be built in a city which itself had not yet been built. And beyond that, the weather. A desert. 120 degrees in the summer. Qatar talked about radio controlled clouds and air conditioned stadia, but it felt like a sci-fi bit. It felt so craven, so ridiculous, so brazen. But there's very little rationality in the administration. There's only greed and corruption, which is a stain of this game [00:03:00] and this World Cup, as I'm sure we'll discuss, it's unraveled before our eyes.

JAYME POISSON - HOST, FRONT BURNER: So talk to me about the corruption allegations that have been leveled against FIFA since that fateful day in 2010 when they announced Qatar was getting the World Cup.

ROGER BENNETT: I've just finished this podcast with my friend Tommy Vietor of Crooked Media. Despite the fact that I'm in it, Jamie, it is very good. It's a six part deep dive into why FIFA, football's organizing body that's meant to safeguard football, would award this to Qatar. Why Qatar would want the eyes of the world on it in this way, I think in ways it's fair to be said, they never imagined, the scrutiny that would ensue.

And we interviewed in this journalist, we interviewed government figures, we interviewed people in the Department of Justice in the United States, and there was a Department of Justice spokesperson and Matthew Miller who went to the bid in 2010 to accompany the United States. The United States thought they were gonna [00:04:00] win this bid. They'd been told they were gonna win this bid. Many powers in FIFA thought they were gonna win this bid.

And Matthew Miller went, he went with a great Morgan Freeman who was meant to be our spokes person. So he jumped Morgan Freeman over there. And the night before the bid he watched in the hotel where all the big wigs were, including President Clinton, who went over to witness this great moment of American glory, and he watched the power brokers be ushered up to the Qatari suite and then come down as if they'd just been awarded an all paid for trip to Disneyland. Just stars in their eyes hitting the bar immediately. And he said, "I have never seen anything more corrupt in my life and..." in his words, and he said, "...I cut my teeth in New Jersey politics." tony Soprano will roll in his grave when he hears that, but there's 24 members of the executive committee. They were the ones who were making the voting decisions on where these two bids would be. It's the perfect number to bribe and be bribed.

And Sepp [00:05:00] Blatter, which only sounds like an infection of the down belows by name, he was actually a Swiss guy who was then FIFA president, yesterday, 12 years too late, he went to the press in Switzerland and said the award of the 2022 World Cup Qatar was "a mistake". And he revealed in the article, he said the French vote was the swing vote. And he said there was a meeting with Sarcozi at the presidential palace and the head of French football and elite football called Michelle Platini, where the Qatari Crown Prince, who's now the Amir, met with them both, and that six months after those meetings, Qatar bought fighter jets from the French worth $14.6 billion. That's an indicator of how all of this was done.

JAYME POISSON - HOST, FRONT BURNER: The other big controversy here is the construction of these facilities. Qatar has among the world's highest proportion of migrant workers versus regular citizens. There's actually over 2 million migrant workers, often from Southeast Asia, and some estimates say that's up to 90% of the [00:06:00] population. I did not know that until today. So there are only about 300,000 people that live there. What have the conditions been for those workers as they built the facilities for this World Cup?

ROGER BENNETT: Just over 300,000 citizens. There's a couple of million people that live there, but almost all of them are imported. Essentially, the state wanted this so they weren't forced to, but forced the state to develop on an untold scale to be ready to receive one and a half million tourists. And the bid was originally a standard bid.

The World Cup, since its earliest origins, was in summer. It's always been in summer. It's a summer tournament in football's break, but Qatar in the summer, a desert climb, murderously hot, 120 degrees up to, you can't play football no matter what Star Wars elements that the Qatari bid had about, that was not really ever gonna work.

ARCHIVE CLIP: Qatar says it's eco-friendly stadiums will keep visitors comfortable whatever the [00:07:00] season, but a World Cup is about more than just the football and Sep Sepp Blatter has begun to realize maybe air conditioning an entire country isn't realistic.

ROGER BENNETT: And as we got close and close to the World Cup, it was decided that they would move this tournament into November.

ARCHIVE CLIP: Well, January and February were ruled out to avoid clashing with the 2022 Winter Olympics. And April is also out because the fasting month of Ramadan begins on the second, and after that, it'll simply just be too hot from May to September the conditions will be unbearable for both the players and the fans. So with two consecutive months...

ROGER BENNETT: But off the field, that's where the human darkness has really been for this World Cup. Six and a half thousand foreign workers were revealed to have lost their lives since the bid was awarded to make Qatar tournament ready. Building the roads, building the hotels, building the transport infrastructure, [00:08:00] as well as the stadia.

ARCHIVE CLIP: The data comes from just a handful of the countries of origin for workers in Qatar. Doesn't include some of the major contributing nations like the Philippines and Kenya, but it's a fairly safe bet that a lot of them would not have been in the country had it not won the right to host the World Cup.

ROGER BENNETT: It's almost mind boggling when you hear about the work relationship in the kafala system, which has been compared to modern slavery.

ARCHIVE CLIP: The sponsors use people in other countries like Bangladesh, for example, as agents. Their job is to travel around looking for workers. Once they find them, the agent takes money for a Visa and the worker makes their way to Qatar. Because the worker's residency rights are tied to their employment contracts, the sponsor can stop them switching jobs, and the inability to change employer leaves workers open to exploitation.

ROGER BENNETT: I should say the Qatari government, the pushback very, very hard on this. They claim [00:09:00] that only three people have actually died in this time, but Guardian have reported it out. And so this World Cup, which is, it's the joyous spine to my life. Every four years. It's how I measure time. Millions of people around the world feel exactly the same, and now we have to work out how to confront this tournament, which is quite literally soaked in blood for our entertainment. Not only us, but the teams. The Danish team have announced they're gonna wear a special kit that's been designed to mask their logo cuz they wanna play football, they wanna be in the World Cup, they feel a deep shame and they wanna signal that shame. They have a second strip, which is actually black for mourning. The Australian team, a stunning video, long video, in which 16 of their players with clearly deep research and incredible moral intelligence.

ARCHIVE CLIP: Stand with FE Bro. The Building and Woodwork International and the International Trade Union [00:10:00] Confederation seeking to embed reforms and establish a lasting legacy in Qatar.

This is how we can ensure a legacy that goes well beyond the final whistle of the 2022 FIFA World Cup one that football.

ROGER BENNETT: We're trying to analyze this World Cup, Jamie, in a split screen. You know what's gonna happen on the field. Argentina, England, France, the rest, but what's happening off it, we need to keep eyes on and ultimately to ensure as Saudi Arabia is trying to get hold of the 2030 World Cup, to make sure that this kind of craven decision making never happens again.

What Does Qatar Want? - Pro Revolution Soccer - Air Date 11-25-22


ALI REDA: Well, Qatar is a country that it's been a statelet, so it's very small state. Up until the seventies, it's been a protectorate, under the protection of the British Empire, after which the discovery of oil made it much more economically relevant to the Middle East, and [00:11:00] since the two thousands with the discovery of liquified natural gas, it's made it relevant for the entire globe. It's a country with less than a million people. It's a country with also no ecological basis for agriculture. No running water, no permanent bodies of water that can be used for agriculture. They basically have to recycle their own sewage to be able to grow the tiny bits of food that they do grow, and then everything else is imported.

And so what Qatar wants is, a) to develop its state in a way that is not simply defined by its fossil fuel endowment. And secondly, it wants to exit the great shadow that Saudi Arabia places upon it.

If you remember around four years ago, Qatar was kicked out of the Gulf Corporation Council, which is basically the EU for Gulf countries. So Saudi Arabia, [00:12:00] Qatar, the Emirates, and then Bahrain and Amman are part of this coalition. It's a co-economic, political and military sort of alliance. But because Qatar has always been the odd child of the GCC, the Gulf Corporation Council, it's always wanted to play a bigger role than Saudi Arabia and the bigger players in the GCC were dictating.

I think the World Cup comes into this narrative, into the story as a sort of what people would call, rather sarcastically now, a coming out event, because it's a way in which you can show your infrastructure to the whole world. It's a way to show your organizational skills, your capacity to handle extreme influx of people and to demonstrate what the state believes its culture is and tell the world, "Come look at me -- here's what I've made." I think this is the intention of most countries, probably especially the Qatari state when thinking about the World Cup. [00:13:00]

TOM WILLIAMS - HOST, PRO REVOLUTION SOCCER: We have already seen in the short time that the tournament's been in motion, English fans dying on the hunt for beer and things like that. There's been this big controversy over the wearing of rainbow arm bands by the captains of England and Wales and the risk of those players being given yellow cards, and it seems like they've now decided against doing that. We also would score a 2-0 to Ecuador yesterday, saw Qatari dignitaries leaving the game early, clearly quite unhappy at the way the game was going. Is there a chance that hosting the World Cup might backfire?

ALI REDA: I do think it would backfire, and that's the main reason why I'm hesitant to use the "sportswashing" framework to understand what's going on in Qatar, because ultimately what I think is happening is what I'd refer to in the beginning, which is that a World Cup or the Olympics or any sort of global event taking place, even like things like the UAE Expo, they are what I would refer to as a "coming out" event. You're [00:14:00] telling everyone, come and look at me. Come and look at my culture, what I stand for, what I'm able to give you. And you kind of have to deal with the criticism. And of course, because it's a global event, it becomes one of those events where universal values are discussed, like homosexuality and whether we accept it.

There was this interview with this English journalist whereby the English journalist was trying to assert that homosexuality was illegal in Qatar and that the Qatari state might be prejudiced against homosexuals, and then the Qataris will revert back and say actually, we'll arrest a heterosexual for PDA for public display of affection. We're not against homosexuality per se. We are a country that is modest. And our problem is with the public display of affection of any kind. Now, that's true, but that also points to a deeper truth, which is in a lot of Arab countries, there is a liberal scene, because this country is attracting global consultants, people who are now also coming [00:15:00] for just to see the football. Countries like the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain as well, when they attract global, cosmopolitan people working in either tech industries or engineering or finance, there is almost a social contract whereby any dubious events which would not be approved of, whether it's drinking, whether it's worshiping like non-Muslim entities, whether it's just general like disrespect or like non-alignment with Eastern values, these can happen as long as it's in a private house or a hotel room. Private property allows you the right to maintain your Western activities, whatever they may be, whether it's drinking, partying, not engaging in gender segregation. And then if you want to engage in the public sphere as either someone who's simply walking or working at work, you have to revert back and reengage with Qatari and Saudi values.

Now the World Cup complicates this division [00:16:00] because the events that are happening there are obviously public, but a lot of people have not been ingrained into the system. And I think ultimately it might fire back against the Qatari state. But at the same time, it just pushes the Qataris to evaluate their culture and their premises in a global light, which is, in a way, what the 21st Century is about.

I think the light that's been shown on migrants is very helpful. This is not just the case of Qatar, this is the case of the entirety of the Arabian peninsula, including Lebanon as well, which is not even a Gulf country, but employs a similar labor law, which is known as the Kafala system.

All of these things being under global sort of microscope, I think is ultimately positive. The way that Qatari state will deal with them, I'm not sure -- it'll be their call, obviously -- but I think in my opinion, from my perspective, this sort of spotlight is [00:17:00] positive and I'm not sure how the Qatari state will manage it eventually.

Qatar and the World Cup of Shame - Burn It All Down - Air Date 4-20-21

Brenda: What has come out recently are more and more reports of deaths of migrant workers that are related to the World Cup. At the same time, there has been increased pressure from European football players and federations to withdraw support for the [World] Cup based on not only migrant workers’ deaths but also issues like gay rights. People might assume that women's rights are the center of this, but they're actually not necessarily, or haven't been in the reports. That hasn't seemed to be…you know, Qatari women can vote. It is a monarchy. So, of course civil rights are very, very limited, but that's the case for men as well.

There are stricter restrictions under Sharia law, [00:18:00] and that is going to probably prompt a lot of activity on the ground to try to make safe spaces for LGBTQ communities. But the Al Thani family, which rules Qatar and has for decades, has been bent on improving its image on the international stage. This is part and parcel of their program. So, it's ongoing, and we've seen this uptick in both reporting and protests.

Jessica: So, because there's so much construction around the World Cup and often because they have to do it so rapidly, it is not uncommon, sadly, for there to be deaths of stadium construction workers and labor abuse issues. For example, in South Africa in 2010, there was at least one construction worker who died and at one point 70,000 workers went on strike, halting the stadium construction at the time. Brazil in 2014, nine people died during the building or refurbishing of the 12 venues for the World Cup. [00:19:00] There's an Al Jazeera piece from 2014 that said, “Many laborers who worked on construction projects ahead of the World Cup say they experienced rights abuses including long hours and dangerous conditions." there were reports of 84 hour work weeks for these construction workers in Brazil.

Russia in 2018, 21 construction workers died on the stadium building site. There was a Human Rights Watch report at the time that said that many workers face exploitation and labor abuses in Russia, and I think it's important to note that – this is how the New York times wrote this up – “FIFA, soccer's corruption-plagued governing body, lacked transparency and had failed to demonstrate that its monitoring system had effectively identified, prevented, and corrected stadium labor conditions.” But I think it's important to say that what is happening, what has happened in Qatar up to this point, is like on a whole other level from what we've seen in these previous World Cups.

Brenda: A recent report released by the Guardian has said that deaths are probably under-reported, but at least 6,500 people [00:20:00] have died, and migrant workers have frequently been categorized as dying of “natural causes.” The deaths have not been investigated. They are frequently from heat stroke, from unsafe working conditions on construction sites. They have had abuses in terms of their housing, their freedom of movement—often their passports have been confiscated. So, what we've seen is a total lack of transparency and accountability in regard to these deaths.

Shireen: One thing that I really want to add about the populations that make up those that have died, the workers that have died, is that they’re predominantly South Asian. And I think that's really important in the scheme of things, because these are some of the countries in the world that do not affect the FIFA World Cup in terms of participation. India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka are not countries that qualify even through the AFC. It’s horribly and horrifically [00:21:00] ironic that they're actually the bodies of which these stadiums will be built on.

By the time we get to 2020 it is estimated—and it was in a report in 2013, and we're going to link some of them because we've actually collected a lot of reports and reporting throughout the years—is that there will be almost 11,000 people who would have died. Some of the reports are actually quite detailed. So, just a trigger warning for anyone that goes through them, that the whole situation is egregious and unacceptable.

But one of the things that they tried to do was in 2013, there was a workers charter actually launched, and the BBC did report on it. I do want to also bring attention to just the general lack of care for workers in Qatar from 2013. Also, there was a French football named Zahir Belounis who actually threatened to go on hunger strike because he was playing for a club in Qatar and he wasn't being [00:22:00] released. It’s very important not to divorce the royal family and what they own and control over these other things. They definitely have a say in everything that goes on in that country. That's how these type of autocratic monarchies work in the Gulf particularly.

So, just drawing from that, we knew it was a bad situation, but when even the culture around football is so stringently, rigidly controlled to a violent manner where families don't have freedom of mobility, and that's something else we have to remember with these workers, be they professional footballers, be they working in construction. Their passports are taken from them. They do not have the right of mobility. They have to apply for an exit visa. This is not something that I think we think of in the western world and those of us who are privileged enough to have passports. We don't have to ask to leave. Asking to leave can be more stressful than just entering a country. This happens in a lot of Middle Eastern countries and certain places, exit visas are [00:23:00] required. That's something that we need to keep in mind as we look at this.

My friend Rafia Zakaria actually wrote a piece very recently for Dawn, the newspaper, the English-speaking newspaper in Pakistan. She wrote about workers in FIFA, in Qatar, and she actually said that there are many Pakistanis who are actually working there, and this is why this part of the world should care. And whether it's Dubai, Doha or Sharjah, it's just so so difficult because the situation at home, in their home countries, is so incredibly bleak, that it seems as if there's this ton of money. And that's not what happens. So anyways, all this to say that the system that was currently there, the Qataris recently tried to change, so it was called Kafala and that was considered a reform.

This is what Rafia wrote: “Qatar must be congratulated for its Kafala reform initiative as human rights advocates and labor leaders have pointed out time and again, that the Kafala system amounts to a form of [00:24:00] indentured servitude. In tethering employees to employers, unjust, coercive, and abusive, it has been long been seen that employees either bear the difficult conditions, including most of the non-payment of the wages, or be returned home. This latter option is not a possibility because many have incurred huge debts in order to get there in the first place. And this has been the locus of interminable cycles of abuse for hundreds of thousands of foreign workers."

"It is likely that the Qataris have been inspired to make these labor law changes, owing to the scrutiny they have received and are likely to further encounter because they will host the FIFA Cup next year. Just the other day, Amnesty International released an open letter to Mr. Gianni Infantino, the president of FIFA. The letter specifically expressed concern over the Qatari Shura council's transcendence over the Kafala system and the change of employer. It is also noted that even when labor reforms are made in Qatar they're rarely [00:25:00] implemented.”

World Cup: Welcome to Qatar! - Today, Explained - Air Date 11-4-22

NOEL: Give me a sense of how important soccer is to the Middle East.

ABDULLAH: The game is definitely the most popular sport anywhere in this region. You see entire cities turn out for their major club matches.

You can hear a pin drop whenever the national teams are playing, whether it's in Egypt or Algeria or Morocco, because everyone is tuned in, whether in their radios, in the cafes or even those who are attending the matches in stadiums. So there's a real passion in a sense that the national teams tend to be really representative of the entire country in a way that you could even argue is more representative of the population and of the society than sometimes their own political leaders are.

The game was introduced really through the colonial experience. Most of the countries in the Middle [00:26:00] East were at one point or another colonized by either Britain or France. So it was during the course of that colonial experience that you see colonial officials introducing new educational curriculums, trying to modernize the population. Part of that included things like physical education that they believed was important to develop what they called properly obedient individuals.

NOEL: Ugh.

NARRATOR: With the sole of the foot.

ABDULLAH: And so this meant introducing the game as a very structured game with a set of rules.

NARRATOR: For ball control is essential to skillful play.

ABDULLAH: That required a certain kind of discipline and that this was ultimately going to educate them into a western way of thinking and acting. And so this was the way that they tried to groom and cultivate the elites within the societies that they conquered.

NARRATOR: And through games like heading tennis, keeping the boys interested in learning the right way of bringing the head into contact with the ball.

ABDULLAH: But of course, the game, like most things, when it comes to popular culture, has the tendency to take on a life of its [00:27:00] own, and all of a sudden it becomes a source of empowerment for populations against colonial rule.

NOEL: Against colonial rule, and then later against authoritarian rule, right? So Abdullah, I lived in Cairo during the Arab Spring and I’d cover these massive protests and I knew to look out for the “ultras”, the super fans of these big teams like Ahly and Zamalek, because they were an organized contingent; they seemed to be leading things. And for an American journalist it was like - I can not imagine Jets fans doing this.

ABDULLAH: We're talking about authoritarian contexts, especially in places like Egypt and Algeria and Syria and elsewhere, where you don't see the opportunity for people to simply found a political party or to simply go and organize explicitly on a political basis.

NARRATOR: The Cairo Derby is the biggest fixture in the Middle East's football calendar, a bitter rivalry between Africa's [00:28:00] two most successful teams, Ahly and Zamalek.

ABDULLAH: And so what we tend to see more of is a an alternative politics, which means people within society are likely to gather through things that might seem innocuous from the perspective of the regime.

SAMEER AL-AHLY FAN: This is politics. Zamalek is the government.

ABDULLAH: You're not going to really prevent people from gathering in stadiums or coffeehouses or hookah lounges where they're going to sit and watch matches and support their favorite clubs. And at the same time, that then becomes an opportunity by which people do ultimately, naturally, engage in political discussion.

HANAN EL-ZAINY, AL AHLY: Al Ahly club ideas, ethics, strategies, plans didn't contradict with the idea of revolution. They are actually the same.

ABDULLAH: And so the idea that football fan groups were a part of the collective of people who mobilized in these mass protests in places like Tahrir Square or [00:29:00] even in Pearl Roundabout in Bahrain, for instance, or in Yemen or in Syria or Libya or Algeria. These groups tended to already have that sense of camaraderie having already fought off security forces when they were confronting the police in stadiums.

So when there was this assault by the security forces in a number of these places, we end up seeing that it's actually the football ultra groups that tend to stand firm in defense of the protesters in Tahrir Square. And I think that also then helped encourage the broader movements that were protesting and mobilizing in those days be able to stand firm. And so we saw quite an effective resistance to a lot of the typical crackdowns that we saw on the part of the state.

NOEL: Alright so you have this combination of beautiful game, extraordinary history of protest, but Abdullah, let me [00:30:00] ask you about the criticism of Qatar. Because investigative reporting suggests that many migrant workers died while building these stadiums and all of this other infrastructure that you guys have gotten. Qatar’s emir—its leader—says essentially “the rest of the world is picking on us because we’re a little Arab country.” Do you think he has a point?

ABDULLAH: I happen to think that a lot of the questions that have been raised around the way that the Qatar World Cup has come together are incredibly valid. And there are serious questions that need to be taken on without any kind of equivocating.

But I don't think it's been helpful that so much of these critiques, relied on very borderline orientalist narratives of just creating an exceptional situation that Qatar occupies without actually taking on the much deeper, serious issues having to do with things like, the global flow of labor and capital and all of the various parties that are implicated. [00:31:00] To just simply say, this is just something that is just the product of a certain culture or a certain kind of specific environment, as opposed to thinking about all of these different forces that have converged to create the kind of conditions that exist.

Qatar World Cup: FIFA president defends tournament in extraordinary speech - Channel 4 News - Air Date 11-19-22

HOST: Qatar's human rights record has overshadowed everything in this World Cup. Even the players are talking politics rather than football.

SEPP BLATTER: The winner to organize the 2 22 FIFA World Cup is Qatar.

HOST: Many of those now playing for their national side were teenagers when Qatar was chosen. England defender Eric Dier was 16, but he told journalist Qatar's treatment of migrant workers was a terrible situation. FIFA's President had written to players like Dier urging them to focus on football, not politics.

Failing to shut down the debate. Gianni [00:32:00] Infantino chose a different tactic today. He went on the attack, accusing Qatar's critics of hypocrisy.

CURRENT PRESIDENT: I think for what we Europeans have been doing in the last 3000 years around the world, we should be apologizing for next 3000 years before starting to give more lessons.

Hundreds of thousands of workers from developing countries come here. They earn 10 times more than what they earn in their home country.

We, in Europe, we close our borders and we don't allow practically any worker from these countries.

HOST: Both Qatar and FIFA have disputed claims that six and a half thousand migrant workers have died building the World Cup stadiums. They say the official number of work-related deaths is just three.

GUEST: We hear a lot about sportswashing. But this was FIFA washing, insisting that everything would be hunky dory and we shouldn't [00:33:00] worry about anything. He accused western journalists and the western countries of hypocrisy. But I think he was also guilty of the same thing.

HOST: And FIFA's president went from the bizarre to the ridiculous today when he got personal.

CURRENT PRESIDENT: They know what it means to be discriminated. To be bullied as a foreigner in a foreign country. As a child at school, I was bullied because I had red hair and I had these red, how do you call them? Uh, freckles.


PROTESTERS: Two 4, 6, 8 Qatar must legislate!

HOST: Those comments infuriated protestors outside the Qatar Embassy in London this afternoon.

PROTESTER: Well, regardless of his own experience, the most important thing right now is the suffering of Qatari people, particularly women, LGBTs, and migrant workers. His statement is an insult to their suffering.

HOST: The [00:34:00] World Cup starts tomorrow with the homeside playing Ecuador. Politics won't be far away. The England and Wales captains will be wearing One Love armbands to raise awareness of discrimination. An act of rebellion, be it small, in a country where same-sex relationships are outlawed.

'One Love' campaign hit by threat of FIFA sanctions - DW News - Air Date 11-21-22

HOST: It is day two of the World Cup in Qatar. And while the games are well underway, it's what's happening off the pitch that's making headlines.

The captains of several European teams were planning on playing with armbands supporting diversity and inclusion in a gesture seen as a rebuke to Qatar's human rights record.

But FIFA wouldn't have it. The governing body threatened players with on-field punishment, a risk they knew would be too great for the athletes to take.

VOICEOVER: England, Wales and Germany were three of the seven European national teams who wanted to set an example for tolerance and inclusion with a [00:35:00] rainbow-themed amand, and the statement "One Love."

FIFA saw things differently. While not expressly banning the arm bands, FIFA said referees would sanction players who wore them with a yellow card.

BERND NEUENDORF - PRESIDENT, GERMAN FOOTBALL ASSOCIATION: FIFA today banned a statement in favor of diversity and human rights. These are values to which it commits itself in it's own statute. This is more than frustrating from our point of view.

VOICEOVER: FIFA got their way, and the evidence was on the arm of England's captain, Harry Kane. It appears that no European nation wants to risk a yellow card to make a political statement.

HOST: And for more on this, we can bring in Mustafa Qadri. He's a specialist in human rights and labor rights. Welcome to The Day. Mr. Qadri, first it was supposed to be a rainbow armband. Then the team's bowed to pressure and decided on a "One Love" armband for diversity and inclusion. Now I think they've settled on one reading, [00:36:00] "No Discrimination." Why did FIFA raise the stakes for players wanting to take a stand at the World Cup? .

MUSTAFA QADRI: Well, I think, to be honest -- firstly, thank you for having me on your show and for raising these issues. It's very important.

I think frankly it's death by a thousand cuts. What we've seen is backtracking by FIFA and, let's face it, those behind them, which is the football associations, the teams and corporate sponsors, towards Qatar to effectively not address the human rights issues in that country, and instead everyone else compromising for them. So really it's quite disappointing.

But the other thing that's most important is the signal it sends to the LGBTI community, and indeed anyone facing human rights issues, not just in Qatar, not just in the region, but globally. You have these very powerful prominent players, you know, giving into this. And of course for FIFA itself, that claims to be a force for good, respecting human rights, it sends the worst [00:37:00] possible signal at the very beginning of the tournament.

But it's simple things, you know? I mean, if, for example, the countries were to allow their guests in the country to wear things like rainbow flags, allow armbands that are very soft reflections of the need to respect the rights of everyone. That will go a long way to making people feel like they're doing the right thing. So I think in many ways, Qatar itself is to blame for this situation and of course so is FIFA.

You know, we obviously heard from Infantino, the president of FIFA on Saturday, giving a really bizarre, and in some ways very insulting speech. The thing that people really need to understand about that speech is it's effectively him signaling to the Qataris that he won't put any pressure on them to address very real human rights issues.

The thing to really also emphasize is Qatar is not a free society. It is a absolute monarchy. The opportunities for leverage on things like human rights and social reform [00:38:00] are very few and far between. This is probably the most unprecedented time to have those kind of changes. FIFA's one of the few entities on the planet that can actually influence how Qatar responds to human rights. So for them to surrender the way that they have, absolutely the tournament is being overshadowed by these issues, but there's very good reason for that.

And on top of that, still even now, there is time for things to shift, but frankly, that window is narrowing by the moment, by the second.

Boom in demand for 'One Love' arm bands banned by FIFA - FRANCE 24 English - Air Date 11-24-22

VOICEOVER: Banned by FIFA, but booming in demand. These arm bands being printed in the Netherlands are intended to send a message against discrimination at the World Cup in Qatar. Homosexuality is illegal in the Gulf State and many have been wearing the arm bands in a show of support for the LGBTQ community.

PRINTSHOP OWNER: The spike in demand is really an result of the FIFA banning this product to be in the World Cup 2022. And by that, a lot [00:39:00] of people thought, Hey, this is wrong. We should adapt that product. And it becomes a culture product at the moment. And we are getting requests from all parts of the world to buy this product. Amazing.

VOICEOVER: FIFA said that any players wearing the arm bands during games risked a yellow card, causing teams like England to ditch the idea altogether. Others across the world have been buying them up since

PRINTSHOP OWNER: All different kind of people, the consumers just have the band and to make a statement, all the way up to the European parliament who just ordered 500 pieces to make a political statement of the band.

Qatar World Cup - Last Week Tonight with John Oliver - Air Date 11-21-22

JOHN OLIVER - HOST, LAST WEEK TONIGHT: Qatar will argue that they have made some significant labor reforms. It's something that the head of their World Cup efforts has proudly bragged about.

HASSAN AL THAWADI: If we look at the actions that the government has taken so far, laws implemented and being applied as well, the Kafala system has been dismantled both in terms of allowing for workers to change employers and at the [00:40:00] same time also there was the exit permit system.

INTERVIEWER: They couldn't leave without --

HASSAN AL THAWADI: They couldn't leave without permission. That has been dismantled as well.

JOHN OLIVER - HOST, LAST WEEK TONIGHT: Look, those reforms sound great, and to an extent they are, but they also have some major asterisks on them. Workers in Qatar have said that they are still required to get permission from their current employer before they can move to a new job, and have also experienced retaliation from their employers when they try to leave.

But also the reforms that he's bragging about there only began to be implemented in 2018 when much of the hard work was already done. So he's bragging about dismantling the Kafala system while sitting in a stadium built using it. The only way that pat on the back could have been more hypocritical is if he'd forced a migrant worker to do it for him in 120 degree heat.

But incredibly, it's not just Qatar bragging about the progress that's been made. FIFA has had the nerve to claim credit for it too.

GIANNI INFANTINO: All the changes that have happened in this country in terms of human rights and workers' rights and so on, [00:41:00] human rights would not have happened, or certainly not at the same speed without the projectors of the World Cup.

JOHN OLIVER - HOST, LAST WEEK TONIGHT: Okay, Corruption Kayu, that is one hell of a fucking claim there. Because you cannot possibly argue FIFA deserves credit here. FIFA's evaluation of Qatars bid had literally zero mentions of human rights or demands for labor reforms. Think of it like this: If the country had made no changes to its Kafala system in the past few years, and instead had passed a law called the Doubling Down on Slave Labor Act of 2019, you know what would've happened? The World Cup still would've kicked off in Qatar today. Isn't that right, La'eeb? Wink if you agree. [ding] Yeah, I fucking knew it. I knew you knew what was going on there.

When FIFA awarded Qatar the World Cup, there was only one way those stadiums were getting built, and there was only one group of people who were going to do it, and they gave them the tournament anyway.

And that is not the only troubling thing that they had to have known back then. Because let's take a moment to talk about Qatar's human rights situation. [00:42:00] And I recognize every country has human rights issues, including this one. For more on that, see every other story this show has ever done.

But Qatar is in some ways next level. Women there have very limited rights. They need permission from their male guardians to marry, work in many government jobs, and travel abroad until certain ages. Also, because sex outside of marriage is illegal, pregnant women have to present a marriage certificate to receive prenatal care, which I hesitate to even tell you about just in case the Supreme Court is watching this show tonight and getting any new ideas.

As for the LGBT community, sexual conduct between men is criminalized and can result in seven years in prison. And FIFA was not unaware of this. Sepp Blatter even joked about it just days after Qatar was awarded the tournaments because, when he was asked what advice he would give to gay fans who might want to travel to Qatar, this was his fun response.

SEPP BLATTER: Then, I would say then that they should refrain from any sexual [00:43:00] activities.

JOHN OLIVER - HOST, LAST WEEK TONIGHT: You know, they say in comedy you can either punch up, punch down or cosign oppressive governments for a quick laugh while looking like the penguin went to Wharton. And we all know which option he just chose there. Get Sepp Blatter a Netflix special, it seems like he's ready.

Now Qatar has frequently repeated that everyone is welcome at this World Cup, including gay fans. But as this gay Qatari man who was granted asylum in the US citing the dangers he faced there points out, even if that is the case for the next four weeks, it's a hell of a blind eye to turn.

NASSAR MOHAMMED: It's like having a household with children that are domestically abused, and now you're gonna have a fancy dinner party. People can come in, they can bring their kids, their kids can jump on the table and they can do everything that they want. The children that live there are gonna be in the basement, quiet, behaving, [00:44:00] and they can't jump on the table like the other kids that visited because they will be punished in that household for doing it.

Well now you know that the children there are abused. So how are you showing up to our home?

JOHN OLIVER - HOST, LAST WEEK TONIGHT: Exactly. The Qatari government is engaging in some truly horrendous behavior, and we can't just gloss over that and uncritically put it in the spotlight. It's an authoritarian regime, not Mel fucking Gibson. By the way, here's a fun game: guess how many movies he's been in this year? You're wrong. It's seven. This truly has been the year of Mel.

And none of this -- the working conditions, the oppression of women or gay people -- was a deal breaker for FIFA. In fact, Qatar's authoritarian tendencies may actually have been a deal sweetener, because FIFA has long had a soft spot for autocrats. And I'm not just saying that because they gave the World Cup to Russia in 2018 or went ahead with one in Argentina in 1978 when it was run by a military dictatorship, or even that [00:45:00] they held the second World Cup ever in Mussolini's Italy in 1934. They've said it, themselves. FIFA's, former Secretary General, Jerome Valk once said, "I will say something which is crazy, but less democracy is sometimes better for organizing a World Cup. When you have a very strong head of state, that is easier for us organizers." And even for a quote, which is prefaced by "I will say something, which is crazy," that is fucking nuts.

But authoritarians are good for FIFA, and FIFA is good for authoritarians. As this critic points out, Russia's World Cup four years ago was preceded by a lot of controversy and criticism, but that's not what people remember about it.

NICHOLAS MCGEEHAN: What you saw in the run up to 2018 was a lot of coverage of what was happening in Russia, a lot of coverage of the rights abuses, a lot of interest in that and a lot of engagement in it. And I think what the countries will have noticed was how that all vanished as soon as the [00:46:00] first whistle blew. And I think everyone became captivated by the football. The Qataris know that if they can just get to that first whistle, then they're over the line.

JOHN OLIVER - HOST, LAST WEEK TONIGHT: It's true. Such as the power of the World Cup. Any memories of controversy are likely to be washed away once it begins. And incidentally, What's a VIP box to be a part of there? Quick tip for the president of FIFA: If you are gonna make arguments about how your organization is a global force for good, maybe try not to sit between Mohammad bin Salman and Vladimir Putin because you are the filling in a real shit sandwich there.

And the thing is, that first whistle has now been blown. Qatar played Ecuador in the opening game of the tournament earlier today. So, what now? Well, workers like Anish hope that some of the athletes participating can help shine a light on all the exploitation that went into this event.

ANISH: My message for Messi: [00:47:00] thousands of workers like me have worked on the stadium. We did not get our salary, our benefits. I hope that if you talk about workers like us, maybe we will get what we are owed. I do not have much faith, but still I have hope.

JOHN OLIVER - HOST, LAST WEEK TONIGHT: Yeah, and that hope is pretty moving, especially given all the reasons not to have any.

Human Rights and the Qatar World Cup - Global Dispatches -- World News That Matters - Air Date 11-16-22

MICHAEL PAGE: A general point to emphasize is, very little of any of these issues that have been surfacing in recent months and years are a surprise. So just to give, from another context, LGBT people’s rights in Qatar are severely restricted. Human Rights Watch and others have actually documented, even recently as of September, LGBT people being mistreated, detained in some cases, forced to go to a kind of government conversion center. And this is something that people have been raising the alarm about for years, yet FIFA [00:48:00] still decided not only to have it host the World Cup, but not really push forward on real changes in the country that would protect both fans and residents, which is changing discriminatory laws that exist. Among that, most important being, if you are found to have same sex relations or even sex outside marriage, you could face up to seven years in prison.

MARK L. GOLDBERG - HOST, GLOBAL DISPATCHES: So FIFA does not necessarily have a reputation as being the most above the board entity, but was there anything they could have done in the run up to the World Cup to perhaps mitigate some of the expected labor exploitation, in particular, that occurred?

MICHAEL PAGE: Absolutely. I think the most important thing that FIFA could have done is simply impose conditions or require basic human rights protections to be in place before the construction began or [00:49:00] before a host was selected for the World Cup. I think it’s a broader theme for mega sporting events that are held in places with very serious human rights concerns, which is there need to be a very clear set of conditions that incorporate human rights standards before a host is awarded a tournament. it’s such a clear example in this case of when you don’t have those conditions, just how bad the reality can be.

In Qatar’s case, there are thousands of unexplained deaths that are linked to this building of the World Cup infrastructure that were absolutely preventable, and yet FIFA, only very belatedly, tried to adopt a human rights policy like they have in 2017 and, on occasion, references human rights language. But even now, their language is pretty negative. They’ve essentially told [00:50:00] football associations calling for human rights to be respected or calling for a compensation fund for migrant workers to say focus on the football or more colloquially shut up and play. We don’t want to hear it from football associations.

FIFA’s not done a great job. I think maybe you could argue has done a terrible job, in terms of for this World Cup, ensuring that the conditions were in place to protect minimum standards of human rights.

MARK L. GOLDBERG - HOST, GLOBAL DISPATCHES: So you just alluded to this, but there have now been several major sporting events held in illiberal countries over the last few years, with the Olympics in Sochi, in Russia, the Olympics in Beijing, in China, and now the World Cup in Qatar. Each time there has been this discussion among human rights activists about the juxtaposition of having this major [00:51:00] international event held alongside countries that are abusive to their own citizens and exploitative in a number of ways. Yet these events keep happening. I’m wondering if it’s a failure of the human rights community writ large, the fact that these major institutions, FIFA, the International Olympic Committee, keep awarding major events to illiberal countries that abuse their own citizens and impose all these human rights restrictions.

MICHAEL PAGE: I think the challenge from a human rights perspective is that these institutions, like FIFA, have long been largely unaccountable to the base of people who they should be—fans, footballers, football associations, and other entities. This kind of global community that loves sports, that loves football is so distant in the minds of FIFA’s senior leaders when [00:52:00] they are making these decisions that have billions of dollars on the line. Qatar has said that they spent something like $220 billion in infrastructure costs associated with the broader preparations for this World Cup. So that’s just a huge amount on the line. And unfortunately, your everyday football fan has not had the ability as well as human rights groups to influence.

I think the real question is, okay, there now are human rights conditions, a human rights policy in place for FIFA, are they going to stay committed to that for the awarding of the next World Cup in 2030, which includes a bid, for instance, that I believe is made up of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Greece, where at least two of those countries [00:53:00] have very serious human rights concerns that hopefully would be incorporated and reviewed as part of awarding any kind of hosting. And so, I think that is the question. There might have been delays in terms of human rights groups really focusing on just how valuable these major sporting events are for autocratic governments trying to reputation launder their terrible image, but now there are some protections in place among some organizations, but will they respect that? It’s a question.

How FIFA corrupted the World Cup - Vox - Air Date 11-23-22

SAM ELLIS - HOST, VOX: In the early 20th century, football was already super popular, mainly in Europe and South America, where national teams had begun playing each other. So a group of officials in France formed FIFA in 1904 to oversee these competitions and promote the sport. In 1930, inspired by the Olympics, they decided to start their own tournament. The first question was, who would host it. Out of FIFA's 44 member countries at the time, six placed bids to host it. FIFA's [00:54:00] congress, made up of one representative from each country, was put in charge of voting for a winner, but really this vote was a facade.

JAMES CORBETT: So there was no bid contest as such. It was effectively decided behind closed doors by a bunch of committee members.

SAM ELLIS - HOST, VOX: Eventually FIFA awarded Uruguay the rights to host the first World Cup, and it was a fitting place to do it. Uruguay had just won the last two Olympic gold medals in football, but it also agreed to pay for a lot, including the travel expenses of other teams, and share the profits with FIFA. In July 1930, 13 teams came together to play. Uruguay beat Argentina in the finals, and FIFA made a solid profit, mostly from ticket sales. The World Cup was a success. Over the next couple of decades, FIFA decided to rotate the tournament between Europe and South America.

JAMES CORBETT: The World Cup wasn't a grandiose thing back then. [00:55:00] You know, there were some upgrades to the stadiums, to existing infrastructure. There'd be some marketing going on, but the World Cup wasn't a truly global event.

SAM ELLIS - HOST, VOX: That all changed when it went on TV.

ARCHIVE CLIP: I am very pleased that this country is acting as host for the final of the World Cup.

SAM ELLIS - HOST, VOX: Once the whole world could watch the tournament, the host nation became much more visible, leading many more countries to want to host one.

ARCHIVE CLIP: In virtually every country, football has now such a following that no government can afford to ignore it.

SAM ELLIS - HOST, VOX: Through the sixties and seventies FIFA's membership started exploding. By the eighties, it had close to 170 members, mostly divided into six confederations with their own qualifying tournaments. And the organization kept getting rich. Take a look at how FIFA's profits grew deadly with almost every tournament until - boom - the 1980s. That's when World Cup sponsorships, merchandise, and TV rights became worth millions. All of this money was largely controlled by 24 officials, the leaders of [00:56:00] each confederation, and some senior officials like the president. This group was called the Executive Committee or ExCo. They had the power to distribute FIFA's money to its member countries for building football fields, holding tournaments, and establishing youth programs.

JAMES CORBETT: Very often, this was done without any checks in place. Lots of money was siphoned off, you know, a development money kickback became almost standard practice in certain parts of the world.

SAM ELLIS - HOST, VOX: FIFA leaders began using corrupt practices to gain and retain power.

JAMES CORBETT: The corruption that went on suited the two presidents. Havelange was nakedly corrupt and he took bribes. That is well documented. Sepp Blatter was very different. He was addicted to power. There was a cabal of nakedly corrupt committee men within FIFA and Mr. Blatter ignored their excesses because he relied on their support to keep himself in power.

SAM ELLIS - HOST, VOX: It was in this culture of corruption that FIFA, in 1964, decided to take the vote away from Congress and give it to Exco, meaning that to host a World Cup, [00:57:00] countries only needed to win the votes of a majority of ExCo: just 13 of them.

JAMES CORBETT: The fact that such a small body of men had such a powerful position vested among them without any real checks and balances, yeah, it absolutely made corruption part of it.

SAM ELLIS - HOST, VOX: FIFA's corruption wasn't a secret, but they had moved their headquarters to Switzerland long ago. And that meant their finances couldn't really be traced to confirm corruption, at least for another decade. The 2006 World Cup bid was the most competitive in FIFA's history. It had previously begun accepting bids from countries outside of Europe and South America. It awarded hosting rights to the U.S. in '94 and South Korea and Japan in 2002. For the 2006 World Cup, five countries wanted to host it and for good reason.

JAMES CORBETT: I think there's a huge amount of prestige that it brings to not just the country, but the leadership of the country. It's sort of a step on the way towards nation-building.

SAM ELLIS - HOST, VOX: With more and more countries desperate for World Cup prestige, FIFA found ways to play them [00:58:00] off each other. The bidding countries spent millions of dollars on a two year gauntlet of PR events to impress FIFA and tried to outdo each other by promising new stadiums, hotels, infrastructure, and lucrative TV offers. This became the well known public-facing side of the bidding process.

JAMES CORBETT: That was the start, I think, where the World Cup became really very heavily politicized.

SAM ELLIS - HOST, VOX: When the 2006 vote came to a close, ExCo chose...

ARCHIVE CLIP: Deutschland.

SAM ELLIS - HOST, VOX: ...thanks to one voter abstaining at the last moment. Journalists had later revealed that Germany had bribed at least four ExCo members for their votes, including the official who abstained. It was the first publicly reported incident that revealed FIFA had another layer to its bidding process that involved cutting deals with ExCo members under the table.

JAMES CORBETT: Because of a lack of criteria that governed where the World Cup was going to go, the old men who sat on its executive committee were wined and dined and indulged for a significant period of time, [00:59:00] and in some cases, you know, quite handsomely remunerated.

SAM ELLIS - HOST, VOX: And it happened again for the 2010 World Cup bid, which South Africa won. Allegations would later emerge that it, too, had paid ExCo members for their votes. This shadier side of the bid was becoming vital to winning, and in the next two bids it would destroy the legacy of the World Cup. In the lead up to this announcement, FIFA had decided that the 2018 cup would be in Europe. Four bidders emerged. England with its expansive infrastructure was the heavy favorite. For the same reasons the U.S. was the favorite among five bidders for 2022. But of course, this was only part of what it took to win a World Cup bid. The countries that did win the vote that day were the ones who could pour the most money into all levels of FIFA's system.

BONITA MERSIADES: People often overlook Russia. Russia is very much at the forefront of everybody's mind. As long as someone like Vladimir Putin were behind it, then they were [01:00:00] always going to be very competitive in that process.

SAM ELLIS - HOST, VOX: This is Bonita Mersiades. She saw the World Cup bidding process from the inside while working on Australia's bid that same year.

BONITA MERSIADES: They had the capacity, they had the technical capability, they had the facilities.

SAM ELLIS - HOST, VOX: Russia pledged to spend 10 billion dollars and the use of 16 stadiums, but equally important was the fact that they stacked their bid with rich, influential, and well-connected people.

BONITA MERSIADES: The head of the Russian bid was Igor Shuvalov, the Russian sports minister, and the president of the Russian Football Association was also heavily involved in that they brought in some of their oligarchs to help support it financially, such as Abramovich.

JAMES CORBETT: What does that tell you? It tells you, we've got money, we've got basically fuck you money. We can do what we like.

SAM ELLIS - HOST, VOX: And they did. ExCo member Rafael Salguero would later admit that he agreed to accept $1 million for his vote from Russia and Jack Warner allegedly received 5 million for his. [01:01:00] Russia was using the full weight of its government, corporations, and connections to win every layer of the bid process, just as FIFA had designed it. And they weren't the only ones.

BONITA MERSIADES: The reason why I thought Qatar was always a possibility was this wasn't just about the World Cup for them. It was the government seeing this as an important step in their nation-building. So they really, really wanted it and they had deep pockets.

SAM ELLIS - HOST, VOX: At first glance, Qatar's bid was a long shot. It's a fairly small country with a football team that's never qualified for the World Cup. It was also too hot for football. Temperatures could reach 50 degrees in the summer and in 2010, Qatar only had one major city and one stadium big enough for a World Cup game. But what Qatar did have is some of the largest natural gas reserves in the world with an enormous amount of wealth, all controlled by the country's Emir, Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani. And they were willing to use it to win the 2022 bid. It pledged to spend an astonishing $200 billion on infrastructure and build [01:02:00] 12 brand new air-conditioned stadiums, a bid other countries couldn't match. And they didn't forget about ExCo. British journalists would later allege that a Qatari-owned company paid Warner around $2 million for his vote. There's also allegations that Qatar made payments to three other ExCo members. But Russia's and Qatar's advantages went beyond wealth. They were the only two authoritarian countries in the contest, meaning they were freer to work this shadier side of the bid.

JAMES CORBETT: You know, the Australian World Cup bid was very well-funded as well, but it was all publicly funded and every cent was meant to be accounted for. You know, maybe you could move stuff around spreadsheets and so on, but if you were going to engage in the dark arts, you had to be very, very careful. Whereas, if you were coming from an authoritarian state like Russia or like Qatar, you can do what you like.

SAM ELLIS - HOST, VOX: FIFA created a bidding process that would inevitably be won by the countries with the most cash and the least accountability. And the thing is, Russia and Qatar got [01:03:00] away with it. But the scandals that followed nearly destroyed FIFA. Allegations emerged weeks after the 2010 vote, but it wasn't until 2015 that the FBI arrested several FIFA officials in Zurich and launched investigations into decades of FIFA's dealings. Even though no one's been put on trial for taking bribes from Qatar, since the vote 13 of the 22 ExCo voters present that year have either been indicted or banned from FIFA at some point. Amidst these scandals, Sepp Blatter resigned and disgrace. So in 2016, in an attempt to clean up its act, FIFA gave Congress the power to vote on World Cup hosts once again. But the 2018 World Cup in Russia went on as planned, generating record revenue for FIFA. And Qatar's predicted to do the same.

BONITA MERSIADES: Are we comfortable with the human rights record of Qatar and Russia? Are we comfortable with what Russia is doing at the moment? That decision has been a great enabler [01:04:00] for both those countries. It's a decision that just doesn't stand the test of time at all. They didn't get it right then, and it's not right now.

Final comments on the whataboutism master class from the president of FIFA

JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: We've just heard clips today, starting with Front Burner giving a good overview of the controversies surrounding the 2022 World Cup. Pro Revolution Soccer looked at what is at stake for Qatar and their efforts at sports washing their reputation. Burn It All Down dove into the human rights abuses of Qatar. Today, Explained discussed the colonial context of football culture in the Middle East. Channel 4 News from the UK reported on a decidedly mixed bag of a speech by FIFA's president that both justly criticized Europe and unjustifiably defended Qatar. DW News from Germany then explained that the rainbow arm bands intended to show support for the LGBTQ community had been banned. And France 24 highlighted the increased demand for the arm bands in the wake of them being [01:05:00] banned. Last Week Tonight looked at the abuses of Qatar and why FIFA actually likes authoritarian governments. And Global Dispatches discussed the role that FIFA needs to step into regarding upholding human rights in World Cup host countries. That's what everybody heard, but members also heard a bonus clip from Vox going all the way back to the origins of the World Cup and the rise of FIFA.

To hear that and have all of our bonus contents delivered seamlessly to the new members-only podcast feed that you'll receive, sign up to support the show at bestoftheleft.com/support or shoot me an email requesting a financial hardship membership, because we don't let a lack of funds stand the way of hearing more information.

And just a quick final note. You just heard me describe the speech given by the president of FIFA just before the beginning of the World Cup as having been a decidedly mixed bag. And I just have to say that I watched the whole thing, it was an hour long, and I found it to be really [01:06:00] quite interesting. In short, I guess you could just say that it was whataboutism at its core. And that's true, but I think that it was done in a subtler and more nuanced way than whataboutism usually is, which gave it an appeal that usually isn't there, I think. Now to be clear, it was widely condemned by media and activists alike, so it wasn't all that convincing on the whole, but I am sure that it was a great piece of propaganda for those looking to defend the labor and human rights records of Qatar.

He was speaking as a European, he's, uh, from Switzerland, I think, and was leveling a fair amount of perfectly legitimate criticism at Europe, partly for abuses, either, you know, hundreds or thousands of years in, in the past, but also for their current policies, particularly towards immigrants. All good so far. The problem came [01:07:00] with the turn, as he leveraged that legitimate criticism to claim somehow that no criticism coming from Europe directed at anyone outside could be legitimate because of their past, and that's just not how things work. If criticism is legitimate, it's legitimate. He also had a nuanced take on how social progress happens, arguing that change takes time and that different cultures are going to evolve with their own paces and along their own paths. Again, this is true, but that is then used as a premise to suggest that activism and agitation are not the way to push for change, as though it happens naturally over time. He used the example of his own father who would not have supported LGBTQ rights, as well as an area of his home country of Switzerland that didn't allow women to vote until the 1990s, and only then because [01:08:00] they were forced by the Swiss courts.

I didn't fact check that. That's what he said in his story. Again, there's nothing wrong with pointing out how relatively recent changes were made in what we now think of as progressive Europe. It is interesting to contextualize that. It is good to understand that change happens over time. But to use those examples of belated change in perspectives, were then used as a defense of a country like Qatar and their laws banning same-sex relationships. He didn't defend the policies exactly, just the sort of naturalness of some places falling behind others in their progress, which he sees as a reason to not criticize anyone who is sort of being seen as behind the times, because this could just be seen as a provocation, which could actually set the movement for rights back, not take it forward. But this either fundamentally misunderstands how minds are changed over time and how rights are won. I don't [01:09:00] need to look it up to know that activism and agitation in Switzerland played a large role in the changing of attitudes towards the LGBTQ community from the time of his father's life to now his. And you know, even implementing universal suffrage in the 1990s, I am sure that there was activism surrounding that.

It is the classic strategy of the liberal moderate. And to be clear, you know, when he describes his own personal perspectives, he's definitely liberal. But as a representative of FIFA and a representative of the World Cup, he's being forced into this position of moderate - I mean maybe that's his natural position and maybe it isn't - but, uh, it is the strategy of the liberal moderate to have benefited from the activism of the past only to inevitably say that now - whenever now is that this person is talking - that now is the time to stop the activism, stop the agitation. That's actually [01:10:00] gonna take us backward, that's gonna make people angry, et cetera.

It's a universal tactic. It's used all over the world. The only difference in this case is that it's also his actual job to defend the decisions made between Qatar and FIFA regarding how the World Cup will be run. So you can see the motivation, the economic motivation, the motivation of his position in that organization seeping through the cracks of his logic as well.

But the strategy would be about the same regardless, and it's a classic strategy because it works, and it works because there is so much truth tied in that, when the speaker comes to the illogical conclusion of, Don't criticize things which are bad, it's harder to see the gaps in logic than if they had not included all of the legitimate criticism at all.

If you are into understanding the techniques of propaganda and manipulation, I really recommend watching the full video. [01:11:00] It's kind of a masterclass. You can find it by just searching FIFA President World Cup full speech, something like that, or I'm also gonna include it in the show notes as well.

As always, keep the comments coming in at 202-999-3991 or by emailing me to [email protected]. That is gonna be it for today. Thanks to everyone for listening. Thanks to Deon Clark and Erin Clayton for their research work for the show and participation in our bonus episodes. Thanks to the Monosyllabic Transcriptionist, Trio, Ben, Ken, and Brian for their volunteer work, helping put our transcripts together. Thanks to Amanda Hoffman for all of her work on our social media outlets, activism segments, graphic designing, web mastering, and bonus show co-hosting. And thanks to those who support the show by becoming a member or purchasing gift memberships at bestoftheleft.com/support, through our Patreon page, or from right inside the Apple Podcast app. Membership is how you get instant access to our incredibly good bonus episodes, in addition to there being extra [01:12:00] content and no ads in all of our regular episodes, all through your regular podcast player. And if you want to continue the discussion, join our Best of the Left Discord community to discuss the show or the news or other shows or basically anything you like. Links to join are in the show notes.

So coming to you from far outside the conventional wisdom of Washington, D.C., my name is Jay and this has been the Best of the Left podcast coming to you twice weekly thanks entirely to the members and donors to the show from bestoftheleft.com.

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  • Jay Tomlinson
    published this page in Transcripts 2022-11-30 20:52:44 -0500
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