In the past two weeks, millions of fans have been flocking to stadiums in and around Doha, the Qatari capital, to cheer their national or chosen teams, while billions more around the world watch on small or big screens, as teams battle it out for what is decidedly the crowning glory of global football, the FIFA World Cup.

World over, people are celebrating the 2022 World Cup, enjoying the thrilling matches, appreciating the amazing technological and architectural innovativeness involved in the stadiums, and congratulating Qatar for its impressive planning and organization in staging the tournament.

The tournament is turning out to be one of the best and most efficiently held so far, with precision planning and organised to the minutest detail. Fans from around the world seem to be amazed at the hospitality and warmth they are being received with and the unbelievable safety and security arrangements by the host nation. It’s simply a wow experience beyond all expectations.

But not so for some of the critics and denigrators, mainly Western, who apparently have not shaken off their resentment at the games being held in Qatar, a Middle-Eastern, Muslim, Arab nation.

Having nothing new to air or tirade against Qatar, some of the Western media outlets have turned to raking up the trite, timeworn corruption allegations and human rights violations in Qatar. Media crew attending the ongoing World Cup have been at pains to highlight ‘intolerance’ prevailing in Qatar. They have going around spotlighting stray incidents of security officials requesting fans to remove armbands and other symbolic signs of support for various causes, which though acceptable in many Western societies, is considered culturally inappropriate in Qatar.

Repeated Western narrations of the same corruption allegations and human rights violations bring to mind the image of a canine going round and round chasing real and imagined fleas on its back. Though these tail chasing actions do not bother the fleas, the canine apparently cannot stop doing what is ingrained in its behavior.

Lending his weight to the tirade against Qatar, in early November, just two weeks ahead of the kick-off to the 2022 World Cup, former president of FIFA Sepp Blatter, came out with a statement that the choice of Qatar as host was a mistake. He added, “It is too small of a country. Football and the World Cup are too big for it.”

Incidentally, the octogenarian Blatter who was expressing his views to a local Swiss paper, was apparently not aware that Switzerland, which has previously hosted the FIFA World Cup, is only marginally larger than Qatar. Ironically, Blatter, who cited the small size of Qatar and its human rights record as reasons for thinking that “Qatar is a mistake,” was strangely silent on the corruption allegations against Qatar. But this is not surprising considering that Blatter has also been embroiled in accusations of corruption during his 17-year tenure as president of FIFA.

The vitriol against Qatar’s hosting of the tournament appears widespread mainly in Europe and in the United States. In late October, German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser, commenting on Qatar’s hosting the FIFA World Cup, said that a country’s human rights record should be factored into the decision on whether they are selected as World Cup host. Responding to this rehashed accusation, Qatar’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani accused Germany of “double standards” in its criticism of Qatar.

He added, On the one side, the German population is misinformed by government politicians; on the other, the government has no problem with us when it comes to energy partnerships or investments.” The Qatari foreign minister was referring to the substantial Qatari investments in the German economy, and to a new 15-year deal between the two countries, in which Qatar would supply Germany with liquefied natural gas. Evidently, for Germany, energy security and economic considerations are strategically of more significance than human rights.

But Germany is not unique in demonstrating ‘double standards’ when it comes to financial and economic interests. France, the UK, the US and others who have thunderously pontificated against Qatar’s human rights record and its alleged corruption in winning the bid to host the World Cup, have no qualms in accepting Qatari investments in their country. The irony of this is perhaps best shown by the decision of the city authorities in Paris and several other European cities not to host traditional fan-zones, where large screens are usually put up and the public gather to enjoy broadcasts of the World Cup matches.

The decision was apparently in protest against human rights and other abuses by Qatar. However, this decision of boycotting displays of the games was the height of hypocrisy, considering that the city’s, and arguably France’s, premier football club, Paris Saint-Germain, with a player lineup that includes the likes of Lionel Messi and Neymar, has since 2011 been owned by Qatar Sports Investments. Additionally, many other football clubs in other European cities are sponsored by Qatar Airways, the national carrier of Qatar. Taxes and receipts from matches played by these clubs have gone into the coffers of Paris and some of the other cities that decided to put up a pathetic sign of protest against Qatar.

European governments and other detractors of Qatar’s hosting of the games also see no anomaly in that French, British or Dutch construction companies, involved in building infrastructure for the Qatar World Cup, are among those accused of blatantly violating the human rights of migrant workers.

Earlier last month, a subsidiary of Vinci, a French construction company, was charged over alleged human rights violations against migrant workers in Qatar. Charge sheets show that Vinci allegedly held multiple migrant laborers in servitude through forced labor, subjected the workers to working conditions and lodging incompatible with human dignity, and obtained services from people who were vulnerable or in a situation of dependence.

Although the company denied the allegations, it was handed preliminary charges by the judiciary. Other European companies engaged in lucrative construction or service contracts for the World Cup have also been accused of exploiting migrant workers. The profits made and taxes paid by these companies have gone into the economy of countries protesting the loudest against Qatar’s human rights record.

Again, European countries consider their strategic economic interests of greater importance than human rights violations. Similarly, Europeans clearly have no misgiving in accepting investments in real estate or sporting clubs or in other myriad business deals with countries they accuse of human rights violations and gender discriminations. Media reports indicate that Qatar has invested more than 25 billion euros in France, making it the second-largest European investment destination for Qatar after the UK. According to one study, Qatar’s imprint in the French economy includes portfolio investments or shareholdings in companies like LVMH (Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton), Balmain, Valentino, Le Printemps, TotalEnergies, Airbus, Accor and beIN Sports.

In real estate investments and financial activities, Qatar’s stakes amount to 7.1 billion euros, 4.2 billion euros in retail trade accounts, 3.4 billion euros in transport and tourism, and 2.3 billion euros in telecoms and media.

Ever since the 2022 FIFA World Cup was awarded to Qatar 12 years ago in December 2010, pipping the much-favored United States in the process, accusations, allegations and innuendos of corruption and human rights violations have been leveled against Qatar. The onslaught against Qatar was led by several Western media outlets that go under the label of being ‘independent’ and ‘liberal’, but in fact are nothing more than illiberal mouthpieces serving the interests of Western governments and vested interests.

Removing the fig-leaf covering these accusations, one find that what lies beneath these vitriolic arguments against Qatar is the racial skepticism in the West that the tournament could be successfully staged by a small Middle-Eastern country, and that too an Arab, Muslim nation. This line of thinking is nothing new, it stems from the orientalist, colonial attitude that still prevails among many in the West, and which continues to frame, accentuate, amplify and distort differences between people and countries using archaic oriental and occidental cultural models as their yardstick. However, since airing such a notion would reek of racism, it has been conveniently camouflaged and instead corruption and human rights allegations have been highlighted as reasons for objecting to Qatar hosting the tournament. People who doubt this line of argument should perhaps take a relook at the facts since the games were awarded to Qatar.

In 2010, then-FIFA President Sepp Blatter declared that the Arab world “deserved” a chance to host the World Cup, which had only been held in Europe, South America, Africa, and East Asia. This incidentally, is the same Blatter who came out last week with the statement that the choice of Qatar was a mistake. Though detractors continue to insist that bribery led to Qatar’s selection in 2010, the fact is that in its bid for the tournament, Qatar offered more than what its competitors promised, and also way more than what are FIFA’s standard requirements from countries selected to host the tournament. Qatar’s detractors purposely choose to ignore the substance of the Qatari bid and instead resorted to unsubstantiated accusations of corruption and bribery.

In the wake of the scandal surrounding Qatar winning the right to host the games, FIFA initiated and internal investigation headed by former US prosecutor Michael Garcia. This investigation failed to find any evidence that Qatari officials had  engaged in bribery. Concurrent investigations by the US and Swiss authorities also ended without finding Qatar guilty of bribing FIFA to host the World Cup. However, critics of Qatar continue to ignore the facts presented by these investigations and keep rewinding the same accusations against Qatar.

Twelve years since the first accusations of corruption and later of human rights violations were leveled at the country, on 20 November, Qatar in a symbolic thumbing of its nose to its detrators and doubters — who had expressed skepticism about the nation’s ability and eligibility to stage the tournament — held a dazzling opening ceremony  to launch the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

On the same day, in what is seen by many as peevish, childish symbolic gesture, the BBC and ITV channels beaming the World Cup to the United Kingdom decided not to air the opening ceremony. first day of the World Cup, the BBC and ITV channels decided to boycott the opening ceremony of this international sporting event. Instead, the BBC broadcasted a program dedicated to ‘migrant workers in Qatar’, highlighting corruption within FIFA and the homophobic policy of Qatar, through aged footage and jaded interviews with detractors of Qatar. There was a time when BBC was a reliable source of information, and a time when it held monopoly over what British audiences heard or saw. But not anymore, most people did not give a hoot that BBC did not air the opening ceremony, they just tuned into Jazeera News that aired the event or went online to watch the ceremony.

The British Guardian newspaper, which was the first to report that more than 6,500 migrant workers had died in Qatar since the country was awarded the games in 2010, was the first to congratulate BBC on its ‘brave stance in support of migrant workers in Qatar’. And, BBC probably patted the Guardian on its back for its investigative reporting on the deaths. What the BBC did not mention, or the Guardian acknowledge in its report on migrant worker deaths was that the quoted figure of 6,500 included all deaths of all migrant workers from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka, irrespective of whether they worked for construction companies or where engaged in other activities, and the deaths included all deaths including natural, medical complications and worksite accidents. The twisting of figures and the selective coverage of incidents to support a particular agenda or condemn a cause or country, is nothing new to the so-called independent, liberal Western media.

In his comments on criticism of Qatar from different quarters and for various reasons, FIFA President Gianni Infantino, in his nearly hour-long speech on the eve of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar commented: “What we Europeans have been doing for the last 3,000 years, we should be apologizing for the next 3,000 years before starting to give moral lessons.” While the 3,000 year timeline mentioned by Infantino is an overly extended period given that there was no Europe 3,000 years ago and draws snide remarks that he should stick with talking about football and not venture into history of which he obviously has very little knowledge, there is no arguing with the moral rectitude expressed in the FIFA president’s statement.

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