The biggest football tournament in the world kicks off next week, and all the talk, speculation and controversy will stop. but it’s certainly been in full swing so far. This week, Khalid Salman – the Qatari Ambassador for the tournament – described homosexuality as a “disease of the mind” and the former president of FIFA, Sepp Blatter reckoned that hosting the competition in the middle eastern country was a “mistake”.
A festival of football shouldn’t be like this. For over 30 years we at Leisure Leagues have believed that football belonged to everyone. Way before the FA started virtue signalling, before anyone else had given a thought to women’s football or the Lionesses, we have been at the heart of communities across the UK and now the world, delivering football without the fuss!
As far back as February 2021 the Guardian ran an investigation that uncovered there had been more than 6,000 deaths in Qatar amongst migrant workers building the infrastructure for the world cup, like the Lusail Stadium (pictured) where the final will be held. That figure has apparently risen by over 500 since.
Surely this is what happens when football authorities like FIFA – who have a history of corruption – put the grubby pursuit of money ahead of the good of the game.
It is surely nonsense that the world cup is being held in November and December, causing some of the world’s biggest football leagues to pause. The Premier League and the EFL are amongst the competitions that are being forced to shudder to a halt from tomorrow for between four and six weeks, and that will come as a blow to many fans.
Likewise, just imagine the takings in the bars and pubs if the tournament had been held in the glorious weather of the summer months, instead of the grim cold of November, or the effect on players fitness. And why? Well, to make some very rich men richer.
That might have just about been acceptable if the decisions hadn’t been made a decade ago to allow two regimes to stage the last two world cups in order for them to look good in the eyes of the world. So called “sportswashing” is nothing new. Counties have – all around the world – for decades, used sport as a tool to further their global aims, but to allow first Russia and now Qatar to host showpiece events with the eyes of world on them, with their attitude to the LBGTQ community, human rights and migrant workers, cannot be right.
In all our leagues such attitudes would not be tolerated. There is no excuse for any form of discrimination. None. And we have worked hard for 30 years to make sure that our leagues are a haven’t for all the community, something for everyone to look forward to and enjoy. We haven’t done it for any other reason than it’s not just the right thing to do, but the only thing to do.
As ever, we are proud to lead the way, and maybe those that claim to govern the sport could look at our example.
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