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Let's Not Forget The Original Sin Of The Qatar World Cup: Greed

Soccer is a useful political tool for dictatorships. But Qatar is able to milk the World Cup as much as possible because the sport is infected by unbridled capitalistic greed.

Photo of a street in Doha, Qatar, with a building displaying a giant ad for the 2022 World Cup

World Cup ad in Doha, Qatar

Reinaldo Spitaletta

-OpEd-

BOGOTÁ — Soccer lost its innocence years ago. Its history of spectacular feats and heart-wrenching moments contain a catalogue of outrages. Beyond the miracles and goals, the "beautiful game" must face up to its own infection by capitalism and greed for profits.


The soccer governing body FIFA, a private multinational that meddles unchecked in the public sphere, has become a byword for excess and shady financial practices. The Qatar World Cup illustrates this perfectly.

Money knows best

Beyond the many marvels of the game, soccer has served to hide brutality and ignominies. Today, it is helping Qatar's ruling elite display boundless power in a land where the people don't receive the benefits.

Qatar snatched the opportunity, not with prayers and piety but with gold.

Even before 2010, Qatar's shady dealings and strong-arm tactics were somewhat known. But FIFA, which has little time for petty details like a host country's hellish conditions, let the country host the World Cup. The pressures, deceit, political haggling and payments that led to this decision are widely know, but they just called this old-fashioned business. Money knows best, bless it.

Qatar snatched the opportunity, not with prayers and piety but with gold. Better still, it was black gold, which made it all possible — nay, inevitable. FIFA's former President Sepp Blatter later belatedly admitted that picking Qatar was a mistake.

But the die had been cast, and the event demands a colosseum. That is where the migrants come in, from Pakistan, the Philippines, Sri Lanka or Nepal, working from "January to January" and "Sunday through Sunday" without rights but with so many needs. In the eyes of the elite, they exist to be exploited by the untouchable rich and their banks, who are there to run things.

Building stadiums in Qatar ahead of the World Cup

Sharifulin Valery/TASS/ZUMA

What's the price of quashing human rights?

Thanks to investigations by places like The Guardian, the world began to learn about the mistreatment of workers in Qatar. It was already a harsh place for press freedoms, women and LGBTQ+ people, but now migrants were being worked to death. A stadium was built with the blood of workers.

A stadium was built with the blood of workers.

As The Guardian observed, more than 6,500 workers have died building the shining structures now hosting the games. Was it worth it? Should we care about a few thousand families mourning a relative who will not return, or that Qatar quashes freedoms for women and gays?

Soccer is more than just a game. Italy's dictator Mussolini knew it in 1934, as did the Nazis, some African dictators and the Brazilian generals who were enthralled by Pele's genius. The Argentine junta knew it in 1978, when cheering crowds obliterated the sound of detainees screaming under torture.

Soccer needs a bit of blood and sacrifice, they'll say — watch that expert dribbling or gobsmacking goal, and forget the injustice.


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Geopolitics

The Trumpian Virus Undermining Democracy Is Now Spreading Through South America

Taking inspiration from events in the United States over the past four years, rejection of election results and established state institutions is on the rise in Latin America.

Two supporters of far-right Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro dressed in Brazilian flags during a demonstration in Belo Horizonte, Brazil.

Bolsonaro supporters dressed in national colours with flags in a demonstration in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, on November 4, 2022.

Ivan Abreu / ZUMA
Carlos Ruckauf*

-Analysis-

BUENOS AIRES — South Africa's Nelson Mandela used to say it was "so easy to break down and destroy. The heroes are those who make peace and build."

Intolerance toward those who think differently, even inside the same political space, is corroding the bases of representative democracy, which is the only system we know that allows us to live and grow in freedom, in spite of its flaws.

Recent events in South America and elsewhere are precisely alerting us to that danger. The most explosive example was in Brazil, where a crowd of thousands managed to storm key institutional premises like the presidential palace, parliament and the Supreme Court.

In Peru, the country's Marxist (now former) president, Pedro Castillo, sought to use the armed and security forces to shut down parliament and halt the Supreme Court and state prosecutors from investigating corruption allegations against him.

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