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Tuesday, December 06, 2022

FIFA seeks unity as Qatar faces division

DOHA (AP) — An opportunity to change the perception of a country. A tournament to promote unity.

Has anyone heard this before?

Qatar is the next stop on a world tour of sporting events organized by nations led by autocratic governments, often condemned by human rights activists but whose financial power is irresistible to competitions’ organizers.

And this Friday’s draw made it clear how toxic the tournament had become for FIFA and Qatar, who expected the World Cup to be a celebration of the Middle East. Never before had such a big incident happened in this area.

David Beckham’s case. The star and former England captain was recruited as an ambassador for the Qatar World Cup, but has not been featured in the international media. This saves you from tricky questions but also prevents you from promoting the tournament as you should.

Meanwhile, the coaches and teams that should focus on their strategy and preparations have had to spend time allaying concerns about playing in a country that denies the freedoms and rights demanded by various bodies. For years, low-paid immigrant workers worked hard to build infrastructure worth $200 million.

“The enthusiasm for the tournament is clear,” said Human Rights Watch’s Michael Page. “It is important to ensure that the immigrant workers who made the tournament possible and were harmed in the process are not forgotten.”

Another controversy that persists pertains to a vote by FIFA in 2010, which awarded the 2018 World Cup to Russia and the 2022 World Cup to Qatar. An investigation by the United States Department of Justice concluded that bribes were given in exchange for votes.

“No player had a say when this decision was made,” Jonas Baer-Hoffmann, secretary general of the world players’ union FIFPRO, said in Doha on Wednesday. “That’s where the tension should be, first of all. And I want people to really put pressure on the leaders of their associations to raise these things at the FIFA Congress.

The meeting of the 211 associations constitutes the parliamentary forum of FIFA. He has not held a one-on-one session because of the pandemic since 2019, when he re-elected Gianni Infantino as president.

Congress meets again, at a time when football looks fragmented not only for the next event in Qatar, but also for the future of the World Cup. A proposal to hold the top tournament every two years has been on hold for now, after Infantino withdrew in the face of resistance from Europe and South America, which also threatened a boycott.

“We are at a complete standstill, because everyone is back in the midst of institutional and personal disputes,” Baer-Hoffmann said. “Maybe some bad offers will be rejected, which it seems, but that also makes it impossible to make the necessary decisions in this game.”

While Infantino has stopped talking about the biennial cup, new international match schedules for 2024 still need to be sorted out, which determine when clubs will release players to play for their national teams. To do.

The sweltering heat in Qatar had to adjust that calendar to make room for the first World Cup, played in November and December, which would have made playing in June and July dangerous.

High temperatures in the tiny Persian Gulf country have battered working conditions, killing workers building World Cup infrastructure.

Qatari authorities’ limited transparency on the causes of the deaths and the number of injuries among migrant workers have worried unions and human rights activists.

But the country has made changes, with an increase in the minimum wage, stricter labor rules and more freedom for the worker to resign.

“What has already been done is really a breakthrough in a very short period of time,” Infantino said. “Progress on human rights, especially for workers, has been incredible. This should be recognized.”

There are still concerns about the continued extension of those rules to construction sites in Doha. Qatar is under pressure to enact laws to protect workers even after the World Cup.

Until then, some organizations have urged teams to draw attention to the problems of migrant workers, mostly from Southwest Asia.

So far, no team or player has denied participation in Qatar, such as Russia was not boycotted in 2018, despite the fact that it had already invaded Ukrainian territory.

Russia will not play in Qatar As a nod to the war started by President Vladimir Putin, they were disqualified from the European qualifying playoffs.

That aggression against a neighboring country has dampened hopes of Infantino, who wanted to change the “world’s perception of Russia” at the 2018 World Cup. Four years ago, the president of the International Olympic Committee, Thomas Bach, spoke of the “face of a new Russia” just before the annexation of Crimea at the Sochi Winter Games.

Stories like these make it even more difficult to convince the world that the Cup in Qatar will have a positive impact, beyond allowing another country to use a larger event to build its image.

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