The Qatar World Cup is a celebration of authoritarianism

The most obvious sign of authoritarianism can be the denial of equal rights and privileges to people from different classes. Do you have to have political or cultural power to be free, or do you have to be connected to someone who does? If you’re not particular, does the state dictate what you consume, who you love, or where you work?

Qatar, which will host the World Cup next month, the world’s most watched sports competition, clearly failed to overcome these challenges.

In the immediate run-up to the tournament and in the first few days of competition, there were plenty of examples of petty authoritarianism in Qatar – though they pale in comparison to the human rights abuses that the tiny Middle Eastern nation has piled up. built the stadiums and infrastructure needed to hold the event. By allowing Qatar to host the tournament and acquiescing to the country’s leaders’ illiberal policies for both residents and visitors, the International Football Federation (FIFA) further tarnished its already tarnished reputation.

The most visible (if not the most egregious) sign of this World Cup’s illiberalism may be the alcohol regulations. In the years leading up to the World Cup, there were vague promises to relax the country’s strict banning rules to allow Qatar’s plans to soak up soccer fans. For example, there were plans for special “beer zones” in and around the eight World Cup stadiums.

Then, just two days before Sunday’s opening game, Qatar’s royal family issued a new edict: No beer in stadiums. there is one Beer will be sold in Doha, the capital of Qatar. Unless, of course, you have purchased special tickets for the hospitality suites installed in each stadium. There, the dogs will flow for the well-connected and wealthy – it’s always easier to get what they want in an authoritarian state.

Ecuadorean fans responded with chants of “we want beer” as their national team thrashed Qatar in Sunday’s opener. British tabloids reported that some England fans tried to smuggle beer into their team’s first game against Iran on Monday morning, although it is unclear if any of them actually succeeded.

Budweiser, whose parent company reportedly paid $75 million to be named the “official beer” of the World Cup, tweeted (and later deleted) criticism of Qatar’s last-minute decision. Then the brand’s official Twitter account placed a photo of the surplus beer stock and the promised (or maybe threatened depending on your view of Budweiser) shipment of the surplus beer to the winning country.

The most embarrassing answer came from FIFA president Gianni Infantino on Sunday defended A decision to spit in the face of Qatar’s main sponsor and thousands of fans.

“I personally think that if you can’t drink beer for three hours a day, you will survive,” Infantino told reporters. The New York Times. “I think we should apologize for the next 3,000 years before we start giving moral lessons for what Europeans have done to the world for the last 3,000 years.”

Pu-leeze. Europe’s historical authoritarianism is no excuse for Qatar’s modern authoritarianism. If FIFA wants to help correct this history, it can do so by standing up for liberal values ​​and refusing to turn a blind eye to regimes that refuse to grant their citizens some of the most basic human rights. And not just in Qatar: The tournament follows World Cups in Russia, where free speech doesn’t meaningfully exist, and in Brazil, where residents were forcibly displaced to build stadiums.

Infantino added: “Don’t criticize Qatar.” “Criticize FIFA. Criticize me if you want. Because I am responsible for everything.”

Fortunately. From the moment Qatar was awarded this World Cup in 2010, it was clear that FIFA was wrong. This is a mistake that cost thousands of lives.

Migrant workers building World Cup stadiums and related infrastructure in Qatar face severe restrictions on their freedom and work in dangerous (and sometimes deadly) conditions. Drawing attention to these conditions is made difficult by the country’s illiberal free speech laws. Anyone who broadcasts or publishes “inflammatory propaganda domestically or abroad” with intent to cause harm is caught [Qatar’s] Under Qatari law, “national interest” is punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $25,000. Athletic reported in June.

Qatar is not only trying to stifle the freedom of speech of its citizens. In an event that will be watched by an estimated 3 billion people, it tries to spread its chilling effect to the rest of the world.

Credit the BBC for its coverage of Sunday’s tournament, with England football legend Gary Lineker noting “allegations of corruption in the bidding process”, “the treatment of migrant workers building the stadiums” and Qatar’s absence. lack of equal rights for gays and freedom of expression for all:

This may not go down well with Infantino and FIFA. The Qatari government will certainly not like this. But international recognition and Qatar clearly sees the World Cup as its future (pun intended). definitely intended) — should at least mean recognition of human rights.

If you want to throw a big party, be prepared to let your guests drink.