For football (soccer) fans, the big moment is upon us, the FIFA World Cup 2022 in Qatar. Hard Crackers is on the beat, and there should be tons of raw material to write about. Are you familiar with the story about the full brown envelope being secretly tucked into the blazer breast pocket? What is it for…more weapons trade, joining the alliance, or just plain old graft? It could be any of those reasons, but there’s a bigger prize for the promoters…we are supposedly all in it together and everything is fair and square. The chosen venue for this World Cup makes that preposterous.
So who are you with: France, Brazil, England, Argentina, Portugal, Germany, Spain, etc., the usual suspects? I’m not going there, and it’s not the point of this. Aside from football, there is something else happening. Some of it is comedic, most of it is cheap, but all of it smells of money.
There is the Qatar madness. With palms greased aplenty by the House of Thani, the ruling family of Qatar, FIFA went ahead and awarded the 2022 World Cup to Qatar. Qatar has two separate populations, the smaller local Arab bourgeoisie and everybody else, who all happen to be migrant laborers from countries like India, Bangladesh, Ghana, and as far away as the Philippines. These are the construction workers, the taxi-drivers, the street sweepers, the cleaners, the lowly clerks, the maintenance people, the road builders, the ditch diggers, the housemaids and nannies…the grunts. Already close to a couple of thousand workers have died erecting stadiums in the desert heat. Most of these people are trapped documents-wise in this fiefdom, unable to return home, whether they want to or not. Let me tell you, if the World Cup had been hosted by South Africa in 1986 during the apartheid era, there would have been an international outcry, rightfully so. Qatar today sounds eerily similar to South Africa then, a minority ruling elite with the usual flunkies, and a majority of desperate people on hand to serve them. It’s a genuine five-star bwana/missus construct. This is the place that FIFA believes is deserving of a World Cup. That should tell you everything you need to know about FIFA.
FIFA is rotten to the core. This is almost universally accepted. FIFA is so corrupt that even its apologists have a tough time defending it. Here is a small example. My sister Bronnie and her husband Norms live in Port Elizabeth (now Gquberha), South Africa. South Africa held the World Cup in 2010 (post apartheid). Some World Cup games were played in Port Elizabeth, including the one when Holland beat Brazil in the quarterfinals. Everybody in Port Elizabeth was excited, the big show was coming to town. Small business people optimistically thought that this might be their payday. FIFA, with its inimitable sense of community needs, banned all local street vendors within blocks of the Nelson Mandela Stadium. The choice of available drinks was limited to Coca-Cola and Budweiser, a.k.a. formaldehyde, ensuring that the corporate sponsors were the only ones getting a payday. And that was 12 years ago. They’ve had plenty of time to get a lot worse.
Here’s a pisser. There are reports of fans from various nations carrying on in the streets of Doha outside of the five-star hotels, English, German and Brazilian. They are singing stupid English anthems, German beer hall favorites, and dancing the Brazilian samba. Some people are questioning whether these pantomimes are genuine. First off, most of these performers are all rather swarthy looking, which flies in the face of pasty English, well-fed Germans, but maybe sexy South Americans. They are all men too. Secondly, spectators have noticed that the same folks who were cheering for England on one day, were punting for Germany on the next one. Accusations are flying around that they might be actors. Apparently, the Qatari government has induced certain English and Welsh fans with free tickets along with all expenses paid, as long as they promote the regime and the venue, and tweet as such. But the promised stipend for this has now been nixed. It gets better. Booze has been banned, something that the English and Germans will find impossible to swallow. And then a Danish TV squad that wandered off the highway was beaten up by plainclothes cops for being in the right or wrong place at the wrong or right time. I have little sympathy for football fanatics, there is more to life, and nationality is not the more that revs my motor. But I am with them if they misbehave and are getting roughly policed by a regime for phony public relations reasons, especially when that regime is made up of the richest family in the country and gets patted on the back in the interests of maintaining law and order. That’s a joke.
Look. I’m not bullshitting, I am looking forward to the football. I always hold out for the underdog, no matter how much dosh is in their little brown envelopes in the breast pockets of their blazers. Will it be enough? I believe it gets them a seat at the table, that might be all. “Goruau Chwarae Cyd Chwarae” (for Wales and not false nationalism, merely an opportunity to write a few words in an incomprehensible language). More will follow.