Mr. President and Secretary General,
The FIFA World Cup Qatar is now approaching, and excitement around the world’s premier football festival should grow in the world as the countdown to the days kicks off in Doha on Sunday 20 November.
I would like to commend both of you for your recent attempt to silence the opposition surrounding the organization of the tournament awarded in that splendid carnival of corruption and obscurity 12 years ago. You must be very proud.
I salute you, sincerely, for writing a letter to try to neutralize your opponent rather than slash your critics with a chainsaw, a tactic that, you know, has been well received by one of the club’s owners in the Premier League.
FIFA has written a letter asking the world of football to focus on the match at the World Cup
The tournament begins in two weeks and has been dominated by the bad press surrounding human rights issues in Qatar
Your restraint, in such stressful circumstances, is appreciated.
Your message to each of the 32 participating teams asking them “please, let us now focus on football” struck a chord with me and many others. I love nothing more than focusing on football and leaving everything else behind when checking in at Gatwick next week.
But the truth is that FIFA, the organization that leads it, has made that impossible. The truth is that this tournament was born out of corruption. The truth is that the stadiums and infrastructure were built by modern day slaves.
The FA, along with 12 other European countries, will issue a joint statement this weekend in response to FIFA’s call for teams at the World Cup to focus on football.
The truth is that keeping it at this time of year is a betrayal of players who don’t have time to recover from the injuries they sustained in the middle of their domestic seasons. The truth is that it is being orchestrated by a system that is so opposed to the diversity you claim, laughably, to embrace.
The fact is that, rather than generating worldwide excitement, as you imagine in your post, that excitement is still tainted by the liquid flood that has been expelled by hordes of PR firms hired to try to polish this vulgar landscape. The excitement has turned into a state of paradox and apathy for many.
Part of what it has done by allowing the World Cup to be hijacked in this way is to ensure that the prestige of international football takes another blow in its constant struggle to withstand the incursions of the club game.
Granting a summer championship for a desert country was denounced as a bad joke when the decision was made in December 2010, and although it has been rigged in the winter since then, it’s still a bad joke now. It degrades FIFA and insults the global game and no amount of letter writing will change that.
The FIFA has teamed up with nine other European countries to create the One Love campaign – although FIFA didn’t approve the plan two weeks into the tournament
You ask not to “drag football into every ideological or political battle that exists”, but it was FIFA that dragged football into this fight and it was FIFA that dragged the rest of us into this fight as well.
Decisions have consequences. The organization should have known when it awarded the 2022 World Cup to Qatar that this was not an argument that would be over in a few weeks. FIFA created this. Don’t ask us to look the other way now. It’s too late for that.
I hope football in Qatar 2022 will be great. I hope there will be inspiring stories about the greatness of Lionel Messi and the emergence of new stars like England’s Judd Bellingham. I hope there will be goals, moves, passes, passes and drama to cherish for years to come.
It’s reprehensible that they took football to an oppressive state and gave us a lecture on ethics
But I also hope we don’t forget the human rights issues surrounding this tournament once the first ball has been kicked. Newcastle had a good start to the season in England, and suddenly everyone seems to have forgotten that they have been funded by one of the most oppressive regimes on the planet.
This should not happen in Qatar. Don’t insult us – the supporters and the media – by telling us to keep quiet on other issues. Those who point out the grievances of Qatar’s heroism have long been accustomed to attempts to silence them. Some, laughably, told football reporters that if they didn’t like the system, they shouldn’t cover the tournament.
Suggesting that you don’t report an event because you don’t agree with the system of your hosting country is an easy and stupid argument made by states. Journalists – yes, even sports journalists – are supposed to be there to highlight the bad as well as the beauty.
Telling journalists to stay home if they don’t agree to hold the tournament in Qatar is just another part of the growing attempt to silence reports on issues that some people prefer to ignore. Sitting at your keyboards, by the way, you probably have to write a letter to payers for fan groups, including 40 fans from England, to attend the tournament with instructions to deliver positive messages about the experience, sing some songs on demand and report on social media posts critical.
Amnesty International activist holding a banner calling for improved human rights standards
You say in your post that you want a World Cup that “welcomes everyone and embraces everyone” but you’ll agree, I’m sure the instructions around social media posts, in particular, have sinister connotations and go against that desire.
As for the songs the England fan group were asked to sing, I’m curious if the coveted track includes recent favorites like “Southgate Out”, the special “No Surrender” version of our national anthem and the old song. , “Ten German Bombers”.
Why anyone involved in running the tournament would need to pay spies to report on the behavior of fellow fans is something I hope you will seek clarification on. How this kind of dynamic will encourage us to focus on football is another thing I think is worth your inquiry.
And when you’re done with this letter, why not write another one to 32 teams. Don’t try to silence them this time. Don’t make it a requirement. Make it an apology. Tell them you’re sorry. Tell them that FIFA made a terrible mistake. Tell them you learned your lesson. Tell them that football will never be betrayed again.
Yours faithfully, Oliver.
Some fans are paid to go to Qatar to spread positive messages about the World Cup
Angry European countries are waiting for important information on major social and political issues
The FA has the right to refuse Southgate half-time interviews
As you might expect, I’m generally in favor of increasing journalists’ access to sports champions, but I find it hard to dispute the FA’s refusal to make Gareth Southgate available for halftime interviews during England’s World Cup matches.
The first half break is often a crucial phase of a match, and the only chance a coach gets to talk to his players during a match is his best chance to influence the course of the match.
There is no justification for him to spend that time talking to the media. Regardless of which “content” broadcasters receive in this context is likely to be fast and close to worthless.
Pre-game and post-match interviews are a different story but in the first half let’s give the coaches a break.
The FA rejected Fifa’s requests to interview Southgate during the first half of World Cup matches
Farrell needs more protection
I read my colleague Nick Simon’s fascinating and touching interview with Dylan Hartley last month, an interview in which Hartley spoke about his concerns that he suffers from early dementia. Then last week, I saw news of Owen Farrell’s return to England’s Argentina side on Sunday, after two weeks of suffering what was described as a ‘brutal’ knockout for the Sarcens against Exeter.
No protocols are broken but that doesn’t mean Farrell shouldn’t have more time to recover. A quick search for past head injuries provides a reminder that he suffered a concussion seven months ago and is playing for his club as well. The brain surgeon also reveals his concern about the heavy shots Farrell fired in the head during the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan.
How many similar injuries has the England captain suffered? I don’t know. But I think he stores the problems for himself. Like a lot of guys, he’s too brave and too stubborn for his own good. How long will it be before we see an interview with him warning him not to do what he did? How long will it be before the sport begins to properly protect its players?
Owen Farrell plays for England against Argentina in the team’s first autumn international match