On November 10th, Masaryk University Professors Dr. Oldřich Krpec and Dr. Radim Marada invited students for a discussion on the soon upcoming football World Cup in Qatar. After first discussing Lewandowski’s red card in the latest FC Barcelona game, the two passionate football fans started the event and touched upon the impact of big sport events in general, Qatar’s mingling in European football and the country’s marketing of the World Cup. Of course, also the topic of Qatar’s human rights records especially with regards to guest workers and the LGTBQI+ community was part of the discussion.
Dr. Krpec showed his open discontent with the decision to host a football tournament in Qatar. From the perspective of a football fan, he would rather see the World Cup in a country, which is a more recognised football nation. Football is a “grassroots sport” and a World Cup should be held in country with passionate football culture. Dr. Marada argued, holding a World Cup in Qatar is likely to undermine the chances of other countries in the region (e.g. Morocco or possibly even Iran) to also host the tournament in the foreseeable future. According to Marada, but also according to the FIFA’s very own selection standards, Morocco should a more suitable host for such a big event than city-state like Qatar. Moreover, they pointed at the irony to host a sport event in country, with a natural environment, which should make it impossible (i.e. temperature, lack of water and space) – especially with regards to Qatar’s own ambitions and promises to host an environmentally sustainable event and become more sustainable in general.
Marada and Krpec are not surprised, that continental European football fans seem to be less enthusiastic than they were before previous World Cups. The rather unusual requirements of the host country to fans without accommodation in Qatar to fly in and out for each game and the need to install apps to enable Qatar to monitor the incoming fans, create further disincentives to travel to Qatar. The way around installing monitoring apps would have been the plastic Haaya Card, but this option was only available until the end of September.
A further part of the discussion was Qatar’s effort to gain influence in European football to shape the continent’s perception of the upcoming tournament and the country in general. The Gulf state holds financial and public relations with high representatives from virtually every European top league, but Qatar’s engagement also spills into other sports like handball, track and field or Formula 1.
The end of the discussion returned back to “just football”. It was pointed out, that European teams have dominated the last World Cups, but that this year’s teams from Argentina and Brazil are very promising, too. As the Czech team failed to qualify for the World Cup Dr. Krpec expressed his sympathies for the English team. Whether the Cup is coming “home” after 56 years, luckily remains a pure sports issue, but everything surrounding the games will continue to be a politically loaded discussion.