The FIFA World Cup this year will see the tournament hosted in the Middle East for the first time in history. However, it has seen mass criticism from the western world.
Paris has joined other French cities who have opted to not broadcast World Cup 2022 matches on massive screens in public fan zones amid ongoing protests citing concerns over rights of migrant workers in Qatar, in what analysts say is a “surprising” move.
Despite being the current World Cup champion, France made similar steps in other major cities, including Lille, Strasbourg and Bordeaux.
Pierre Rabadan, the deputy mayor of Paris in charge of sports, told reporters in Paris that the decision to forgo public broadcasting of games was made because of “the conditions of the organisation of this World Cup, both on the environmental and social level.”
“Air-conditioned stadiums” and the “conditions in which these facilities have been built are to be questioned,” he said in an interview with France Blue Paris, according to reports.
Rabadan further explained that Paris is not boycotting the major football tournament, but this gesture is instead due to the very notion that Qatar’s “model of staging big events goes against what [Paris, the host of the 2024 Olympics] wants to organise.”
The move comes despite the French capital city’s football club, Paris Saint-Germain, being owned by Qatar Sports Investments.
“We have very constructive relations with the club and its entourage yet it doesn’t prevent us to say when we disagree,” Rabadan stated.
Similarly, Bordeaux mayor Pierre Hurmic said on BFM TV on Monday that “it would be really difficult to have a party” considering the concerns, according to Reuters.
Reims’ mayor also declared he would outlaw outdoor televisions, citing concerns about the environment and human rights, although he welcomed the football fans to watch the matches in nearby cafes and restaurants instead.
Speaking to Doha News, Professor of Sport and Geopolitical Economy at SKEMA Business School Simon Chadwick said France’s move comes as a surprise.
“Developments in France have been much more surprising. The country enjoys close political, economic, and diplomatic relations with Qatar indeed it is one of the largest beneficiaries of inward Qatari investment in the world. Ownership of Paris Saint Germain is an illustration of this,” Chadwick said.
“Given the MENA diasporas one finds in France, many of which are supportive of Qatar and the Gulf region, it is perplexing why French cities are denying people the opportunity to watch games in fan zones,” Chadwick added News, suggesting that there exists other, bigger “motives” underpinning these decisions.
Chadwick went on to speculate that those reasons behind the move may be guided by socio-political motives. “Whatever the reasons, there are inconsistencies and contradictions in the French position on Qatar that one doesn’t observe in Denmark.”
This also comes as the BBC has come under fire for accepting funding to promote Qatar ahead of the World Cup and creating favourable films with the model Jodie Kidd, reports said.
Three movies created by BBC StoryWorks, a division of the corporation’s commercial arm, for Qatar Tourism have received more than 500,000 views.
Amnesty International UK questioned the role of the state-run media outlet, claiming that “Qatar-funded advertorials” created by the BBC ran the risk of “blurring the line between journalism and fundraising” and that the videos “are effectively enabling Qatar to airbrush human rights abuses from sight.”
Orchestrating its own protest, Denmark’s players will travel to Qatar this November without their families, local media reported on Tuesday, as the Danish Football Association (DBU) seeks to limit its involvement in the Gulf country for the 2022 FIFA in a show of disapproval for the Gulf state’s human rights record.
“We don’t want to contribute to creating profit for Qatar,” DBU communications manager Jakob Hoyer told newspaper Ekstra Bladet, according to Reuters.
“Therefore, we have throttled down as much as possible on our travel activities.
“In previous [World Cup finals], the players’ wives and girlfriends have travelled with the board, but as I said, we have cancelled those trips for [these finals].”
Addressing the Danish decision to carry on with this boycotting move, Chadwick said: “The Danish position on Qatar has been clear for some time hence the decision that players’ families will not travel with them to the World Cup is unsurprising,
“Ethically, morally, and ideologically, the country appears keen at every opportunity to create distance between itself and Qatar.”
“One imagines that this now well-established position will have ramifications for Danish/Qatari diplomacy, shaping relations in the coming weeks, months, and years,” Chadwick said.
The DBU also cut back on board member trips to Qatar. No more than two board members may be present at any one of their games, and each of them may only attend one Denmark match, reported last week by local media.
Danish sportswear company Hummel last week sparked fury after announcing its toned down national team World cup kit in protest of human rights abuses in Qatar ahead of the upcoming tournament, triggering outrage online for the perceived “hypocrisy.”
Debuting the Danish team’s jerseys on its social media pages, Hummel showcased a black third kit symbolising the “colour of mourning.”
The company has stated that it intends to make a statement with its jerseys by withdrawing from designing a more multifaceted kit.
“While we support the Danish national team all the way, this shouldn’t be confused with support for a tournament that has cost thousands of people their lives,” Hummel stated.
“We wish to make a statement about Qatar’s human rights record and its treatment of the migrant workers that have built the country’s World Cup stadiums.”
However, the same sportswear company sponsored local Qatari teams Al Kharaitiyat and Qatar SC a few seasons ago on top of selling its products at its store in a prominent mall in the Gulf state.
Dr Andreas Krieg, Associate Professor at King’s College London, called out Hummel for its ironic actions.
“Irony in the era of globalisation: Danish shirt manufacturer let’s sweatshops in South East Asia run overtime to produce jerseys at short notice to protest labour conditions in Qatar’s construction sector,” Krieg wrote.
In a statement sent to Doha News to respond to Hummel’s kit, World Cup authorities dismissed allegations against Qatar.
“We dispute Hummel’s claim that this tournament has cost thousands of people their lives. Furthermore, we whole-heartedly reject the trivialising of our genuine commitment to protect the health and safety of the 30,000 workers who built FIFA World Cup stadiums and other tournament projects,” the statement read.
‘Double standards’ and misleading reports
Responding to the Danish kit, references to Brazil’s World Cup in 2014 were brought up in discussion by several social media users.
“Where was this energy for Brazil? Or does the agenda only work for Middle Eastern countries?” stated an online user, pointing to an article addressing the thousands of residents who were forcefully evicted from their homes for the construction of venues in the South American nation.
Since winning the bid to host the World Cup back in 2010, Qatar has found itself under the international spotlight, with waves of incessant scrutiny, particularly from the west, over the conditions of migrant workers, prompting many to say that the criticism is unlike other sporting events in modern history.
A report published by The Guardian in February 2021 was criticised for its misleading headline that blamed deaths among Qatar’s South Asian community on the country’s preparations for the World Cup tournament this year.
The British publication’s article, headlined, “Revealed: 6,500 migrant workers have died in Qatar as it gears up for World Cup” purports to link the “shocking” death rate to the start of the 2022 FIFA World Cup journey more than a decade ago, failing to provide a clarification of the reasons behind the deaths.
Failing to cite official medical records to explain the circumstances of the deaths, The Guardian persisted to quote a labour rights expert in the Gulf who claimed it is “likely” that many workers who died were employed on these World Cup infrastructure projects.
However, Qatari authorities have slammed the figure as baseless.
Speaking to Doha News at the time, experts said the “deceptive” reporting is part of major Western media propaganda against Qatar.
Last year’s Guardian article read that an average of 12 migrant workers from the South Asian countries reportedly died each week since December 2010.
Statistics obtained from the embassies did not include migrant workers solely, but rather incorporated the total number of all deaths from nationals of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka, across all occupations and sectors.
The figures comprise of those who passed away due to natural causes, such as chronic illnesses or traffic accidents.
Amir takes aim at ‘discrimination’
In May, Qatar’s Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani took aim at the unfair criticism of the Gulf state by the west over its hosting of the 2022 World Cup.
This came during his speech at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, in which the amir tapped into attacks launched against the Gulf state for being the first in the Middle East to host the major sporting event.
“For decades now, the Middle East has suffered, from discrimination. And I have found that such discrimination is largely based on people not knowing us, and in some cases, refusing to get to know us,” said Sheikh Tamim.
Qatar, however, has since introduced historic reforms over the past years in an effort to ensure the rights of workers are respected and upheld.
Some of the reforms included the dismantling of the controversial Kafala system that stopped workers from freely changing jobs. Another is the region’s first ever non-discriminatory minimum wage law, introduced last year.