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Should fans boycott this World Cup? Our readers debate a moral quandary – The Guardian


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‘Too many people have died to elevate a country’s prestige’

My first World Cup was France 98. I was on my summer holidays from school and watched every game. It was magical to see Dennis Bergkamp score against Argentina, the intrigue of Ronaldo before the final and Zizou becoming an icon. They are some of my most cherished memories. Since then it’s been the best four weeks of my life every four years.

I’ve not been excited at all by this World Cup. I’m not an expert on human rights and would never claim to know more than the person next to me, but it was clear that the authorities in Qatar had no intention of treating workers with dignity. I feel the main failure and most blame should be pointed at Fifa. They knew what they were doing and showed the disdain they truly have for human worth by sending the World Cup there. The World Cup is a summer event. Such a big event needs to be held in a country that has the space and infrastructure. And too many people have died to elevate a country’s prestige; that’s just not right. Daire Sweeney, Ireland

‘This is an immoral, false tournament’

I’m normally very excited for a World Cup. I live in the US and being a soccer fan here means you are part of a special club of people who follow the game either early in the mornings or late at night. It’s a good way to be social, get to know people, and I made my best friends here through watching or playing the game. The World Cup also wakes up neutrals.

But I am boycotting. I haven’t watched a single minute of the qualifiers and I am about to suspend my football podcast feeds – about eight podcasts a week, from the Guardian and other places – to avoid World Cup chat. I do not know what I will do with myself; I’m debating watching classic matches from previous World Cups, and I will be watching more American football (which is a totally non-problematic sport with no human rights issues whatsoever, no siree). I’m aware that this is somewhat hypocritical, but show me a professional sport and I’ll show you some corruption, hypocrisy and malfeasance. I’m especially frustrated as a USA v England game would usually be a big event for me and my friends.

I have no issue with the World Cup being taken to different parts of the globe, but with each World Cup we are getting more and more wasteful and outlandish. South Africa and Brazil are saddled with stadiums that lie unused. Russia abuses human right and has an appalling outlook on homosexuality. Qatar, however, feels beyond the pale. The World Cup should be the best players performing on the biggest stage – we’re patently not getting that because of the compressed schedule. Doha is clearly unsuited to hosting so many fans. And a country that outlaws gay people means excluding fans. If those are your laws, fine, but you don’t get to host citizens of the world for a tournament unless you welcome everyone. Everyone. Then there are the human rights abuses. We can’t even confirm how many victims there have been because of a lack of transparency from the government. This is an immoral, false tournament. Thomas Bilous, an England fan in the US

Quick Guide

Qatar: beyond the football


This is a World Cup like no other. For the last 12 years the Guardian has been reporting on the issues surrounding Qatar 2022, from corruption and human rights abuses to the treatment of migrant workers and discriminatory laws. The best of our journalism is gathered on our dedicated Qatar: Beyond the Football home page for those who want to go deeper into the issues beyond the pitch.

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‘It is appalling yet entirely unsurprising’

I would normally be very excited about getting together with neighbours to watch games at each other’s houses with much joy and celebration. But I will be completely boycotting this year. Some of my neighbours are a bit surprised, but I can’t support it in any way. I have a trans daughter and there is no way I can support this World Cup if she’s not welcome or would be in danger if she attended. The human rights issue and the treatment of the workforce are even worse issues, of course. It is appalling yet entirely unsurprising that Fifa thought they could get away with this. Jonathan Mowll, England

‘I hope Qatar does a fine job and silences its critics’

I won’t be doing anything differently this year and will watch any matches I can. I find all the boycotting talk a little late in the day. If fans were upset, they should have been making a fuss 12 years ago. Many people seem to be jumping on the boycott bandwagon – and most people in the UK are probably making judgements without knowing much about the country and its people.

I was delighted when Qatar won the right to host the tournament. I lived in Qatar for 12 years and have great affection for the country. Why shouldn’t a small country host the World Cup? Why should fans have to pay out thousands to travel all over a big country, or worse, move between two or even three countries? A compact city has some advantages. 
I understand the criticism of Qatar but it’s not the only host country with less than perfect history. Qatar is a young country and not everything is perfect, but some of the criticism is unwarranted. I hope they do a fine job and silence their critics. Helen Bennett, a retired English teacher

A Brazil fan in Qatar.
A Brazil fan in Qatar. Photograph: Matthias Hangst/Getty Images

‘Quite frankly, I find the pile-on on Qatar quite appalling’

I am insanely and unreasonably excited to be attending the World Cup in Qatar. Quite frankly, I find the pile-on on Qatar quite appalling, especially the identity of the countries piling on. Qatar’s human rights record is appalling but, as someone born in Nigeria, I have a different view of who the bad guys and good guys are in global affairs.

While Qatar could do so many things better, I find the idea of boycotting Qatar, when I would have no qualms traveling to England or France, quite laughable. On the list of culprit countries in my mind – that is countries who have historically meted (and are currently meting) out unspeakable atrocities on my kind – Qatar does not register in the top 20.

It is a bit silly on the part of Qatar to host this World Cup. I cannot see how it is beneficial to them. Otherwise, I am insanely excited. I am old enough to remember how badly the international media denigrated South Africa as hosts in 2010. The racial dimensions to these discussions are quite apparent to me. That said, I hope that Qatar will seize this opportunity to reform and become a more open state. Emmanuel Oga, a Nigerian-born American

I always enjoy watching the best playing the best and am from Canada so, as this is only our second appearance at a World Cup, I should be even more interested. That said, what has been allowed to happen with these finals is a human and sporting disgrace. Even though Canada qualified, I almost wish they boycotted. The sport relies on its sponsors so I’ve stopped using their products. I wish others would too. It’s a disgrace and embarrassment to the game and goes to show that money trumps everything. It disgusts me. Nick Willcocks, a Canada fan in Turkey

‘There will be no dancing in the street’

Normally, the World Cup is the highlight of the sports year for me. I remember watching England games in the pub at 8am when it was in Japan and South Korea. I watch every game and the excitement usually starts a year or more before the tournament.

I’d find it hard to boycott the entire tournament. A part of me feels it would be right to keep the TV off, but it’s not the players’ fault the tournament is being played in Qatar. As a dual US and British citizen, I don’t think I could turn away from the USA v England game. I feel the same about the later rounds, especially the final. I will watch fewer games and do not intend to celebrate this tournament by going to the bars. If England or USA pull off some kind of miracle and win the tournament, I shall politely applaud the team. There will be no dancing in the street. Matthew Dunford, an Englishman in the US

Workers in Qatar.
Workers in Qatar. Photograph: Kamran Jebreili/AP

‘Sportswashing is killing our game’

I normally watch all the games and, even though I am a grown man, I usually fill out a World Cup wallchart. But I can’t and won’t watch this year. I’ve banned myself from social media and comments about this tournament. I have stopped listening to the Guardian’s football podcast. I understand you have to cover it, but that doesn’t mean I have to be a part of your audience. It’s scandalous that this tournament is going ahead. They could not have made it more plain that the principle of this World Cup is to maximise revenue. Sportswashing is killing our game. For example, I used to have a soft spot for Newcastle but can’t watch them. I have a choice about the World Cup and have decided to sit this one out. I resent Fifa, the so-called “guardians of the game”, for denying me the passion of a tournament I’ve been watching for 50 years. Andrew Paget, a West Ham fan living in the US

‘I simply wouldn’t enjoy watching it’

I’m a football fan and an F1 fan – it’s pretty hard to follow either without making some sort of moral adjustment to matches and races backed, sponsored or located in oil-rich regimes with questionable human rights records. But something about Qatar hits differently. So many journalists and papers have done an excellent job shedding light into the horrific human cost of building these stadiums – and so many human rights organisations have provided accounts of the physical and financial abuses of migrant labourers. And most importantly, the firsthand accounts of these workers are impossible to ignore.

I don’t think my boycott will make a difference. Enough people will watch that it will not be noticed. But I find my unease has grown so strong, my distaste so impossible to ignore, that I simply wouldn’t enjoy it. Best of luck to the players and teams, who deserved better. I won’t be watching. No World Cup could better reflect the corruption at the heart of international football than this one. It is both an absolute indictment, and perfect definition, of what Fifa is. Scott Connolly, Liverpool

‘Russia was hardly a paradise of human rights’

Boycotting will have sod all effect on the Qatari regime. A boycott might have been effective before the hosting decision was made or around the time it was announced. It was a bizarre decision to stage it in Qatar and I’m unhappy about the workers’ rights and human rights violations. That said, it needs to be put into perspective. Four years ago the World Cup was staged in Russia, hardly a paradise of human rights. In 1978, which I am old enough to recall, the bloody thing was staged in Argentina, where the junta was well on its way to offing 30,000 of its own citizens. So Fifa has form on this. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose as Michel Platini might have said. Jonathan Smallbone, a trade union official

‘I will do a partial boycott’

I am a lifelong football fan who always looks forward to the World Cup. I remember vividly watching the 1998 final as a seven-year-old with my father and grandfather. Football has been a huge part of my life ever since.

I have decided I will do a partial boycott this year. I am too big of a fan to completely withdraw myself from the tournament, but I want to withhold my consumption and invite others to do so as well. My best friend is Spanish, and I have various friends and family throughout Latin America, so have decided to only watch games in which Brazil, Ecuador, Argentina and Spain play. That may not sound like a significant boycott but, as someone who breathes football, it will be quite a big challenge.

I feel less excited. It’s hard to support a sporting event that has directly caused so much death. As the son of a brown Peruvian immigrant, I feel responsible for doing my part to lift up migrant justice. Though, I’m also aware that I haven’t thought to boycott previous World Cups; there is potentially some pontificating and hypocrisy there. I don’t judge people who are not boycotting. I do think it would be beautiful to put enough pressure on Fifa to move them to compensate the bereaved families. Alfonso Sasieta, a Peru fan in the US

Thanks to everyone who took part. We had hundreds of responses and would have published many more but simply ran out of space. Thank you.

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