December 19, 2022

World Cup

Argentina won their third World Cup in an extraordinary final on Sunday as they beat France 4-2 on penalties after Lionel Messi scored twice in a 3-3 draw and Kylian Mbappe grabbed a hat-trick to bring the holders back from 2-0 and 3-2 down.” Reuters

“Millions of words were written criticising the choice of Qatar as host to the world's second-largest sports event and the debate will continue long after the last ball is kicked. But for a month the so-called beautiful game did, in the words of FIFA president Gianni Infantino, spread some joy. The marquee names of Messi, Kylian Mbappe, Neymar and Cristiano Ronaldo delivered storylines. Saudi Arabia, Japan, South Korea and Tunisia delivered shocks. New heroes emerged…

“Yet the abiding memory for many will be Morocco's shake-up of football's hierarchy. Thousands of their fans painted the desert red and turned Doha's souq into a corner of Marrakesh as the Atlas Lions roared into the semi-finals. Harnessing the energy of their followers, Walid Regragui's men scored victories over European aristocrats Belgium, Spain and Portugal on the way to becoming the first African and first Arab country to reach the last four.” Reuters

Both sides are critical of FIFA for choosing to hold the tournament in Qatar despite its dismal human rights record:

“FIFA is a nongovernmental organization that conducts its affairs with the vanity, opacity, and venality of a banana republic. FIFA talks up the game as a global unifier, advancing universal tolerance… In reality, FIFA has always dealt in the green stuff, the brown envelopes, and the gray areas. It gave the 1934 tournament to Benito Mussolini’s Italy and the 1978 tournament to the fascist junta in Argentina…

“The 2018 World Cup went to Vladimir Putin’s Russia, another beacon of financial probity and human rights. Qatar promoted its 2022 bid through a campaign of bribery that was ambitious, even by FIFA’s standards… Eleven of the 22 FIFA Executive Committee members who voted in 2010 on the 2018 and 2022 decisions have been fined, suspended, banned for life, or prosecuted for corruption…

“The European players intended to wear OneLove armbands in support of the LGBTQ, etc., etc., community. They left their armbands in the dressing room, along with their principles, when FIFA, pressured by the Qataris, warned it would penalize anyone who wore [such] symbols. The Iranian team, by contrast, bravely refused to sing its national anthem before its first game. We must assume that the regime in Tehran threatened the players and their families, because they sang the words before their second match. FIFA said nothing.”
Dominic Green, Washington Examiner

“Awarding this major event to Qatar in 2010 was suspect from the start given that homosexuality is illegal there, women have almost no rights and are subject to a ‘male guardianship law,’ and the nation’s long record of human rights abuses… As the games began, the Qatari government censored how people dressed. Fans who wore or carried gay pride symbols, women’s rights slogans or anything else the government didn’t like were detained or banned from entering…

No one should have been surprised by Qatar’s heavy-handedness. It has attempted to buy off governments around the world. A vice president of the European parliament has been arrested on charges of accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash from Qatar. In the United States, Qatar has spent more than $72 million on lobbying since 2015 — more than Apple and the National Rifle Association… FIFA, soccer’s global governing body, had numerous chances to take a stand for basic human dignities. It didn’t. The result has been a World Cup of human rights horrors.”
Editorial Board, Washington Post

“The World Cup is well on its way to surviving a host country that likely bribed its way into contention… Led by Gianni Infantino, a bald bureaucrat in dark suits who can be seen glowering in the VIP seats like global soccer’s very own Lex Luthor, FIFA correctly bet that the tournament’s entertainment value would ultimately outshine its more distasteful elements. FIFA is sitting on something priceless, a gift that will seemingly keep giving forever, no matter how hard it tries to soil it in the pursuit of profit…

“Those who don’t follow soccer can’t quite understand the appeal, in the same way that a novice to opera hears only noises, but what they are each offering is the same: emotion at its most naked, drama so acute it verges on melodrama, a concentrated dose of life’s rich pageant. As long as the literally billions of people who watch this sport continue to invest it with so much meaning, then FIFA’s greed cannot dull its luster. This is surely Infantino’s takeaway: that he can get away with almost anything.”
Ryu Spaeth, New York Magazine

“Sporting events have long been political weaponry, used by hosts to airbrush an image to the outside world… As much as we like to assemble our due diligence and claim a conscience, sports governing bodies’ can count on a simple reality: that once the games begin, the excitement and pageantry will take over, and the worries and moral quandaries will shuffle to the side… Until television ratings tank, teams walk off, or sponsors bail en masse, little will change. They get away with it because they know they can get away with it.”
Jason Gay, Wall Street Journal

Other opinions below.

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From the Left

A libertarian's take

“Even though events like the World Cup and the Olympics are often thought of as quirky celebrations of nationalism, Morocco's run through this World Cup highlights the essential role that immigration plays in building strong nations—and strong national football teams. In fact, more than half of the players on Morocco's roster for the World Cup were born in other countries…

“The contributions of immigrants are usually far less obvious and less celebrated than they are at the World Cup, but that doesn't make them any less important. Immigrants are more likely to start businesses and create jobs than native-born Americans, for example. On a per-capita basis, immigrants consume less welfare and entitlement benefits than native-born Americans… The liberalized rules that increase competition for the best players and create new opportunities for skilled immigrants could serve as a model for how to think about immigration in other contexts.”
Eric Boehm, Reason

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