You mean football? Cricket you mean? Or is it a deeper, more important and larger problem? Getting roughed up is wrong, unless you’re a lifeless piece of leather playing at the feet of international sporting legends in one of the greatest sporting spectacles of all time. And that could be one of the messages coming out of Qatar, where a resounding silence in a crowded stadium, a controversial Islamist preacher wanted by Indian authorities and a curious media looking for the truth behind the glitz make things more political than the average football fan might expect the FIFA World Cup.
Mike Marquesee’s look at the 1996 World Cup, “War Minus The Shooting”, is based on George Orwell’s description of international sport. The writer highlighted aspects of racism, colonialism and the subjugation and injustice of people associated with the game. During the World Cup cricket tournament in India in 1996, racial differences came to the fore plan when it was reported that the fanciful West Indies were unafraid of losing controversially to Kenya.
Controversial preacher Zakir Naik was pictured on the sidelines of the World Cup as a guest of Qatar. Although he has been granted permanent residency in Malaysia, Naik is nevertheless banned from making public remarks there. A study conducted at Duke University in the United States that examines the links between sport and politics may provide insight into why Qatar wants to shine a light on the controversial preacher and his interpretation of Islam.
The World Cup is seen by Qataris as a powerful tool to demonstrate to the rest of the Muslim world that their country is more Islamic than Saudi Arabia. While stepping on India’s toes, Doha should aim to increase its influence in the Gulf region. Most people agree that Zakir Naik had an impact on the radical Islamist violence that occurred in parts of South Asia.
WhatsApp messages show attractive women supporting players in Qatar, many of whom have their faces and other body parts exposed. As they prepared to play for their country, the Iranian football team silently resisted and refused to sing their own national anthem. It was a sophisticated protest against the Islamic regime in Tehran, whose state-sanctioned moral policing has led to numerous anti-hijab protests.
What happened in Qatar is an example of a people putting aside their differences and anxieties to band together and rebel against the repressive policies of their own government. Now think about this: Two years ago, a study published in the American Economic Review claimed that the accomplishments of a national team could be a useful tool in fostering a sense of nationalism.
This is comparable to India’s victory in the Cricket World Cup in 1983, which happened in the territory of their former colonial rulers. However, when their team loses badly against England, as they did at Khalifa Stadium, that does not help Iran’s anti-government protesters.
The BBC has taken the decision to highlight migrant labor abuse, FIFA fraud and Qatar’s anti-gay law. Is Al Jazeera a native Qatari competitor that an envious media corporation snubs? Or, to put it simply, is it real journalism that focuses on the murky realities behind a flashy event? Perhaps the three combine. The connection between politics and sport goes beyond the obvious World Cup matches, and that’s what makes it more real.