I gave soccer a chance as a spectator sport in 1994 during the World Cup and I’ve been infatuated with it ever since. It’s a wonderful game, though anyone who’s suffered through the unbearable tedium of teams collaborating for table position with listless passing in the midfield on the way to the inevitable 0-0 yawnfest knows it is not without risk. At the core of the game is an idea, though, the sort of core sensibility that pervades all great games, and that is the ingrained element of possibility, of something meaningful arising from out of nowhere. Not just some notion that anything can happen, since this is true about every single moment of every single thing that will ever happen in life, but rather that something spectacular and wholly unlikely can arise from the mundane and banal.
To my mind, only hockey functions similarly, where the innately fluid nature of the game, minimizing stops and starts, allows for invention and spectacle on the playing field to stay a step or three ahead of the imagination of the spectator. The game flows beautifully in a way American football fails at miserably, the skill level at the top flight level is astonishing to behold, and it allows for days like these.
The passion for the World Cup evident around the globe is easy to get caught up in, and my own passion for the sport pushed me so far as to purchase tickets for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, though I was unable to attend due to employment, one of the few times in my life where that excuse has come into play, and so I sadly had to miss out on seeing this in person.
I planned to attend the 2014 tournament, and for twenty years I’ve been telling people how much I loved the World Cup, but now like a jilted lover left only with faded memories of better times long past, I find myself in love only with the idea of a world cup.
The thing is, sports are supposed to be fun, they’re not meant to be taken too seriously, despite what loads of idiots clearly think.
Now, it’s one thing to raise prices and gouge fans like the NBA or MLB, but when an event is built on the back of human suffering, it’s just too much. The organizing body of the World Cup, FIFA, is so thoroughly and hopelessly corrupt, there’s simply no light at the end of the tunnel, and I’m going to have to call it a day.
Consider the absurd “process” that resulted in Qatar winning the right to host the 2022 World Cup, where it’s been indisputably proven that Ricardo Teixeira, Nicolás Leoz and Issa Hayatou, all FIFA Executive Committee members, took bribes before the vote. FIFA and its president, Sepp Blatter, knew about it and did nothing. No explanation, no apologies, no recriminations, just take the money and run.
As The Guardian reported in great detail, “Fifa’s own ethics committee confirmed in April that Teixeira, Leoz and the long-term former president João Havelange were paid bribes.” This is hardly an isolated incident or two involving a few bad eggs. There have been numerous other bribery scandals for various other FIFA personnel. It is, undoubtedly, a corrupt organization.
All of this would be irritating, but bearable given the level of corruption we see around us all the time but as a direct result of these shenanigans, FIFA is endorsing, directly, the building of the necessary stadiums and infrastructure to support a World Cup, and Qatar, one of the worst purveyors of modern slavery in the world, is only to happy to oblige.
Qatar’s Working Conditions
My righteous indignation and moral outrage towards the evils in the world of sports isn’t all encompassing. Sure, the NFL is evil, but at least at this point in time every professional football player understands that he is literally shaving years off his life and destroying his health by playing football, even if the NFL hilariously still won’t admit there is any connection between professional football and CTE. I can handle professional football because the people suffering are aware of the risks and are well compensated for their early death and brutal quality of life after retirement. It’s their choice, but do take notice of the number of permission slips that get signed every year and if Roger Goodell listens closely, he’ll probably realize that bell he hears getting louder every year is tolling for his willfully deceitful and greedy league. But I’ll still watch a game now and again, what the hell.
Slave labor building stadiums in Qatar is beyond the pale. It’s too much. I’d been planning to go to Brazil this year, but to pay FIFA and its collaborators thousands of dollars to attend the World Cup only lends legitimacy to their actions. You can’t profit from forced labor and human misery.
Of course, this is a baldfaced lie. Of course you can profit from human misery, there’s virtually nothing that can’t be accomplished with the casual destruction of human lives, as human history records on a daily basis, but for a soccer tournament? Couldn’t we at least get some pyramids out of it?
I cringe whenever taxpayer money goes to build a new stadium, but in the grand scheme of things, this is petty larceny. The relative value of building better streets or providing more chairs for schools can, to a large degree, be calculated in dollars gained and lost. Lives cannot. This sort of destruction is irredeemable.
A handful of men who want to abuse their position and line their pockets with millions of dollars is nothing to get worked up over in the grand scheme of things, but there has to be a line, and this is it. It won’t make the slightest difference, but I’m boycotting the World Cup until changes are made to the governing body.