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As a protest against Qatar’s abuse of human rights and the environment, some French local authorities will not broadcast live matches.
The Allegations Unpacked
Paris and other French cities have been planning not to broadcast 2022 World Cup matches in public places or set up “fan zones” because the host country, Qatar, has been abusing human rights and the environment.
The decision to skip the competition next month comes after what the public authorities have called a “last-minute crisis of conscience.”
Local governments in Marseille, Lille, Bordeaux, Reims, Nancy, Rodez, and the capital city have said they won’t put up big TV screens to broadcast matches as they did in the past.
Benoit Payan, the mayor of Marseille and head of a left-wing and environmentalist coalition, said in a statement, “This competition has slowly turned into a human and environmental disaster that is incompatible with the values we want to see shown through sport, and especially football.”
In Lille, everyone on the city council agreed that World Cup games shouldn’t be shown on TV. Martine Aubry, the socialist mayor of the city, said that having the games in Qatar was “a waste of time in terms of human rights, the environment, and sports.”
Paris Joins the Boycott
In Paris, Pierre Rabadan, a former French rugby player and the deputy in charge of sports at city hall, said that setting up fan zones was “out of the question.” Even though the Emir of Qatar, Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, has owned the city’s football team, Paris Saint-Germain, since 2011.
The World Cup will also not be broadcast in Strasbourg. “We can’t ignore the many warnings from NGOs about the mistreatment and exploitation of immigrant workers. “It’s intolerable that thousands of foreign workers have died on building sites,” said Jeanne Barseghian, the eco-friendly mayor of the city.
“Strasbourg, which is the capital of Europe and home to the European court of human rights, can’t look the other way when human rights are being trampled on in this way,” she said.
Pierre Hurmic, the eco-friendly mayor of Bordeaux, said that showing the World Cup and setting up fan zones would make the city “an accomplice to this sporting event that represents all the human, ecological, and sporting aberrations.”
Eric Cantona, who used to play football for France and Manchester United, is also not going to the World Cup.
“I’m not going to watch a single World Cup game. This will cost me because I’ve loved, looked forward to, and been excited about this event since I was a kid. But let’s tell ourselves the truth. This World Cup is crazy. We all know that the only point of this event is to make money,” he wrote.
Human Rights Highlighted
The French Football Federation sent out a statement at the end of last month in response to complaints about its “deafening silence” over forced labor and the deaths of migrant workers at World Cup sites. It said that the “campaign of stigmatization” of Qatar should be “regretted” and that Qatar had fought every day for “human rights and other important causes.”
“Playing in the World Cup doesn’t mean turning a blind eye to abuse and supporting it,” it said. The FFF said that at the French team’s base camp in Qatar, they had “implemented different verification measures to make sure that social rights were respected and that respectful working conditions were used.”
The FFF thinks that Qatar has made progress because of the World Cup. “Even if things aren’t perfect on the ground, this progress is clear and good,” it said.
A writer for the newspaper L’Alsace named Laurent Bodin wrote, “The call to boycott is valid, but it’s a little late.”
He also said, “Such behavior can’t be picky. People who want screens to be turned off during the World Cup should stop reading about Qatar, which funds Paris Saint-Germain and many other clubs. Qatar Airways, which is owned by the government, is a major sponsor of many clubs.
Qatar declares Islamophobia is Behind the France-World Cup Crisis
Qataris are proud to be the first Arab country to host this major global event, but they are also worried because 1.5 million foreign football fans are expected in a country about the size of Ile-de-France with 2.9 million people, only 10% of whom are Qataris and the rest are migrant workers.
During the month-long tournament, there are expected to be 1,600 flights a day, which means that, on average, an airplane will land every 50 seconds. This will have an effect. One of the people quoted spoke on the condition of anonymity because they didn’t want to upset the Qatari government. This person hopes the tournament goes well but wonders how the crowd will be managed and how all of the visitors will be tested for Covid.
Qatar is not happy with the criticism from France. France may think it has the moral high ground, but Qataris are asking why it doesn’t do more to help migrants on its own soil instead of criticizing Qatar for allegedly mistreating migrant workers, many of whom built the tournament infrastructure. Most people think that the complaints are only meant to hurt Qatar’s reputation.
One of the sources said that Qatar is a Muslim country with Islamic values, and that football fans should respect these values, including the way they feel about gay rights. He also said that critics should stop making everything political. This is just a football tournament, he said.
One Qatari businessman who went to school in France and still has friends there said that none of the stories about migrant workers and gay rights are true. He insisted that some French people just can’t believe that an Arab Muslim country has been chosen to host the prestigious FIFA World Cup. He said that not much was said about the 2018 World Cup in Russia when Putin’s army was bombing Syria and had already taken over part of Ukraine.
“The way foreign workers are treated at work is a real problem,” the businessman agreed. “However, the issue gets too much attention, which is a result of Islamophobia in some media. France should show more interest in the Arab world; its reputation in the region is getting worse.”
Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani, the Emir of Qatar, told Le Point last month that he agreed that some criticism was fair, and that his country had changed its labor laws in response. He also said that people who don’t like the fact that the World Cup is being held in an Arab Muslim country like Qatar will find any reason to discredit it.
One Arab expat who lives in Qatar said that foreigners will find a country that has done in two generations what took the West two centuries to do.
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