I originally drafted this on April 16 when I was in a very bad mood and never got around to publishing it because I was in a better mood the next day. So uh… enjoy this rant, you guys and gals.
Swindled, injured, indebted, and dead Asian and African laborers in Qatar act merely as an excuse for American soccer fans to bash on a former rival World Cup bid. Claims that Emirati human rights’ blemishes delegitimate NYC FC’s expansion plans into MLS similarly don’t come from a source of social justice. Soccer writers cheaply use human rights’ record of NYC FC’s ownership group to mask their disdain for a foreign ownership group starting another franchise in the New York City metropolitan area while MLS has ignored large swaths of the country.
There are few clear examples of natural crossover between sports and politics in which the narrative is not pushed by someone with only passing knowledge in one or the other arena. FIFA’s World Cup provides ample fodder for these articles as the suffering of human beings on the periphery of the festivities is ubiquitous even if overlooked.
The Republic of South Africa spent an estimated $5bn on the 2010 World Cup while FIFA, enjoying tax-exempt status, netted profit exceeding $3bn on the event. What was heralded as a watershed moment for the continent, Africa’s first World Cup rather replayed the same storyline of a European venture exploiting the Global South while sticking the host nation with an overwhelming infrastructure bill.
Whether FIFA was malicious in its attempts to strap South Africa, a country with crippling unemployment and widespread underdevelopment in the face of epidemics, the footballing organization wanted to make a political statement by awarding the 2010 games. FIFA told the world, and the host nation specifically, that an African country was ready to host the World Cup tournament. Sadly for the people of South Africa, that was not the case. South African cities are still dealing with the costs of long-since idle hotels and stadia.
One might think that things are going well in the cultural home of football, this year’s host nation of Brazil. There have been widely reported violent cleansing of neighborhoods surrounding the designated tourist locations around World Cup stadia. National and regional police forces that were already known for violent conduct doubled down in the two years leading up to kick-off, adding extra soldiers to patrol and conduct evictions in multiple major cities in Brazil. Brazil’s government has decided to revise its existing counter-insurgency training tactics, but rather than improving its public face, these changes have been geared towards increasing the brutality and gratuitous exhibitions of violence in efforts to quell the sentiments of resistance among the native population. Continue reading