Freiburg fans hold signs also in reference to the Qatar World Cup before a match. Photo: Reuters
Asian Angle
by Chandran Nair
Asian Angle
by Chandran Nair

Calls to boycott Fifa Qatar World Cup 2022 by the West is ‘hypocritical and shameful’

  • Critics in the West have condemned World Cup host Qatar for its standard of labour rights, its stand on LGBTQ issues and have called for a boycott
  • Those calls to boycott the football tournament scream of Western hypocrisy, resentment and a superiority complex writes author Chandran Nair
Ahead of this year’s Fifa World Cup in Qatar, many in the West have again assumed the moral high ground and condemned the Middle Eastern country for its standard of labour rights, its stand on LGBTQ issues and have called for boycotts.
This is business-as-usual for Western media. But as Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp decried in a recent interview, the decision to select Qatar was made years ago – in Europe, where the sport’s governing body Fifa is based, and under extremely questionable circumstances that adds to the criticisms levelled against Fifa.

For all who were involved to now point fingers at Qatar is sheer hypocrisy.

During an interview on October 27, German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser said, “There are criteria that must be adhered to and it would be better that tournaments are not awarded to such states.” By this, she means Western norms.

The Fifa World Cup Qatar 2022. Photo: Shutterstock/File
Meanwhile in Paris, as well as other French cities, will reportedly not be televising the World Cup on giant screens in public. There were no such actions taken during the London Olympics in 2012 when the US and the UK had committed a war crime in Iraq and continued with an illegal occupation.
Four successive World Cups have been granted to non-Western nations – South Africa, Brazil, Russia and now Qatar. That has never happened before, and this has irked sports administrators, politicians, media, public, and a host of economic actors in the West.

If the 2022 World Cup had been awarded to the US, Spain or Australia who bid but lost, there would have been no outrage at FIFA and no suggestion that there was any wrong doing despite what we now know about how it operated for decades.

In a previous article I discussed the boycott of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, and I mentioned Qatar 2022 as the next occurrence: “That drumbeat of righteousness with regard to the World Cup will only get louder after the Winter Olympics as another platform is sought, this time not to embarrass a competitor but to remind the world of the moral authority of the West. Wait for it.”
This recurrence is being recognised in academia. One paper from the Canadian-based Balsillie School of International Affairs states that, “Calls for state-sponsored binary boycotts are likely to increase in the future, as SMEs are more regularly awarded to non-Western, powerful “outsider” states, including the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) and Middle Eastern Opec nations.”
What is the underlying intent of this behaviour? It is larger than concern over the welfare of migrant workers and LGBTQ rights. Rather, it is an opportunity to discredit other nations to claim the moral high ground, which enables Western countries and their leaders to perpetuate their status as global decision makers and arbiters of right and wrong.
After Qatar 2022, we will see far less pious posturing from Western politicians and media, given the next Olympics in 2024 will be held in France, and the 2026 World Cup will be co-hosted by the US. This is undeniably hypocritical given France’s maltreatment of its migrants, called “Enforced Misery” by Human Rights Watch. There will be no mention of France’s atrocities in former colonies and the fact that as many as 29 African nations are still pursuing reparations for crimes committed against them.
As for the US, the dire condition of its migrant camps on the border with Mexico will not be brought up, and nor will the state of California’s method of having much of its prison population – mainly racial minorities – perform “slave-like labour”, nor the nation’s grisly use of torture – a human rights abuse – at Guantanamo Bay. No commentators will point to the fact the US has been at war 226 out of 244 years since its independence in 1776, or the sheer number of war crimes it has committed during its invasions, most recently in Iraq and Afghanistan, not to mention its involvement in the tragedy in Yemen.
Nor will there be a righteous examination of America’s history of systemic racism against its athletes – still alive and well – or its suppression of journalism and freedom of speech, such as the decade-long attempt at extraditing WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.


The insufferable hypocrisy of Western governments hell-bent on destroying Julian Assange

The insufferable hypocrisy of Western governments hell-bent on destroying Julian Assange

Yet the topics of human rights abuses, racism, and freedom of speech are fervently placed under the microscope every time an international sporting event is held in a non-Western nation.

Of course, it is extremely important to challenge countries to use these events as opportunities to improve the quality of life of their citizens and residents. But it can be done constructively through designated channels, with diplomacy that aims to build relationships in the spirit of cooperation as an international community, rather than forcing the West’s hypocritical standards onto them.

Fifa has even reportedly brokered a “secret understanding” with Qatar, allowing fans to kiss and hold hands in public. Expression of identity is good, but it is astounding that Fifa feels entitled to influence the cultural norms of an entire nation for the duration of its tournament. In most parts of the world, it is not common to display affection in public. Yet because it is typical behaviour in the West, its media and the public believe it needs to be accepted and imposed on the global majority.

US aggression needs to be reined in for the good of Asia and the world

Conversely, Western countries would never change their cultural norms for the sake of a sports tournament, especially if the governing body of that event were to be based in a non-Western nation. This comes from a deep-seated mindset of superiority: that the West’s way of living is superior, and other nations are backward because they have yet to adopt its notions of modernity.

We must move beyond this mindset of superiority. Sport is an excellent opportunity to bring nations together despite pre-existing differences. As International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach was quoted in 2020, “So what is a boycott for? It’s against all the Olympic spirit. It’s against all the values we have in sport and what we are standing for in sport.”

The pattern to Western critique of international sporting events is an industrial effort to secure the moral high ground and perpetuate the West-vs-Rest power gradient. International sport, like any other international arena, is an opportunity for geopolitical gain, and the West’s behaviour towards non-Western countries in the sporting world is another example of global inequity and how Western privilege works. It is utterly counterproductive, offensive and shameful.

Chandran Nair is the founder of the Global Institute for Tomorrow and ExCom member of the Club of Rome. He is also the author of “Dismantling Global White Privilege: Equity for a Post-Western World