FIFA World Cup 2022: Kowtowing to Homophobia
FIFA’s decision to award the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar over the UK, the Low Countries, and Spain/Portugal, and the US, respectively was utterly inexplicable, bizarre, and appalling to begin with. But the outrageousness of FIFA President Sepp Blatter’s strategy with respect to using the World Cup to “grow the game” has been completely exposed in his cavalier response to concerns about how Qatar’s bigoted and inexcusable laws against gays, rooted in Islamic fundamentalism, will affect gay fans and/or players, and especially those in committed relationships.
“I would say that they should refrain from sexual activities….We are living in a world of freedom and when the World Cup will be in Qatar, this will be in 2022. And you can see in the Middle East the opening of this culture. It is another culture because it is another religion, but in football we have no boundaries.”
In response to clearly justified criticism that this amounts to ordering would-be gay attendees of the 2022 World Cup to go back into the closet, Blatter utterly misses the point, saying:
“I think there shall not be any discrimination against any human beings on this side or that side — or left or right or whatever….And we don’t want to have any discrimination. So you can be assured that … if people want to watch a match in 2022 I am sure they will be admitted to such matches. What we want to do is open this game to all people to all cultures, and this is what we are doing in 2022.”
In other words, Blatter is saying that gays should be completely comfortable attending the 2022 World Cup because they’ll be allowed into the stadiums. Never mind that they’ll have to closet themselves on the way to and from the stadiums, and to and from their meals, and should probably just not leave their hotel rooms (where they are ordered to refrain from any sexual activities) for any other purpose.
This from a man who has (often quite rightly) pushed a lengthy campaign against racist taunts and heckling by fans in European stadiums. So what Blatter is telling us is that the inexcusable taunts of a comparatively small number of hooligans is sufficient to disqualifying the home team from hosting future matches or from having its fans in attendance at future matches, but actual laws that make a minority group subject to severe punishment merely for being a member of that minority group are insufficient to disqualify that jurisdiction from being awarded a World Cup. Where racial minorities are not expected to have to just “suck it up” when it comes to racist taunts in European stadiums, gays are expected to just “suck it up” when it comes to actual threats of criminal prosecution.
When Blatter says that his intent in engineering the award of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar was to “open this game to all people to all cultures,” it’s pretty clear that he’s not defining gays as amongst the group of “all people.” Meanwhile, he’s also holding Islamic members of FIFA to a lower standard than he would ever hold other countries. This is thus not only the justification and rationalization of religious homophobia, it is indeed itself a bigoted view of Islamic countries, in which it is simply assumed that Islamic countries are incapable of joining the 21st century.
I’ve found Blatter to be an embarassment to global soccer for many years now, but this cavalier justification and excuse-making for the most severe form of homophobia imaginable is outright disgusting. Alas, Blatter has been so successful in remaking FIFA’s governing body in his own image that any demands to fire him are surely an exercise in futility. Here’s hoping that, when the time comes (and barring a miraculous change in Qatari law), at least some qualifying nations will choose to boycott the 2022 World Cup.