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23rd November 2022

Blood on their Chests: Holding the FIFA World Cup in Qatar to Account

An insight into the backlash created by the human rights violations associated with Qatar’s FIFA World Cup, and how Denmark has fought to ensure that amongst the football, this record is not forgotten
Blood on their Chests: Holding the FIFA World Cup in Qatar to Account
Photo: Mosbatho @ Wikimedia Commons

The inaugural FIFA World Cup began in 1930, globalizing football’s game, viewership, and fandom onto the world stage. Televised coverage introduced for the 1966 World Cup has helped to transform football into how we know it today, establishing the beautiful game’s premier tournament as the most viewed sporting event in the world.

Every four years there is anticipation about how each tournament can surpass the last. Until it arrived at Qatar’s door.

The parameter of international football has shifted course in recent years. The delaying of the 2020 European Championships in line with the Covid-19 pandemic to 2021 started a notion of expectation of delay in football, causing exhaustion to players and scheduling issues.

Further interruption has progressed into the 2022 World Cup, however for separate and divisive reasoning. The shifting of the tournament to the winter aimed to benefit players, supporters and others involved in the tournament – with summer temperature highs reaching 50c. This shift signals more tolerable conditions, beneficial for the purpose of football.

Yet, amongst all the concerns and the façade of delay, there is an integral focus on external complaints relevant to the World Cup set for 2022. The severity of these issues can be negatively categorized through the original voting processes, Qatar’s political affairs, their stance on human rights, and the climate and subsequent temperature issues that may be problematic to all visitors.

Unfortunately, since its announcement in 2010, the World Cup controversy has attached itself to the combination of construction, health and safety issues, and the lack of worker rights. The heavily documented issue surrounds a Qatari World Cup regime that is striving to succeed at all costs.

Human rights issues are rife in Qatar. Concerns surrounding employment focus on the ‘Kafala’ system, an unfair structure that legally binds workers to employers, restricting their freedom of movement. An estimated 95% of Qatar’s labour force are migrants, and many involved in the World Cup stadium construction have been forced to work in dangerous and unbearably hot conditions. By sacrificing the safety of these workers, Qatar has shown itself to be inhumane, risking lives to benefit the tournament.

The lack of LGBTQ rights in Qatar is another worrying issue. Homosexuality is criminalized, and this has led many members of the community to steer clear of the World Cup altogether. A hugely depressing state of affairs for 2022.

While Qatar have begun their transformation to being a safer and fairer place to live and work, there is the sense that it is happening too late. The global development of football and the collaboration of culture and celebration should be the main goal of a World Cup. Yet before it has even begun, Qatar 2022 has been overshadowed by the violation of human rights and subsequently, a high volume of deaths. Although it is unconfirmed, deaths are estimated at 6,500.

As the World Cup approaches, the scrutiny surrounding it is intensifying. Many have called for boycotting the event entirely, and social marketing campaigns have targeted increasing public knowledge of the human rights violations.

As every World Cup nears, kit providers combine with their represented country to provide a new marketable kit which their team will wear at the tournament. Normally, the design that is created is used to tempt consumers to buy the jersey, in support of the nation.

Abnormally, Denmark’s kit sponsor, Hummel, are using their jerseys to demonstrate their opposition to Qatar’s human rights breaches. Their kit management technique has embraced a global social marketing campaign to attempt to influence change on how the tournament of Qatar is viewed.

Both the home shirt and the away disguise patterns of the Danish national team badge and the Hummel sponsorship badge. A statement by Hummel raised that the camouflaging of both objectifies a wish to not be “visible during a tournament that has cost thousands of people their lives.” These toned-down, plain shirts support Denmark’s identity and past success, whilst targeting Qatar’s mispractices.

Hummel have explained that they “believe that sport should bring people together. And when it doesn’t, we want to make a statement.” Denmark are using their third kit to reject any claim of unity through Qatar’s event. Presenting an all-black kit to display negative views on the fatalities caused over poor human rights, directing support to those who have lost their lives, with the implementation of a shirt in the ‘colour of mourning’.

The Danish Football Federation requested the usage of a training kit supporting pro-human rights in the tournament. Featuring the slogan ‘Human Rights for All’, Denmark has wished to use “a jersey with a very simple message about universal human rights” to rescind support for Qatar.

The world football’s governing body has rejected the design, citing a prohibition of all political messages. Instead, the governing body requested that Denmark’s team keep the “focus on football.”

Despite the rejection, the other three statement kits ensure the death of migrants is not forgotten amidst the World Cup, remaining forefront in the minds of spectators while watching Denmark.

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