Boycott Qatar 2022 has emerged as a catchphrase for teams, fans, and players who oppose this month’s World Cup and want to draw attention to human rights and environmental concerns in the host country. It was unfurled by fans and seen by millions of others watching on TV.
The closer the World Cup gets, the more intense the message is getting. Since the last two to three months, the boycott has been gaining momentum.
Boycott volunteers are working to keep the public focused on the contentious choice to grant Qatar the World Cup. Recently, the US Justice Department made allegations that Qatar was involved in buying votes from FIFA delegates, which Doha and FIFA vehemently refute.
The campaign also aims to raise awareness about issues like democracy, the environmental impact of holding a tournament in air-conditioned stadiums, the rights of women, the LGBT community, and migrant workers.
Former German player Philipp Lahm, who led his nation to the World Cup championship in Brazil eight years ago, has said that he will not be travelling to Qatar as a member of the official group or as a fan.
“Human rights should play an important role in awarding tournaments. If a country that does poorly in that area gets the award (of hosting), then you have to think about what criteria the decision was based on,” Lahm told a German Press Agency.
Parallel campaigns in Spain and in France — where a number of cities have refused to show games — are galvanising fans there too. It comes just before the 32-team tournament kicks off on 20 November.
“FIFA and Qatar care because it hurts the image they want to create in public. They want the World Cup to be a merry football festival and everything is nice. But they see that in more and more countries, more and more people are speaking out loud against this World Cup,” said one of the volunteers of Boycott Qatar 2022.
“We are annoyed by the double standards,” said Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani in an interview, claiming that Qatar had faced a systematic campaign against it in the 12 years since being selected to host the World Cup that he said no other country had faced.
“It is ironic when this tone is struck in countries in Europe that call themselves liberal democracies. It sounds very arrogant, frankly, and very racist,” he told the newspaper.