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EDITORIAL- Taking a closer look at FIFA 2022: Iranian protests, Islamic preachers, and BBC probe!

Do you mean football? Do you mean cricket? Or is it a deeper, more significant, and broader issue? Being kicked around is bad, unless you’re a lifeless piece of leather performing at the feet of international sports legends in one of the greatest athletic spectacles ever. And that might be one of the messages coming out of Qatar, where a resounding silence in a packed stadium, a contentious Islamist preacher wanted by Indian authorities, and a curious media outlet looking for the truth behind the glitz are making things more political than the average soccer fan might anticipate from the FIFA World Cup competition.

Mike Marquesee’s look at the 1996 World Cup, ‘War Minus The Shooting’ is based on George Orwell’s description of international sport. The writer highlighted aspects of racism, colonialism and the subjugation and injustice of people associated with the game. During the World Cup cricket tournament in India in 1996, race differences came to the fore when it was reported that fancied West Indies did not mind losing controversially to Kenya.

Controversial preacher Zakir Naik was photographed as a side show of the World Cup as a Qatar invitee. Despite being granted permanent residency in Malaysia, Naik is nonetheless prohibited from giving public remarks there. A study conducted at Duke University in the US that examines connections between sports and politics may provide insight into why Qatar wants to highlight the controversial preacher and his interpretation of Islam.

The World Cup is regarded by Qataris as a potent tool for demonstrating to the rest of the Muslim world that their country is more Islamic than Saudi Arabia. While treading on India’s toes, Doha must be aiming to increase its influence in the Gulf region. Most people agree that Zakir Naik had an impact on the radical Islamist violence that occurred in some regions of South Asia.

WhatsApp messages show attractive ladies supporting players in Qatar, many of whom have their faces and other exposed body parts. As they prepared to play for their nation, the Iranian football team stood in silent defiance and refused to sing their own national anthem. It was a sophisticated protest against Teheran’s Islamic regime, whose state-authorized moral police have led to widespread anti-hijab demonstrations.

What transpired in Qatar is an example of a people putting aside their differences and anxieties in order to band together and rebel against the repressive policies of their own government. Now think about this: Two years ago, a study published in the American Economic Review claimed that a national team’s accomplishments could be a useful tool for fostering a sense of nationalism.

This is comparable to India’s World Cup victory in cricket in 1983, which occurred on the territory of their former colonial rulers. However, when their team loses to England badly, as they did at the Khalifa stadium, it doesn’t help Iran’s anti-government protesters.

The BBC made the decision to emphasise the abuse of migrant labour, fraud at FIFA, and Qatar’s anti-homosexuality law. Is Al Jazeera an indigenous Qatari competitor that an envious media corporation is snubbing? Or, to put it simply, is this actual journalism that focuses on the murky realities that lie behind a flashy event? Maybe all three of them combine. The connection between politics and sport goes beyond the obvious World Cup matches, and that is what makes it more real.


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