We all know that football is more than just a sport. The game has its own internal dynamics, grammar, rules, and realization through its dimension, and the performance displayed. Even when we say, “may the best man win,” we accept in advance that we will win the game – with the game quality, grandeur, and performance – independent of the players. However, when football is more than just football, the game becomes more than just a game as well.
It is impossible for football to avoid politicization as it draws in the people of an entire city, a nation. Once this was discovered after a certain point, it was then utilized as an opportunity for union, unity, for integrity. Regardless of the world’s realities, football in the 20th century is experienced as a completely different world, in a way that it forms a parallel universe with all its elements. It is a world that has its own reasons and dynamics for its joys, sorrows, friendships, and hostilities.
Yet, we must remember that this world initially emerged for political reasons. Some wanted to use it to distract their masses, some used it to unite a community, and some as an identity boundary that will distinguish them from others. Despite the reason, and despite the fact that those who used it withdrew from the history scene, soccer remained, and as a result, it gained an autonomous presence as a game. It is a long and complicated story.
We are presently experiencing a different example of football’s politicization due to the World Cup games set to be held in Qatar soon. In fact, the World Cup is a massive organization, which was planned as a means for peace and familiarity for our world, which is stricken by wars, conflicts, estrangement, and distances. This organization allows world nations to meet and familiarize themselves to an extent not possible through anything else. Surely they find the chance to display their existing friendship or enmity, but it is believed soccer also allows peace, familiarity, and cooperation in a gentlemanly manner.
The 2022 World Cup, set to be played this month, will be hosted by an Islamic country for the first time. Due to this decision made in 2012, Qatar has been making incredible preparation for the last 12 years. Qatar’s city infrastructure was almost reformed and rebuilt for the World Cup Organization. Extremely meticulous operations were carried out to ensure this task would be fulfilled satisfactorily. Qatar’s President Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani said the World Cup is an opportunity to gain global recognition for Qatar.
However, there is also great resistance against Qatar's recognition despite his great efforts for this recognition. Qatar is currently facing criticism and attacks like no other for the World Cup. Initial criticisms were focused on extreme temperatures, and the difficulty of Qatar hosting such an event due to its climate and region. Recently though, the tral reason behind all those excuses and criticisms started to reveal. The real intention is the thought that it is not appropriate to hold the World Cup in a Muslim country. Clearly, according to the , Muslim countries can participate in the cup games, but they cannot host them.
It seems that Qatar's World Cup Ambassador Khalid Salman identifying homosexuality as a “mental damage” has given them the excuse they needed. They started total attacks. You would think that this is not a soccer tournament but a festival in which sexual identities will compete. When it is claimed that football is more than just football, this is generally a reference to its relationship with politics. But in this case, the LGBT factor dived into the field in a manner we have never been familiar with.
The statements made against Qatar hosting the cup against these words are typical orientalist discourse, and negate all the World Cup objectives targeted since the beginning. If the World Cup is going to serve to introduce world nations to one another, it cannot be expected to do this by imposing a certain lifestyle through imperialist dictatorship to the countries in which it will be implemented.
It should act with the awareness that it is a guest in the host country’s culture rather than taking the conqueror, or in fact, the occupier position. The expectation that it can practice its own lifestyle anywhere without any difficulty is not a cultural introduction, but rather an imperial imposition of its own culture upon others. There may be those who would like to see such an opportunity for their own culture in the World Cup, but this is not stipulated in the World Cup’s written agreement.
Football is more than football alone, of course, but it is also not an area in which everything is possible. It has very open, clear, and final rules both for those playing on the field, and watching from outside the field. You cannot throw a foreign object into the field from outside.
Thus, instead of football bringing a certain culture to Qatar, because the World Cup is being held in Qatar, in other words, in an Islamic country - surely it brings something by nature - the world football circle must first be ready to see, hear, and learn something from this country. Otherwise, the World Cup will serve as a one-sided cultural imperialism instrument, and those making these criticisms today will be working as an agent of imperialism.
Those going to Qatar will see Qatar. They should find the chance to see an Islamic country in all its culture, values, and sensitivities. Everyone who visits should not be finding themselves, but be open to discovering the other. Otherwise, the World Cup will not fulfill any of the anticipated benefits.
It is said that those visiting Qatar for football will see the subtle messages in the hadith (traditions) of Prophet Muhammad around visible parts of the city. Some of these include, “Every kindness is a charity,” “Protect yourself from the fire, even if with a date (charity), and if you don’t have that, say something nice,” “he who does not show mercy to the people, God will not show mercy to him.” The problem that seeing even this much culture cannot be accepted signals requires attention - of course, without disregarding the critical duty concerning other power relations, extravagance, and schemes in the football sector.
Qatar taking the World Cup as an opportunity to introduce itself to the world, instead of conforming with the world in every respect, is in accord with the nature of the event as well.
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