THE BBC chose to discuss human rights in Qatar rather than show the World Cup opening ceremony earlier this month.
Much attention was shone on Iranian players when they didn’t sing their national anthem in the opening group stage game against England.
Russia, hosts four years ago and a competent footballing outfit, are, of course, not present in Qatar due to Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
As Redaction has published this week, football cannot give politics the red card. The two are inherently linked on many levels.
But political action is only taken when it serves the prevailing narrative and hegemony.
Addressing human rights concerns and exposing abuses is objectively, a moral affair, and it should be held with regard.
‘Sportswashing’ is a particular technique that Qatar may have hoped to use during the World Cup to clean up their image.
Instead, their Gulf neighbours Saudi Arabia seem to have received plaudits – without any recognition to what is going on off the pitch.
The football team, of course, famously beat Argentina 2-1 in their opening game. But whereas you could not hear a piece of commentary – whether audio-visual or written – about a country like Iran without the nation’s political situation being mentioned, the only mention of the Saudi regime was to praise the Crown Prince for giving citizens a public holiday after the game.
In the same period that Saudi Arabia won, the government executed 17 people in 12 days.
Naturally, there is a debate around whether the achievements of a sports team should be linked to the actions of a government. That’s not the issue here. The problem is global media agreeing on a narrative to take.
Silent on Saudi, noisy on Iran. Which one is an ally of Western governments, and which isn’t?
In four years time the World Cup takes itself to the USA – as well as Canada and Mexico.
Washington has a regime which continues to commit human rights abuses domestically and abroad.
Will the BBC censor the opening ceremony? Don’t count on it.
Featured Image: Dunk@Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
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