Football or Clash of Values

Sixty-five percent of the world's population will watch 32 nations compete in the world's most prestigious sporting event, Worldcup Football, hosted by Qatar.

With a population of 2.6 million, including 800,000 Qataris, the country is about 1.25 times larger than Cyprus and Puerto Rico.

Most of the 1.2 million fans attending the games are from the USA, Saudi Arabia, England, Mexico, United Arab Emirates, Argentina, France, Brazil, and Germany. Qatar has over 100 hotels where the fans will be staying.

The teams will play at eight different stadiums, including Al Bayt Stadium, Lusail Stadium, Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium, Al Janoub Stadium, Al Thumama Stadium, Education City Stadium, Khalifa International Stadium, and Stadium 974.

Qatar has spent $220 billion in the last 12 years to prepare for this competition, the first of its kind in a Muslim-majority country. The $220 billion amount dwarfs the $14 billion the Russian government spent in preparation for the 2018 World Cup or the $11 billion the Brazilians spent for the 2014 World Cup.

In a rare conflation of western conservatives, liberals, and xenophobes, Qatar is being attacked for various issues like freedom of alcohol consumption, immigrant workers, women's dress code, gay rights, and general Islamic values.

Qatar’s laws allow particular points of sale for alcoholic beverages and allocated spaces for fans to sober up in the case of overindulgence. In general, Qatar permits the sale and consumption of alcohol to people over 21 years old at hotels, restaurants, and bars that hold a permit but not in the streets or other public places. However, being drunk in public is a crime punishable by Qatari law. In addition, advertisers cannot display liquor in certain parts of the state. Qatar prohibits smoking in all public places, including museums, sports clubs, shopping malls, and restaurants.

Qatar could have earned millions by allowing advertising of liquor and beer, but it preferred to hold on to its value system and use promotion options to display proverbs and wise sayings of its heroes and leaders.

This approach to alcohol consumption is no different than what one can see in the state of Utah in the United States, which has strict regulations about alcohol consumption.

Qatar punishes sexual relations between same-sex people with imprisonment of one to three years; its penal code states that: "leading, instigating or seducing a male in any way to commit sodomy or dissipation" is a crime. However, Qatar will also display the rainbow flag at World Cup matches.

In its official Qatar 2022 Fan Guide, FIFA does not mention women requiring to wear the traditional Islamic head covering. The only reference to the dress code in the 76-page document is: "Think about what you're going to wear on match day! Pack your costumes, team shirts, and flags, but make sure you know the rules before heading to the stadiums." It recommends that men and women ensure their shoulders and knees are covered.

Qatar is an independent sovereign country deeply rooted in culture, traditions, and religious values. Therefore, it has every right to follow its laws and rules. No country allows outsiders to violate its laws and regulations.

There are about 70 countries around the world that have specific laws that prohibit sodomy, buggery, and homosexuality. Following is a list of the countries.

Americas: Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent, and the Grenadines

Africa: Algeria, Burundi, Cameroon, Chad, Comoros, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Kenya, Liberia, Libya, Malawi, Mauritania, Mauritius, Morocco, Namibia, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Togo, Tunisia, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe.

Asia & Middle East: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Brunei, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Lebanon, Malaysia, Maldives, Myanmar, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Syria, Turkmenistan, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, Yemen.

Oceania: Cook Islands, Kiribati, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu.

Hungary and some areas of Poland have laws restricting LGBT activities.

Several of the countries mentioned above are competing in the World Cup. Therefore, it is hypocritical to ask Qatar to change its statutes while allowing other countries with similar rules to compete. The world needs to respect those who do not view sexual orientation as a matter of public display. Those with an alternative viewpoint should not expect the world to follow their dictates. If they want to live their lifestyle, they need not impose it on others. Similarly, those who dislike this lifestyle should not show a homophobic attitude.

People should realize that the world cup is not an event to show one's sexual orientation. Instead, it is a competition to prove one's skills and stamina in one of the most rigorous sports.

Regarding the issue of immigrant workers, in 2017, the Qatari government entered a partnership with the International Labor Organization to bring Qatar’s labor laws and practices into compliance with international standards. The ILO’s mandate includes improving wage payment, enhancing labor inspection and health and safety systems, replacing the traditional kafala sponsorship system and improving labor-recruitment procedures, preventing forced labor, and promoting “workers’ voice.” Qatar has increased the minimum wage from 750 QAR to 1,000 QAR ($275/£211), plus allowances of 300 QAR for food and 500 QAR for accommodation.

Since 2010, some 6500 immigrant workers have died in Qatar due to various causes. Qatar hired about 30,000 immigrant workers to build eight stadiums, out of which there were 37 deaths directly linked to the construction of the stadiums.

Consider the example of the construction of Hoover Dam in Nevada, 21,000 workers were hired, and the "official" number of fatalities was 96, classified as "industrial fatalities from such causes as drowning, blasting, falling rocks or slides, falls from the canyon walls, being struck by heavy equipment, truck accidents, etc.

Ironically, many of the people raising the immigrant worker issues are at the forefront of movements denying immigrants rights in their own countries.

This is not to say Qatar is above any criticism. The plight of immigrant workers around the world needs attention. Like many countries, it has shortcomings and merits, but it has made an effort to address the issue while preparing to host a major world championship game that not too many countries have the capacity to organize.

Let's enjoy the World Cup, which can bring people together in unity and peace for the celebration of football, and not make it a clash between football and the values of the host country.

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