December 9, 2022

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The Qatar World Cup denounced the "washing" of the country's image

The Qatar World Cup denounced the “washing” of the country’s image

Qatar’s decision to host the 2022 World Cup was a head-scratcher from the start. Why, some have asked, would a Middle Eastern kingdom of less than 3 million people with few footballing traditions want to host sporting’s biggest event?

Skeptics say the country wanted to exploit the prestige of the World Cup, which begins on Sunday, to remake its image as an oil producer with few international ties and a shaky human rights record.

They viewed the move, which would cost the country some $220 billion, as a classic case of “sportswashing” — using sports as a forum to portray a country or a company as different from what many people think it is.

It’s hardly a new concept, and oil money in the Middle East has long been a major player. Where many see rich countries spending money to join the global elite, others see nefarious attempts to hide an undesirable reputation.

“The World Cup in Qatar kick-started the discussion about sportwashing and human rights in football, and it has been a very steep learning curve for all of us,” said Norwegian Football Association President Lise Klavenice at a recent Council of Europe event.

Germany’s interior minister also expressed concern about bringing the event to Qatar, saying “No World Cup takes place in a vacuum.”

“There are standards that have to be adhered to, so it would be best not to award such countries,” Minister Nancy Weser said last month, in a move that raised diplomatic tensions.

The Qatari leader, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, responded by saying that the country had been “subjected to an unprecedented campaign that no host country has ever faced”.

The World Cup is one way Qatar uses its vast wealth to project its influence. By buying sports teams, hosting high-profile events and investing billions in European capitals – such as the purchase of the London Shard skyscraper – Qatar is embedding itself in international financing and a network of support.

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Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) of Ligue 1 is owned by the Emir of Qatar. His purchase in 2011 came a year after Qatar won the right to host the World Cup. For many, they felt it was written to show that the country had good faith in football. Some of the PSG players are among the most famous in the world – Neymar, Kylian Mbappe and Lionel Messi – all of whom will be at the World Cup.

American Christian Pulisic plays for Premier League club Chelsea, which was once owned by Russian oligarch, Roman Abramovich.

Abramovich has been widely hailed as the team’s savior during 19 years of club control, but he put the team up for sale this year due to sanctions related to his country’s invasion of Ukraine.

The new LIV golf league is funded by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, which also owns another English Premier League team, Newcastle, while defending English champions Manchester City are owned by Abu Dhabi.

Some of those teams’ best players, including Kevin De Bruyne, Kieran Trippier and Bruno Guimarães, will play for Belgium, England and Brazil at the World Cup.

None of these players or owners have received the same kind of public condemnation as those who left the PGA Tour to play for Team LIV. Just as there was when the soccer teams were bought, there was never any ambiguity about who bankrolled LIV, which shamelessly described itself as a disruptive force in golf that would change the sport for the better.

According to the CIA, journalist Jamal Khashoggi was murdered on the orders of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in 2018. The intervention of the Saudi Public Investment Fund became even more difficult when Phil Mickelson said out loud what many already felt.

“It’s (expletive) scary,” said the six-time main champion in an oft-cited interview with golf writer Alan Shipnock of the FirePit Collective.

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Families of the 9/11 victims have become critics of LIV golf, pointing to Saudi Arabia’s shaky human rights record and the country’s connection to the attacks.

“Although to be honest, it’s not good for Mickelson’s image,” said Jamal Blades, a football-loving London tech executive who occasionally blogs about sports and recently completed a master’s degree in sports business and innovation. “But sportswashing is happening all over the world in some form, with people, governments or companies associating themselves with events big and small everywhere.”

A prominent advertiser, the US Department of Defense, was looking for some positive publicity and tie-in to America’s favorite sport, but the deal inadvertently created a public relations problem when Colin Kaepernick injured his knee while “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

“When (a company) wants to be the official sponsor of a team or a league, what it’s trying to do is create an affinity to improve (the company’s) reputation and get sports fans to think of (that company) in its own right,” said Stephen Ross, executive director of the Penn State Center for the Study of Sports in Society. , in some way other than being a commodity product” of what that company sells.

Russian leader Vladimir Putin and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping took advantage of the Winter Olympics in Beijing to hold a summit and show solidarity this year. Later in those Games, IOC President Thomas Bach appeared with Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai To watch Elaine Gu, an American-born freestyle skier who was competing for Team China, win her first gold medal. Peng’s public appearance came after her safety had been in doubt for months after she appeared on social media to accuse a high-ranking Chinese official of sexual assault.

Heads turned when the Asian Winter Games announced that it would host the 2029 edition of the event in Saudi Arabia, a desert country that is spending about $500 billion to build a winter resort that it claims will be environmentally sustainable. Saudis have long held golf, tennis and Formula One events in their country despite the lack of tradition in those sports.

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“The Saudi case is almost like the perfect success case for sports laundry,” Ross said of the country. Which led the world by exporting 95.7 billion dollars of crude oil in 2020.

Qatar ranks 19th in oil exports and also shares the world’s largest underwater natural gas field With Iran, they wanted to get in on the act, too.

It hosted the World Gymnastics and Track titles, both of which were precursors to the World Cup, which cost the country an estimated $220 billion. A country may count on the fact that, no matter what problems the host faces in the lead-up, most sporting events around the world are ultimately judged by the quality of the event itself.

The country has recruited hundreds of fans to receive free trips to the World Cup In exchange for promoting positive social media content about the event and host.

With the World Cup approaching, allegations of human rights and corruption have emerged as major topics, and will remain that way until the tournament trophy is awarded on December 18.

Whether this is fair depends on who you ask.

Aramco, the Saudi state-owned oil company, sponsors events on the Women’s European Tour, but that the tour receives little criticism, said Greg Norman, president of LIV Golf, this summer on Fox News’ Tucker Carlson show.

“You haven’t said a word about them, have you?” Norman said. “But why is he—why is he on men? Why are we ghouls? What have we done wrong?”

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AP World Cup coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/world-cup and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports